There’s nothing new under the sun and certainly not in the world of Kirklees public rights of way. Many problems have been around for decades or longer in the full knowledge of Kirklees Council, the local highway authority.
One could be forgiven for thinking the Councils job as highway authority is not to keep the network in good repair but but to evade doing so by any means possible and at whatever cost to the public purse. Ramsden Road is a beautiful example of this phenomenon.
At a meeting in Holmfirth Civic Hall on 22nd January 2019 chaired by the council manager for rights of way and with a couple of local councillors present the audience was expertly guided into forming a “Friends of Ramsden Road” group. The cynicism involved is staggering but it was pulled it off superbly.
The same council manager confirmed in February 2018 that “May I also take this opportunity to advise you that I have instructed that we proceed with putting on the experimental TRO on Ramsden Road – and this is presently with colleagues to put into place. Once the route is secured from motorised vehicles then it will be further assessed to see what works are required, to both satisfy the issues raised by yourselves, and to ensure the route is best utilised.”
This undertaking was acted upon and an Environmental Traffic Regulation Order at a cost of some £6,000 placed on Ramsden Road with a further £2,500 spent in practical works on site to secure the road in November 2018. No explanation was given as to the complete change of direction and indeed the ETRO was technically still in force when the meeting took place. The TRO has been now been abandoned.
The Friends of Ramsden Road group seems to take things back to square 1 (aka the long grass) and the onus for fundraising and carrying out some work would appear to rest,in part, with this ad hoc group of enthusiasts.
Ramsden Road needs a specialist contractor with proven experience in this area. It may well be a good idea to harness public enthusiasm to look after the road once professional reinstatement is achieved but be in no doubt any material used to repair Ramsden Road will at some point end up down at the bottom of the hill. It has a chance of staying put longer if works are done to the highest standard possible and if those works are subsequently protected from future damage by 4×4 motor vehicles.
The Peak District National Park Authority carried out a sustainability assessment of Ramsden Road in 2013 and the route scored almost maximum points for its current poor condition and continuing vulnerability. This was not mentioned at the meeting yet it would seem to be a starting point for any professional course of action.
Anyone at the Civic Hall meeting could have been forgiven for thinking the problems on Ramsden Road had just popped up recently and taken the council by surprise. This is not the case and in fact history is repeating itself. Around 15 years ago council officers put together a detailed report on Ramsden Road with a view to undertaking repairs and long term management. One of the proposals was a TRO to prohibit motor vehicles.That report and course of action is gathering dust somewhere in Civic 3.
The Huddersfield Examiner of 23 October 2006 reported Councillors Blocking Bid To Protect Path and the same 2 councillors from 2006 were at the 2019 meeting arguing the same point. Imagine if a TRO had been placed on Ramsden Road in 2006 and the route repaired at 2006 prices and at a time when council coffers were much more healthy. Instead we have a significantly more degraded route which is seriously more expensive to repair (£150 to £200K). The test of time seems to have proved the councillors quite wrong and saddled the council tax payer with a greater financial liability.
Kirklees Council are quoted in another Examiner article in 2007 saying they “planned to undertake improvement works on this route and then monitor the situation to see where there were problems with conflict of use”. They indicated they “would look at steps to deal with problems; options available included traffic-calming, signage or a Traffic Regulation Order. The option pursued would depend on the severity of the problem.” Nothing was ever done.
Every time Ramsden Road comes out of the long grass it is quickly kicked back in by those responsible for maintaining it.