In the topsy turvy upside down world of Kirklees Public Rights of Way, the Council, who have a legal duty to stop public paths being obstructed and to assert the public’s right to use rights of way, are going to great lengths (and expense?Ed) to ensure a water trough can stay on a public footpath rather than just ..well…move it.
It would appear that moving it to keep the path clear and avoid potential damage by animals visiting the trough is far to simple a solution for our hapless highway authority. Instead they will “monitor the situation and reserve the councils position regarding trough siting and operation” (we’re not making this up! Ed)
The matter has been dealt with by Karl Battersby, Strategic Director of Economy & Infrastructure. Mr Battersby recently wrote to a local ward Councillor regarding the trough and advised that the “water trough placed on the route is not authorised but again we will not take action”. (Has austerity cut so deep at Kirklees Council that the only person left to deal with such a minor public rights of way issue is a Strategic Director? .Ed)
Is Mr Battersby condoning the obstruction of a public footpath here? The councils footpaths officer has advised Mr Battersby that the trough “may be an obstruction” and that “siting of troughs on/near public rights of way is not encouraged and its placement and use may cause problems”. How is the the public interest and the councils statutory duties to keep paths open and to assert public rights being met in this case? How are the councils wider obligations as a service provider under the Disability Discrimination Act being met by allowing an “unauthorised” structure to sit on a 1.2 metre wide footpath? Did Mr Battersby take any of these points into consideration when making his decision?
Permitting paths to be obstructed or partially obstructed in this manner does not seem to fit with the councils recently stated aim contained in it’s Climate Emergency Plan that “The Council will continue to develop and promote sustainable and active travel and ensure that Kirklees is recognised as a great place to walk and cycle, inspiring more people to walk and cycle more often as a mode of transport, for work, leisure or for sport”. The Council also have a target of increasing walking by 20% in the plan. Will putting water troughs on footpaths help achieve this? Or will it make paths unattractive and difficult to use? Or impossible to use should you have a disability?
Sadly there is no detail in Mr Battersby’s correspondence regarding how the unauthorised trough will be monitored. Will it be visited daily,weekly or monthly by Mr Battersby? Perhaps the Prow satellite can be redirected to orbit the trough on a regular basis to see what it’s up to? Will ramblers be encouraged to befriend the trough when they can’t get down the path because of it?