More Fiction From Kirklees On Ramsden Road FOI.

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Previously on PathWatch we’ve blogged about Kirklees piss poor answers into its standards of governance and decision making process regarding Ramsden Road. Regular readers will recall that Kirklees spent 2018 securing an Experimental Traffic Regulation Order prohibiting motor vehicles on the route. This cost the taxpayer around £10K. The councils’ stated view was that this closure was essential to protect Ramsden Road from ongoing damage by vehicles and to protect the proposed repairs which it had agreed to carry out in 2019.

Without any explanation or obvious decision making process this was all dropped around 10th December 2018. It took a freedom of information request to get an explanation from our publicly funded council and in May 2019 they came up with “The decision was based on a visual assessment of the road and discussion with colleagues and the Peak Park on the most equitable way forward.” This would class as an insult to the intelligence of a single cell amoeba with an interest in rights of way let alone a human being. Crucially the answer contains no facts, such as whether this was a delegated officer decision, a committee decision or some other kind of formal decision. It contains no evidence showing how and why the decision was made. No manager,director or officer is named . No date is provided as to when the decision was made and there is no reference to any documentation involved in the process.

The Council’s Head of Legal Services upheld an appeal against this response and asked the service to answer this question again. In his words ” you should be provided with further information as to who took the decision not to proceed with the ETRO and additional information to the reasoning behind the decision.”

Given the Head of Legal services clear commitment to provide this information it was a surprise to receive the following as an answer. “Reviewing this matter, the Service determined that it was arguable that the making of the ETRO was procedurally flawed in that the road haulers association was not included in the consultation – they are a statutory consultee, the groups who were most impacted then contacted the Council and advised they would take the matter to court to challenge. In light of these representations and the consultation issue mentioned above the decision was taken to not continue with the ETRO.” Again the absence of a date, names of officers/managers/directors involved, reference to a committee report or delegated officer decision is striking. It is taking the piss to a new level but it is not an answer to the question asked. Amusingly it also completely contradicts the original equitable way forward” answer.

There is the slightest hint of something here In light of these representations and the consultation issue mentioned above the decision was taken to not continue with the ETRO.” but of course no detail. The Council is keeping very quiet about who it met and what was discussed or agreed prior to the public meeting on 22nd January 2019.

In an email dated 21st January 2019 the Kirklees Greenspace Manager, Rob Dalby tells Councillor Nigel Patrick that he has “met with the TRF(trail riders fellowship) informally and had a very informative conversation” . That wasn’t mentioned at the public meeting in January 2019 and PathWatch is not aware of the council holding “informative conversations” with other interested user groups – quite the opposite in fact. The council had agreed in writing with one walkers group to repair Ramsden Road this year. To date it has never contacted them to advise this is not happening.

This latest answer is nonsense. The council completely ignored walkers groups who contacted it pointing out the school boy errors in it’s legal order and at the time it gave assurances to at least one mountain bike group that it would correct the errors and continue. Of course errors can be corrected and are not in themselves any reason to abandon a process in which time,money and reputation has been invested in. Have the Council agreed to something through embarrassment at their errors, through political pressure or lack of experience in these matters? Who are the “groups most impacted” ? Did the council meet these groups ahead of the January 2019 public meeting and agree a course of action behind closed doors? Certainly what is being presented to the public is not the truth.

It matters because scarce public money has already been wasted here and a valuable public asset is not being managed properly. Further monies from the public purse or voluntary subscription, by the council’s own admission, may also be at risk because of the damage motor vehicles do on unsealed roads like Ramsden Road.

Why is the council finding it so hard to explain it’s change of stance from promoting a legal order banning vehicles on Ramsden Road and blaming the damage to the road on 4×4’s to the complete opposite? If it is doing things properly and in the public interest then surely it can put forward an evidence based answer to this question? There must be some compelling reason to abandon a years work, waste the public money spent and risk the councils already damaged reputation in these matters. What is that reason?

The council’s position on Ramsden Road and the ETRO was explained clearly by Rob Dalby,Greenspace Manager in an email to Councillor Nigel Patrick on 1st May 2018. “As to the issue with Ramsden Road, it is not safe at present, this is not being helped by the actions of a minority of users, but to make the route available for the majority of users then works need to happen, and they need to be allowed to bed in. This is why an experimental TRO is proposed” Compare the clarity of that answer to the two received to the Freedom of Information request.

Council officers have had correspondence from Councillor Nigel Patrick on this issue in support of motor vehicle use on Ramsden Road. In an email dated 28th November 2018 Councillor Patrick says “at least both key vehicle user groups are aware and they both have the legal clout to take action against the council”. On 24th August 2018 Rob Dalby (Greenspace Manager) supplies Councillor Patrick with the s56 notices served on Kirklees for Ramsden Road by a walkers group. Why would he need to see these? He also asks in an email dated 22nd August 2018 “Please could you tell me if (redacted) has been involved in the s56 notice? (Redacted) name keeps cropping up in relation to footpath issues” Why would Councillor Patrick ask to know the name of a volunteer trying to get a public right of way repaired? What would he do with that person’s name?Does he ask for the names of people who report potholes or street lights?

There’s evidence and a paper trail to show the original decision (which was discussed with political leads,copied to the Chief Exec, Strategic Director and ward councillors) but there is absolutely nothing for the change of tack. Why?

Holmfirth Footpath 135 Goes Under The Plough.

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Freshly ploughed.

In a race against time I thought I could squeeze one more evening walk in on Footpath 135 before it clocked off beneath plough and crops for another 10 months. See here and here .Alas it was not to be. The path was being ploughed out as I battled my way across. This is legitimate but the farmer is legally obliged to reinstate the line of the path on the ground so that it is convenient to use and apparent within 14 days. So by about the end of September. It never happens and our local council who have responsibility to ensure it does happen know all about it and usually do nowt.

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Gone!

Public footpaths aren’t really intended to be part time but from now until late July 2020 Holmfirth Footpath 135 is working from home or on extended sick leave. An out of office message would be useful on these sort of paths.

Blackpool Bridge Update. New Bridge In October!

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Blackpool bridge will be replaced in October, Kirklees have confirmed. This is excellent news! The new bridge is something of an upgrade so should have a longer life and be more user friendly. See hear for original post on this.

The scheme is costing some £12,000 and has been partly funded by Peak & Northern Footpaths Society who have contributed to many new bridges over the years in Kirklees. Join the here

Holmfirth Footpath 133 – Repairs Underway.

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New works late summer 2019

Footpath 133 at Gate Foot was extensively repaired in the early summer and then washed away in a downpour just weeks later. Thankfully the council have not walked away from this one and are on site now carrying out more extensive resurfacing and drainage works.

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The degree of water damage mid summer 2019

What this case neatly demonstrates is the huge liability the council has in maintaining and repairing public paths in the Holme Valley. This one path has now been repaired extensively on 3 occasions and it will remain vulnerable to further damage due to it’s hillside location and the neglect of adjacent land and highways drainage.

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Original works in early summer 2019

Strategic management of the rights of way network with high standards of governance and properly funded  and resourced staff are required to achieve any degree of success in such an area of work.

Stoning up hillside paths in the Pennines where there is a history of water damage is not a long term soloution on this or any other route and the council know this. Until they have a plan, a strategic direction and are properly resourced the same events will occur in the same places over and over again.

I hope the new works on Footpath 133 remain in place but the history of the site suggests otherwise.

 

Don’t Tell Hilda….

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Hilda’s steps on Holmfirth Footpath 161 have now been cleared of the Amazonian rain forest which had taken over.

For the first time in a decade it is possible to walk these  steps whilst being able to see all parts of your anatomy below the hips. Pretty vital to keeping on your feet on a steep flight of steps like this. The vicious nettles at the top of the path have also been strimmed off.

This is one of the paths Cllr Paul Davies has helped get cleared. It just goes to show the positive impact a councillor can have on local public rights of way .   It’s a refreshing change from councillors acting on behalf of path blockers, defending 4×4 use on vulnerable local lanes and arguing against the use of the widely agreed British Standard for gates ,gaps and stiles. And of course it is what the council should be doing and is a far more cost effective use of resources.

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Previously On PathWatch….

 

Holmfirth Footpath 135 – Obstruction Removed!

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The longstanding obstruction on Holmfirth 135.

The longstanding dry stone wall obstruction on Holmfirth Footpath 135 has been removed.  This path has been blocked for donkeys years and it is very pleasing to see it open. Just needs a sign on on Intake Lane.

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New gate reopening the path. 

Thanks are due once again to the staff involved 🙂

Colne Valley Bridleway 197 Blocked By 2 Large Beech Trees

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I only walked this path a couple of days ago and all was good. However the wind & rain of Thursday night/Friday morning has brought 2 huge beech trees down and left them hanging over this popular bridleway.  The trees are at the Blake Lee Lane, Marsden end of the path.

It’s an odd situation as a line of beeches is growing on top of a high drystone retaining wall. They are now left hanging over the path,partly in the river and partly on top of the wall. They could of course move again or the wall may come down as well.

It has been reported.

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