Honley Wood is one of the jewels in the Holme Valley countryside and does enjoy extensive public access on foot. However bridleway access for riders and cyclists is very limited and mostly operates on an informal basis.
For years there has been talk of creating something better at this site for riders in the form of a properly surfaced and maintained bridleway network. The area is something of a hub for riders with a thriving local livery on the edge of the woods.
Kirklees Bridleways group have done a lot of work here to raise funds for the scheme and get active support from local councillors but it seems Myers Group the landowner has got cold feet and hence a petition.
Without any explanation the Peak District National Park has extended the consultation period for these planning applications to the 16th June 2017. The application numbers are NP/K/0317/ 0323 & 0324 & 0325 & 0326 and there is already a wealth of thoughtful comment which shows how this area and it’s public access is valued by walkers,cyclists,riders and conservationists. If you were going to comment but thought you’d missed the deadline do comment now via this link . Type in Bartin or Greave to get the applications.
Pathwatch will be contacting the Peak Park to find out what is going on but it would have been helpful if the Park had put a simple explanation up with the applications. Most of us are not experts and it’s hard enough to get to grips with the process and ensure that comments are made in good time and are appropriate to the applications. It’s easy to get the feeling the authorities would rather not know what the public thinks.
Huddersfield Byway 231 is a delightful green lane across unspoilt farm land right on the edge of Huddersfield. It’s been enjoyed by local walkers,riders and cyclists for decades. A couple of years ago the landowner made an excellent job of blocking it off completely with piles of manure,branches,tree trunks, barbed wire and a caravan.
The Council served several statutory notices on the landowner (based on legal records showing the byway on the Definitive Map & Statement) entiltling them,as highway authority, to remove said obstructions and reclaim the costs. So that means the Council could clear the public right of way on behalf of the 50 plus members of the public who reported the blockage but at no cost to the public!
A no brainer you’d have thought? You’d be wrong!
In fact the Council has decided to leave the bridleway closed (in direct conflict with its’ legal duty to do the opposite) for almost two years. Even the threat of being taken to court by a local riding group could not move the Council to fulfill it’s legal obligations.
Path Watch has written to both the Director and Assistant Director of Place (the senior managers responsible for rights of way at Kirklees) asking for an explanation. The reasons given include “The council is now considering its position as to how best meet its statutory obligations whilst still balancing actions in light of the wider public interest.”which seems odd given the Councils’ explicit legal duty to keep public rights of way open. What more is there to consider?Another reason given is ” the Council percieves that any future works to clear the obstructions would simpley be replaced by other new obstructions to the route” (Yes they really did say that). Again an odd justification, a bit like letting serial criminals off the hook because they’ll only do it again?
Sadly it gets worse. The Councils’ actions are not “cost neutral”(thier buzzword) but have in fact cost the public some £14,000 in unspecified legal fees and a further £5,000 to £10,000 payable to Leeds City Council for hiring a member of staff to “investigate the status of byway 231”. So the best part of 20 to 24 grand to look at something Kirklees already know the answer too. These investigations are almost open ended and in the meantime Kirklees Council advise no action will be taken to reopen the byway which is in direct conflict with it’s statutory duties.
I think it’s reasonable to ask why Kirklees council is taking this approach? Why is it taking no action to open a public byway that 50 members of the public have reported is obstructed? Why has it spent £14,000 on legal fees and up to £10,000 on an “external resource” to research the status of this byway when it already knows the answer? Why has it served several legal notices but not followed this through with enforcement action?
I took this photo of a popular bridleway in the valley above Digley on a recent evening walk. The bridleway used to serve a number of small holdings which were bought up by the water authority and closed before the construction of Digley dam. Consequently the valley and it’s network of footpaths & bridleways, along with the surrounding landscape, have remained largely untouched by modern development and are pretty much traffic free. A rare and valuable thing these days.
On my next walk here a series of planning notices had been posted advising of applications to develop the ruined farmsteads at Greave and Bartin. Now the only access to these properties (which have not been occupied for over 70 years) are Holmfirth Bridleways 68 and 189. Bartin is over 2,300 metres from the road network along these unmade and narrow bridleways.
I looked up the applications on the Peak Park Planning website and read through the forms and supporting documentation and could find no reference at all to the fact that Bartin & Greave are accessed via 2,300 metres of public bridleway. It seemed quiet an oversight to me. Public rights of way are a material consideration in the planning process. So I e mailed the planning officer to ask why the bridleways had not been mentioned either in the application or on the Peak Parks Planning website and was told-
In relation to the impact upon the access, it is for the applicant to include whatever information they consider appropriate for consideration, and so I cannot answer your question regarding why more information has not been submitted in relation to this.
Helpful? Not really is it?
Radicalised by this bureaucratic indifference I fired off my simple concerns ie that the bridleways could not withstand an intensification in vehicular traffic,that such an intensification would lead to conflict with other users and that in a traffic free valley the character of the bridleways and the publics enjoyment of them would be damaged by introducing the car.
I know this is all really dull stuff but what’s at stake here is a wonderful unspoilt area of traffic free countryside.