The Planning Inspectorate have unsurprisingly cancelled a public inquiry due to be held at Marsden in June. See here row_3232071_on_cancellation . For information here is a copy of the order row_3232071_order_&_map . Cancellation of inquiries and an even bigger backlog of orders at the Planning Inspectorate is likely to be one of the more noticeable effects of the Covid 19 pandemic on rights of way well into the future.
Kirklees are for once ahead of the curve and have been blaming Covid 19 for things not getting done from as far back as 2017! It seems the little strand of RNA can now time travel to assist the Council in excusing past piss poor performance. More on that story later.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has directly intervened in the long running Ramsden Road fiasco. Previously on PathWatch we reported that the planned Ramsden Road works had been delayed as a consequence of Covid 19 and furloughing of the councils chosen contractors. However the Prime Ministers widely derided speech of 10th May urging the great British Worker to get off his or her backside and back to work seems to have done the trick. Contractors are now on site working on Ramsden Road 🙂
Certain local footpaths are well used by mountain bikers and by and large I don’t particularly have a problem with it. I’m usually happy to step aside and let them keep momentum going. There aren’t enough off road routes for cyclists or equestrians.
There has been a noticeable increase of late in mountain bike use of local Crow access land ie not on a public footpath but on private property. Much of this land is sensitive high peat moorland and vulnerable to damage. Indeed the cyclist shown in the photograph is on Crow access land at Holme Moss which is currently being restored by Moors For The Future. Grazing has been suspended at this site and there’s a huge investment in repairing the ecological damage to improve biodiversity and mitigate climate change. We watched this guy enjoy riding down a recently restored peat bank where upon he came within spitting distance of us. Seemingly oblivious to the bigger picture.
Ramsden Clough (Crow access land) is also beginning to suffer from damage by mountain bike use. The area into the clough from the peat pits and from Ramsden Road is covered in bike tyre tracks. Most times I am up there there are mountain bikers around enjoying the “tech” as they say.
All this use is questionable at the best of times but for it to continue and seemingly increase during the current Covid 19 restrictions ? 🙂
Readily available information on who can use Crow access land in the Peak Park is here
The Councils planned repairs to the top section of Ramsden Road which were due to be undertaken in April/May 2020 are now delayed due to furloughing of the chosen contractors.
This marks yet another twist in the authorities complete inability to repair and maintain this popular public highway. The Council has known about the state of Ramsden Road for over 20 years and successfully managed to ignore it throughout that time.
PathWatch first became involved in trying to get something done in 2017. I met the Greenspace Manager from Kirklees on site in December 2017. He was very clear that 4×4 vehicles were causing the extensive damage and that they “must” be taken off the lane prior to the council undertaking repairs. To that end the Greenspace Manager commissioned an Experimental Traffic Regulation Order which would ban motor vehicles from the route for 18 months. During that time period the council would survey,repair and monitor the site prior to taking off the restrictions, if appropriate.
The legal order cost £6k. The works on site to physically close the route in November 2018 cost £2.5K. Unfortunately the Experimental Traffic Regulation Order was full of errors and unenforceable. Any reputable public authority would have corrected the errors and continued but Kirklees abandoned the process. They say the decision to abandon the ETRO process was a delegated officer decision. Yet they have no record of this decision.It appears to have been made outside the Councils constitution and the legal requirements councils are obliged to operate within. This has led us all around the houses to where we are now ie continued and expensive vehicular damage to Ramsden Road, a postponed scheme to repair the top section and no plan at all to repair the hazardous downhill section.
Had the Council done its job properly Ramsden Road would have been closed to motor traffic for 18 months from December 2018. In that time the council would have repaired the entire route which would now be due to reopen to all traffic in just a few weeks time.
However we are stuck in the Kirklees Komedy Klub with few laughs and no end in sight to the tedious chuckle broteresque escapades.
Last week Kirklees Council held its very first Virtual Cabinet Meeting. This measure has been brought in to maintain social distancing and stop the spread of Covid 19. It fundamentally changes the way local councils work. Although the meeting was broadcast live there were no active public participants.
Public rights of way matters are dealt with at the councils Planning Committees and at the moment these have been cancelled. The public can normally attend and speak at these meetings. The meeting to consider diverting Holmfirth Footpath 60 for instance was well attended by members of the public who successfully argued that the proposal should be thrown out.
The direction of travel suggests it is likely that planning committees will be held virtually in future. The council need to give serious consideration on how to accommodate proper public debate and scrutiny into this process. Simply accepting written questions or arguments is not sufficient in my view. Without robust public challenge both for and against, councillors will be tempted to nod through poor and badly thought out proposals. The easy option.
At the moment Kirklees Council are approaching consultations on public rights of way in the usual Del Boy manner. It has recently made and advertised a diversion order for Spenborough Footpath 110 entirely within the period of Covid 19 restrictions. The effect of the restrictions make it illegal for any person to visit the diversion site to assess the proposals they are being asked to comment on! As an organisation Kirklees seems happy to disenfranchise public engagement with path users in a way it would never contemplate doing with private landowning interests.
The Council is also consulting the public on an application to delete Cone Valley Footpaths 212 & 213 at Shooters Nab, Marsden. Again this is being undertaken at a time when the Covid 19 restrictions remain in force making visiting the site illegal. Nor is it possible to visit the Wakefield Archives to research background information on the case.
Both these cases are important and should be undertaken in an open and transparent manner. In Spen 110 the Council is both the developer and applicant for diverting the path for its own benefit. Colne Valley Footpaths 212/213 is an application to delete two public paths. This applications is 16 years old! The consultation letter discourages the public from visiting the paths that the consultation refers to.
During the current situation, in line with government guidance, I must also strongly discourage people from making special journeys to inspect the paths in question
It does not look good that Kirklees is progressing both cases in the current circumstances. The council should not just do things properly but be seen to be doing so. This would once again appear to be a case of senior council managers being out of step with the spirit of the process and what is actually going on in the real world out side Civic Centre 3.
At the same time Kirklees is point blank refusing to progress a number of long standing obstruction issues and develop a coherent approach to its chaotic use and interpretation of BS:5709 . It’s excuse? Covid 19 restrictions !
Now all the rambling fuss has died down and Easter is behind us Kirklees Council has updated its website. It’s belated take on Defra’s Covid 19 rights of way advice for the public and landowners can be read here
Along with all the other dodgy signs on local paths some rather swish looking Kirklees signs have appeared locally just in time for Easter. The signs are headlined “Covid 19 Advice For Your Safety” but bullet points 3 and 4 simply refer to the countryside code which has been around for many years and is unconnected to the current pandemic. Point 1 is a handy reminder of social distancing but it is point 3 advising the public to wash/sanitise hands after touching stiles & gates which is interesting.
For the past 3 years this blog has been highlighting the excessive number of poor stiles/gates on the path network which have no legal authority to be there. These structures,mostly stiles, are not recorded on the Definitive Map & Statement and Kirklees,as highway authority, should be removing them when they are made aware. They know from a 2007 network survey that there are in excess of 4,000 such structures on their paths.
The implication in advising the public to wash/sanitise hands after touching stiles & gates is that there is a risk of picking up Covid 19 from these structures. There’s a clamour amongst the “rural community” to have all paths closed so that they can be protected from virus ridden ramblers covering stiles & gates with the disease.
Why then isn’t the Council contacting landowners who they know have unauthorised structures on public paths and requesting prompt removal of these structures to mitigate the risk to public health?
Ironically PathWatch has noted a number of these Advice For Your Safety Signs attached to various unauthorised structures. See the photo below which shows such a sign attached to an unauthorised structure on Holmfirth Bridleway 68. This is an extremely well used gate which has no legal reason to be there. Why aren’t Kirklees removing such structures rather than posting signs on them? If landowners are so concerned about the risk to themselves why not simply remove the gate? No risk to public or landowner if that is done.
There are two further gates on this bridleway and neither has any legal authority to be on the path.
A little way past the gates in these photos a public footpath (also Holmfirth 68) branches off the bridleway up to Acres Lane. There are two unauthorised stiles on this section of path. One is difficult to climb and requires the use of both hands. Again a completely unnecessary risk for both the public and landowner.
Ironically the only path furniture that the public do not have to touch, the Public Footpath sign on Acres lane, has been pulled out and dropped behind a wall in the field! It was there a couple of weeks ago pre lockdown. There’s a long history of this sign “disappearing” but this one had stayed put for 2 years.
One thing to remember about all these unauthorised structures and the negative effect they have on the network is that senior people at Kirklees know all about it but really don’t care. Regular readers might recall that in Kirklees Launches New Standard For Structures On Paths ! “Not To Standard But Acceptable” 🙂 we told the very dodgy tale of Kirklees Strategic Director Karl Battersby “authorising” non standard gates on a Holmfirth path, 3 in fact. None of these 3 gates are properly authorised or to any recognised standard. They have turned an 80 metre section of path which could be walked down without having to touch anything into something of a hotspot now Covid 18 has arrived.
Of course the risk is relatively low (unless you fall for the hysteria around this subject) but with over 4,000 such structures on paths in Kirklees and the phenomenal popularity in walking at present should Kirklees be doing something other than sticking laminated signs to the problem?
A few more unauthorised Frankensteins. Over 4,000 in stock. Terms & conditions apply. Hands free option not available.
West Yorkshire Police have named a Kirklees resident, Arthur Suggit of Cleckheaton, as the first man to be charged with the new offence of “Excessive Rambling”. This serious offence was brought in recently under measures to fight the spread of Covid 19.
Sgt. Dixon of Dock Green from Heckmondwike station told the blog “There’s a worrying trend in West Yorkshire of people leaving their cars at home because of the lockdown restrictions and…er …walking instead. We’ve seen a huge spike in this antisocial and criminal rambling craze, particularly amongst older residents who should know better. Mr Suggit’s behaviour in walking two and a half miles and staying out one hour and ten minutes exemplifies the widespread disregard for the law. When my officers arrested Mr Suggit he was also found to have a round of cheese and pickle sandwiches and a flask of tea in his possession. He has asked for these further offences to be taken into consideration. Mr Suggit can expect a long custodial sentence and the key may well be thrown away.”
PathWatch spoke exclusively to Arthur via a video link from his cell in Guantanamo Bay. Arthur, a retired geography teacher originally from Batley, told us he was unable to get his daily copy of the Guardian or his usual gluten free porridge at the US base but otherwise seemed in good spirits. We asked Arthur where it had all gone wrong and how had a morning ramble in Cleckheaton led to his arrest and detention in Guantanamo. “Unfortunately I have discovered a problem with Naismith’s Rule. Having carefully planned my route using Naismith’s long established formula for distance covered and time taken I have found it does not work in Kirklees. The formula does not take account of the number of path obstructions and unauthorised structures on Kirklees paths that the rambler must either evade or climb over. This omission in Naismith’s otherwise dependable calculations added exactly ten minutes to my route and landed me here in an orange boiler suit in the clink.”
Back in the real world Northamptonshire Police could soon be checking your shopping
and Police in Rotherham suggest that you can’t let your kids play in your own garden. The government manage to evade any accountability of course. It’s ramblers, day trippers to Skegness and a lack of clapping. This reuters piece is worth a read and much closer to the truth of how we have got here. The Byline Times reports on the government’s plans for us all to get Covid 19 in as orderly fashion as possible.
The hysteria surrounding walking paths as a form of exercise during the current public lockdown has reached Holmfirth footpaths. For clarity have a read of this link on the new law bringing in the restrictions. You can walk public paths. There are no restrictions on driving a mile or two to do so. The police and all front line services have a difficult balancing act but it is reported here that they are now taking a more pragmatic approach to this issue and the drones have been grounded for now. West Yorkshire Police are reportedly not issuing warning letters for parked cars in walking areas locally. This LBQC from St. John’s Chambers is also worth reading. Time to put the pitchforks away and be sensible.
Any signs such as the one above or obstructions should be reported to Kirklees in the usual manner here email@example.com
PathWatch usually favours cock up rather than conspiracy as far as Kirklees Council is concerned however the case of Spenborough Footpath 110 is debatable. The council made a legal order to stop up and divert part of this path to permit development on 12th March 2020. That’s the day after the World Health Organisation declared a worldwide pandemic regarding Covid 19. The council wrote to statutory consultees on 19th March 2020 asking for any comments to be made by 1st May 2020.
It could just be bad timing of course or someone in the legal department who doesn’t get out much, go on the internet or even read a newspaper but it seems an odd and inappropriate time to be making orders diverting public footpaths. During the consultation time period the Council must legally post and maintain notices on site and advertise the order in the press. An interesting use of resources in the current chaos. Of course no member of the public can go to the site to assess the pros and cons of the diversion order under the current lockdown restrictions.
The site in question belongs to Kirklees. In June 2019 Kirklees applied to itself and obtained planning permission to demolish the existing building and build a new leisure centre. This included diversion of Spen Footpath 110. Subsequently Kirklees applied to itself to stop up and divert the part of Spen Footpath 110 affected and this is the order currently being advertised.
Like I say it could be bad timing and just a fortunate coincidence that this is a great time to slip something like this through.