One thing you can say with confidence about local highway authorities in West Yorkshire is that the standard of path obstruction is regular,long standing and of a very high quality. I’m not saying this is necessarily a good thing but at least there are few surprises.
Here’s a selection from the smorgasbord of problems on a 4 mile walk in Calderdale.
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?
This really is an excellent route consisting of 22 and a bit miles around the edge of the valley taking in moorland,woods, rolling fields,cloughs and Castle Hill. A walk to really get the feel of this place.
It is something of an under used asset and could be so much more. It doesn’t seem to be waymarked as one long walk and although there aren’t any obstructions there are the usual unauthorised and dodgy stiles, barbed wire and a complete lack of coherent signing/waymarking.
The amount of stuff you have to climb over in a 22 mile walk gets a bit waring. Most of it is unauthorised and out of repair. If these stiles and Heath Robinson structures were removed and a quality waymarking scheme put in place a walk like this could really attract stay over visitors to the valley. It would be quite possible to link into the route from Holmfirth or Honley and make a weekend of it.
As it is the Holme Valley Circular Walk is perhaps a little too challenging for the wrong kind of reasons at present.
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.
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.
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.
Although Kirklees is part of the United Kingdom, and even better still Yorkshire, it seems to exist in a vacuum as far as applying the law and widely agreed standards and practices on public rights of way. In particular the Council has great difficulty with the 40 year old BS:5709 .
The image above shows the latest modifications to a gate on Holmfirth Footpath 146 which was authorised in November 2017. In the time since and for various reasons including a padlock and chain, barbed wire, wooden splinters and excavated ground (not an exhaustive list! Ed) the gate has never met the simple requirements of BS:5709 .
Whilst the latest modification adding a “Bold” washing powder container (other brands are available. Ed) to cover wood splinters on the closing post is to be commended for its innovative recycling of single use plastic, that’s not really the point of BS:5709
It’s impossible for front line staff at Kirklees to effectively carry out their roles on public rights of way because of the toxic and anti public access culture that exists amongst senior managers and some councillors. The mildest of challenges from a landowner or their representative results in Kirklees managers and directors falling over themselves to apologise for staff doing their jobs properly,offering to review procedures (which are perfectly fine) and taking long walks to pick up dummies spat out by councillors. The result is no one rocks the boat to much and many public paths remain blocked, unusable,invisible and maintained to the lowest possible standard.
So after 20 months of Chuckle Brother Esque Carry On Up The Footpath nonsense it might be reasonable to expect removal of the gate on Footpath 146? After all the conditions authorising it’s installation (which the landowner signed up for) have not been met. So it should not be there hindering free passage. How hard can it be?
Impossible it would seem. In the upside down world of Kirklees Council this gate was mentioned in a report to the July 18th Planning Sub Committee. “Further liaison” is to take place! 🙂 🙂 🙂 What can there be to talk about? Perhaps a Daz plastic container should be used?