Prow Officer Delegation. Importance High.

holmfirth fp 166 (1 of 1)

Under s147 of the Highways Act 1980 the Council,as highway authority, has powers to authorise the erection of gates,stiles or other structures on public rights of way. Landowners must obtain this authority prior to erecting any new structure on a public path.

The circumstances for granting authority are pretty limited and usually agricultural in nature. Best practice is to keep paths clear of structures as far as possible and go for the least restrictive option such as a gap or gate rather than any type of stile. The structure should meet BS:5709  

The days of putting up any old thing on a path are gone and any structure not properly authorised or in conflict with the councils obligations under the disability discrimination act are rightly open to challenge.

In Kirklees the straightforward  s147 process is delegated to officer level and is carried out very well. The rights of way network is slowly improving as outdated and unauthorised structures which limit who can use the network are removed and replaced with something fitting BS:5709.

Holme Valley South Councillor Nigel Patrick contacted the Council’s senior legal officer in November 2018 to ask if a delegated officer decision under s147 can be referred to committee if he is unhappy with it.

Is Councillor Patrick  unhappy because of an excess of poor stiles and structures being authorised by officers ? Or is he unhappy because of something else?

Councillor Patrick’s request is certainly an interesting one. Decisions under s147 are very straight forward as the law is  clear on the limited circumstances a council can authorise a structure on a public right of way. Most councils delegate a wide range of simple decision making to officer level for the efficient running of the authority. The suggestion of  s147 decisions being subject of a committee approval would make the whole process more bureaucratic, expensive and inefficient. Who would it benefit?

 

 From: Cllr Nigel Patrick
Sent: 29 November 2018 16:58
To: Julie Muscroft <Julie.Muscroft@kirklees.gov.uk>
Subject: PROW Officer Delegation and the Constitution
Importance: High
Dear Julie,
Officers in public rights of way are making decisions under the officer scheme of delegation. For example officers
decide if a structure, like a gate, can be authorised under s147 of the Highways Act. As a ward councillor who may
be unhappy with an officer recommendation/ decision, can I ask that an officer recommendation/decision is
referred to a committee for decision and if so which committee?
Please advise
Thanks
Councillor Nigel Patrick
Holme Valley South Ward
Kirklees Council

From: Cllr Nigel Patrick
Sent: 07 December 2018 17:18
To: Julie Muscroft <Julie.Muscroft@kirklees.gov.uk>
Subject: RE: PROW Officer Delegation and the Constitution
Dear Julie,
Rob and have told me I cannot refer things to a committee. I know DMMO’s and Diversion applications go to
committee, but I have been told that a S147 authorisation for new structures on a prow cannot be determined by
committee. Is that true?
Then we look at committee. I am a sub for planning committees which means I can attend any of the planning
committees including strategic. As you know we get annual update training which we are forced to attend. I have
never been trained in prow matters so why are prow matters taken to these committees? Is it not time we had a
Highways Committee which dealt with prow matters and the committee members were trained in prow matters?
This would solve many of the problems which are piling up. Far too many for planning committees to deal with. They
are busy enough. We use to have a Planning and Highways Committee so why not bring it back but just call it the
Highways Committee?
Can this be done and if so how?
Councillor Nigel Patrick
Holme Valley South Ward
Kirklees Council

Erringden Footpath 13

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A rather photogenic path obstruction

A change is as good as a rest they say and the opportunity to look at a path obstruction in Calderdale turned into a bit of a treat. Erringden is the smallest parish in the great sweep of Calderdale and clings to the flanks of Stoodley Pike.

All I had to go on was an iffy grid reference and the words “South West of Cruttonstall”. I knew I was onto something good climbing through rustling,mossy woods in my pedestrian time machine. Clearly there’d never been car access to this place!

Reassuringly I came across the usual barbed wire encrusted waymarks and see saw stiles which are such a part of walking. Such features are so commonplace on public paths the average rambler would feel unsettled without them confirming the way ahead.

Cruttonstall is listed but the dry words offer no description of the real place which positively oozes the essence of Ted Hughes’ sideburns. On a raw afternoon with a biting East wind hurling Curlew babbles at Stoodley Pike it was a wonderful place to be.

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The path to Cruttonstall.

Stile In A Gate

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A brand new waymark nailed to a dead tree on Meltham Footpath 48 (above) directs the rambler over a beck to a second new waymark nailed to a leaning fence post  wreathed in several generations of barbed wire (below).

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The second waymark is located next to a “stile in a gate” (bit like soap on a rope? Ed) which is impossible to use as the gate has fallen over and is held up only by the stile! This “stile in a gate” is however a superb example of the new Kirklees Standard “Most Restrictive Option”. Walkers seemed to take their chances with the adjacent 3 strand barbed wire fence rather than the “stile in a gate” which goes to show just how effective the “Most Restrictive” option is 🙂

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The obvious question is why would anyone waymark a mess like this? Ensuring the path is obstruction free and safe to use prior to encouraging public use with new waymarks might be a better option.

Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

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The PathWatch advice would be to become a quasi legal/Prow specialist and help floundering Councils who don’t have a clue out of deep holes they’ve excavated for themselves.

Kirklees have now fessed up to the expert witness in the Huddersfield Byway 231 case costing some £6,000 and the legal representative an eye watering £14,800 plus VAT of tax payers money. This is on top of the £10,000 budget for employing Leeds City Council as a consultant and the other £14,000 of recorded legal costs incurred by Kirklees. It does not include other costs associated with the public inquiry, Costs of aborted enforcement action, costs of undisclosed legal advice and costs of copious amounts of staff time going back 10 years.

It’s an impressive performance for a local authority  with no money.

These figures and the history of how Kirklees have dealt with this issue illuminate how the council operates. In a nutshell. Public rights of way don’t matter and are not important. We therefore make mistakes because we don’t really care. When we get found out we deny this. We spend public money attempting to save face. This makes things worse but it goes on for such a long time people forget or get fed up and stop bothering us. Repeat.

This has happened and continues on the Ramsden Road case which is summarised in Ramsden Road 

At the same time the council insists on having it’s cake and eating it by using the “we have no money” excuse for every public path across the district. This of course is a con. They have plenty of money but it hemorrhages on constant comedy cock ups (see above).

Kirklees Council Refuses To Reveal Costs To Taxpayers For Rights Of Way Consultant.

burning-money

Some time ago we asked Kirklees Council via the freedom of information act how much the consultant employed to handle the comedy of errors on Huddersfield Byway 231 was costing the taxpayer. Unlike this blog the Council doesn’t intentionally do irony but its answer seemed top heavy with it. “We don’t know the cost as the consultant might have more work to do” they said. So no estimate for the work? No daily rate? No running tally to date? Just don’t know?

It’s no wonder they only have 60p out of every £1 they had 10 years ago carrying on like this! Why not just come clean and tell the public? No they’d rather keep digging and let the matter go to an internal review rather than tell the public how much something is costing …er…the public because…well …the council cocked up in 1985.

These things matter because as long as Kirklees keep cocking up it costs us. A week long public inquiry has just finished into this case with the public footing the bill. Not just for the councils prow consultant but also a barrister, cost of officer time in support,room hire etc etc.

And the irony is that Kirklees will tell you until the cows come home they have no money for public rights of way. What they aren’t prepared to share is the cost to the public of council inspired cock ups. Seemingly there is a magic money tree for this. Ramsden Road, Blackpool Bridge, miles of strimming and hundreds of sign posts could probably be done with the money spent on the holes they dig when they get something wrong.

The Council ought to be completely transparent in how and why it is spending public money. It ought to be following best practice and working within the law to ensure expensive cock ups never happen. PathWatch will keep plugging away at this one.

 

Now That’s What I Call More Things On Footpaths That Probably Shouldn’t Be There No.19374. Get Off My Land Special Edition

It’s been a while Ramblers but I hope you all enjoy this “Get of my land” special edition of “Things on footpaths….”

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Obstructions are such a part of the walking experience in Kirklees they even get waymarked! What a thoughtful touch.
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The classic “agricultural handrail” 
KB 153 Obstructio
Gardeners Question Time from a public footpath near Huddersfield.
HOL 75 obs
Little House on the…er…footpath?
HOL 73 Fence obs (2)
Oh dear.
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Knock Knock
HO 73 Barb Obs
Welcome to the countryside.
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Trials of a new recycled surfacing on a Kirklees path.
Hol 45 stile 4
Wall & waymark post in drunken brawl. Witnesses sought.
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I get knocked down….but probably don’t get back up again. 
HOL 73 Fence obs
New rights of way standard launched in Kirklees. The Most Restrictive Option. 

 

Holmfirth Footpath 134

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Holmfirth 134 before

I mentioned this obstruction a few weeks ago and I’m happy to report that the offending fence has now been completely removed!

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And after

It would hard to find a more straightforward and obvious obstruction on a public footpath yet It’s  taken 2 years to get it removed. In that time the Council’s position has moved from “it’s not an obstruction” to “it is an obstruction”. That’s quite a change and demonstrates the Council’s default position of permitting obstructions on public footpaths unless and until they come under intense pressure to do otherwise.

In this and many other cases it takes a notice under the Highways Act to force Kirklees into action. This is despite the authorities statutory duties under the same act and its duty to act in the public interest.

In addition this is an incredibly wasteful way to work. It involves multiple site visits to the same obstruction to record and photograph the same thing two years apart,  land searches, letters to landowners all duplicated etc etc.  This is time and money which could be spent removing one of the many other Kirklees obstructions.

Why would any publicly funded organisation with clear statutory duties choose to operate in this way?