Holmfirth Footpath 60- Kirklees Strategic Director Karl Battersby Gave Advice On Diversion & Visited Site

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Readers may recall the proposed diversion of Holmfirth Footpath 60 at Wolfstones here and here . The dreadful proposal was of course thrown out at Committee but what the public do not know is the degree of senior input behind the scenes on this proposal. It has come to light that one of Kirklees Council’s most senior members of staff, Strategic Director Karl Battersby, visited the site of the proposed diversion with the landowners agent in summer 2019. There’s nothing wrong with that per se but it seems questionable to send out a strategic director on around £130k  when the staff employed to do this work are experts and much much cheaper. Surely Mr Battersby has far more pressing issues to deal with than the diversion of a rural footpath near Holmfirth?

PathWatch has been unable to establish the cost to Kirklees council tax payers of Mr Battersby’s visit and advice  because,wait for it, there is no record of such senior officers logging time to recharge codes associated with such diversions. The council can legally recharge it’s reasonable costs involved in processing diversions. Why has it not done so in this case? If Mr Battersby is routinely involved in footpath diversion applications what is the cost of this work and is it ever recharged?

 

Here is one of Mr Battersby’s detailed (redacted) emails as an example of the degree of involvement and advice supplied. Clearly there has been time & effort & public resources spent on this but not recharged. It should be noted that the proposed footway section on the road was not actually part of the proposed diversion order that the Planning Sub Committee were voting on. Ironically at no point in this or any other of the emails PathWatch has seen does Mr Battersby actually refer to the Proposed Diversion Route. Arguably this shows the weakness of the proposal itself.

From: Karl Battersby <Karl.Battersby@kirklees.gov.uk>
Sent: 27 December 2019 12:07
To: xxxxxxxx
Cc: xxxxxxxx
Subject: RE: Wolfstone Heights Farm
Good afternoon morning xxx. I have now had chance to meet with xxx and xxx to
discuss your mail. Firstly, this is really simple in my view, and doesn’t need to tie up a
suggested agreement in conditions and demands.This is a finely balanced decision, and for me the thing which helps tip the balance is an improvement to the surface which we would be expecting the public to walk on between the current and proposed ends of footpath 60. The reality is that as it currently stands this is not a great link, given the gradient and nature of the road, and we would not really want people to walk on the road if possible ( which they would be encouraged to do when the grass verge is muddy and churned up). That is the reason for suggesting an improved surface. If you recall, this is something I suggested when we met in the summer on site.
The report will assess the benefits of the proposal, and will of course summarise and
comment on the comments received both for and against.The intention would be that the requirement to improve the verge would only bite once the order were made and was capable of being brought into force, which would limit abortive expense should the order not be confirmed (either by the Council or Secretary
of State).
I have now seen the images that xxxx has been produced, and am comfortable in
principle that this looks acceptable, and overcomes my concerns about the road section,
although the planter should be removed so the proposed footway links to the current
end of footpath 60. We would just need to agree the spec and provision of the work, and
have no issue with xxxxx commissioning the works, if that is more cost effective.
will liaise with colleagues in highways.
In terms of the order itself, the matter will be presented to the 30th January meeting
with a positive recommendation to make the order. Should members resolve to support
making of the order, and once publicised we receive objections ( which is highly likely),
then our recommendation would be to place it before the Secretary of State, with all the
necessary paperwork. It would then be a matter for yourselves to present the case in
support of confirmation. I am advised that this is appropriate and in accordance with
guidelines. Members could of course decide that they would wish us to defend the
matter should it proceed to the Secretary of State, which would also be an option
included in the report. Should members be supportive in principle, then I am sure this
issue will be discussed at the meeting.
Hopefully we can now place the matter before Committee and put it to bed.
Regards
Karl Battersby
Strategic Director, Economy and Infrastructure
Kirklees Council
Email; karl.battersby@kirklees.gov.uk

 

 

 

 

Happy Days At PathWatch As Kirklees Councillors Ditch Proposal To Divert Holmfirth Footpath 60 At Wolfstones :-)

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The awful proposal to divert Holmfirth 60 went to the Huddersfield Planning Sub Committee today. Eloquent and authentic speakers from Holmfirth Walkers Are Welcome, The Ramblers,Peak & Northern Footpaths Society,Huddersfield Rucksack Club and Holmfirth Harriers among others  put the case against diverting this lovely path.

For the first time in nearly 20 years councillors voted against the officer recommendation (which was to divert the path) and voted to keep it where it is!

Time for a PathWatch Pint 🙂

 

Holmfirth Footpath 60. Officers Recommend Diversion.

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The committee papers for Holmfirth 60 are now available here . Sadly the officer recommendation to the planning committee is that a diversion order should be made. As committee members usually vote in line with officers advice this is both a worrying and baffling recommendation. It represents a new nadir for rights of way management in Kirklees and a shining example of the value placed on our wonderful paths (not much?Ed) by our council.

Local walking and running groups and many individuals from the community oppose the diversion of Footpath 60. These are the same groups and individuals who contribute much to keeping the rights of way network and much other local green infrastructure open and serviceable because the council cannot or will not do so.

It is clear that Kirklees has reservations about the diversion of  Footpath 60. Although the recommendation is to make an order to divert the path, at the same time the recommendation states that if objections to the order are made (which they will be) the council will not actively seek confirmation of the diversion order.

In effect this recommendation (if approved) passes the decision to a future public inquiry where Kirklees will sit on the sidelines and saving the path will be left to volunteers. Public Inquiries are expensive and funded entirely by the public. So not only are the public at risk of losing a long established and much valued footpath, they will also pay handsomely for the privilege. Kirklees has badly lost its way here.

Kirklees officers have more than enough information to recommend to committee that an order should not be made. The original mistake in not identifying  Footpath 60 as a direct off road link to Wolfstones , an area of public resort, was made by Kirklees officers and has never been acknowledged or addressed. That information in itself is significant enough to recommend an order is not made yet it has been gaslighted out of existence.

 As guardian of our public rights of way network Kirklees is not fit for purpose by any measure. Will Holmfirth Footpath 60 become the latest victim next Thursday?

Meeting details here

 

 

 

Holmfirth Footpath 60 Diversion Proposal Off To Committee 30th January 2020

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The application to divert this popular path which gives direct access to public land at Wolfstones will be heard at the Huddersfield Planning Sub Committee next week. Details of the meeting are here .

It is highly unlikely that any of the councillors on the committee have heard of this path ,let alone use it. Most of them probably won’t read the papers that accompany the committee report and none have any training in public rights of way matters. However it is their decision  whether to authorise a legal order to divert this path away from it’s destination and onto a road. If you use and value the path and have the time  please consider attending the meeting to put your view to the committee members. It is at 13:00 hrs at the Town Hall in Huddersfield on January 30th.

Some points to consider

  1. There is no obligation at all for the committee to give authority for the making of a diversion order. Just because the application is related to a planning permission it does not follow that an order has to be made.
  2. The planning permission is for a car parking area and a link between 2 buildings. There is no planning gain for the public here ie houses to live in, improved highway network etc. However there is a the significant loss of a very popular long standing public path. The loss of the public amenity and enjoyment is very significant and and is not outweighed by any public benefit from the development.
  3. As previously reported  here Kirklees planners and Rights of Way accepted this application without the full knowledge that the path is the only direct (off road) public access to the area of public land at Wolfstones. This was a serious error.
  4. The proposed new path is substantially less convenient for walkers heading to Wolfstones. It turns at 90 degrees off the current direct route and ends up on a road some distance away. Walkers then have to back track to reach the access to Wolfstones. Currently the path goes straight there. Most of us walk to get away from cars and roads and to enjoy the quiet countryside.
  5. Kirklees have recently declared a climate emergency and developed an action plan. The plan aims to increase walking in the district by 20% it also states “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”. This proposal makes a popular circular route harder and less attractive to the public and will lead to less public use.This conflicts with the councils stated aims outlined in the climate emergency plan.
  6. The proposal is also at odds with the Councils Rights of Way Improvement Plan which aims to boost green tourism, short circular walks,local culture and heritage and access for those with disabilities. Effectively diverting a public path onto a road goes against these aims.
  7. Should the committee be minded to grant authority for a diversion order they should instruct officers to abandon the current “neutral” stance which they are taking and take a stance against the order in the future and at any subsequent public inquiry.

8. What you think.

 

Holmfirth Footpath 60 Diversion Back Out For Consultation.

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Wolfstone Heights

In an unwelcome sequel the proposal to divert Holmfirth Public Footpath 60 Wolfstones has been resurrected and is now out for public consultation. The diversion is connected to  planning applications here and here. The application is made under the Town & Country Planning Act and does meet the criteria as being necessary for the development to go ahead. However there is no obligation for Kirklees to make such an order and given the level and quality of public objection during the first (withdrawn) consultation in 2018  they should not be entertaining a second bite at the cherry.

For anyone walking from Holmfirth, Netherthong or  the valley and heading for Wolfstone Heights the proposed diversion takes you away from your destination just as you are almost there.  It would be a much less commodious path compared to the current long established direct route of Footpath 60.

Kirklees Council were unaware of  the public status of the land at Wolfstone Heights trig point (which Footpath 60 links to directly) when the original application was accepted. For clarity the land belongs to Holme Valley Land Charity whose sole trustee is Holme Valley Parish Council. The purpose of the charity is “To promote such charitable purposes for the benefit of the inhabitants of the Holme Valley”. The land at Wolfstones (WYK821600) has been retained by the charity for the benefit of the community for informal recreation. The details can be viewed here .(There is a claim made in the diversion application that access to the charity owned land can be closed at anytime.This does not appear to be the case). Arguably Kirklees would not have accepted the original application had they known this as the proposal makes access to Wolfstone Heights more difficult. Public rights of way are a material consideration in the planning process but this obligation has not been discharged correctly in this case.

In response to consultations on the original planning applications which included moving the path Kirklees Prow unit responded saying –

” moving the terminus of path 60 to the north will take it away from the existing access to Wolfstones Height, by over 100 metres, however that access is not currently recognised as public and this rural road has a serviceable
verge for walking”

The premise that the access to Wolfstones Height is not public is incorrect. Wolfstones Heights is a place of public resort being reserved for public enjoyment by Holme Valley Land Charity. It is quite obviously very well used and known locally. Importantly Holmfirth Footpath 60 is the only public footpath (and off road route) which links directly to the Wolfstone Heights access. Unfortunately the whole diversion process has stemmed from this initial oversight in 2014.

Kirklees Council should have established the correct status of the access and land at Wolfstone Heights prior to accepting any diversion proposal to move the terminus of Footpath 60.

As previously mentioned there is no obligation on Kirklees Council to make an order to divert Footpath 60. Their initial decision to accept such an application was flawed because it was based on  incomplete and incorrect information regarding the link between Footpath 60 and direct access to Wolfstone Heights. The Council now have good reason not to make an order in light of this information but sadly they are taking a “neutral” position and sitting on the fence.

The consultation is open until 9th July 2019 and you can see the proposal and comment here

 

Holmfirth Public Footpath 60 Wolfstones

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Wolfstone Height

There is currently a proposal to divert Holmfirth Public Footpath 60 at Wolfstone Heights Farm in connection with a planning permission granted in 2014.  The case neatly highlights the endemic failings of  Kirklees Planning not properly considering public rights of way.

The issue of Holmfirth Footpath 60 ought to have been looked at much more closely by planners. The path was flagged up in the planning application itself by the applicant who’s proposals clearly required and asked for diversion of Footpath 60. This seems to have been given the nod through despite Kirklees planners being blissfully unaware that Footpath 60 gives direct and traffic free access to the open access land at Wolfstone Height.

If the proposal succeeds 80 metres of lovely open and direct rural footpath will be turned into an enclosed,hard surfaced 130 metre footpath going in the wrong direction and dumping you on a road without a footway some 140 metres from where you were going.

The proposal is shown here reconsult plan  with something of an explanation here reason statement  .Deadline for comments is 3rd August 2018.