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 The rights of way network is slowly improving as outdated and unauthorised structures which limit who can use the network are removed and replaced with something fitting BS:5709.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

Council Lose High Court Case Over Birkby Allotments.

Cartworth Cow (1 of 1)

Congratulations to the campaigners who have defeated Kirklees Council in the High Court over the authorities bid to evict them from the allotments off Cambridge Road at Birkby. The case has been reported in the   Examiner  and the Council seem to have made an expensive cock up by not looking at their own records from 1935 which show they cannot serve eviction notices on the doughty gardeners. Who’d have thought it.

The Council now owe one of the allotment holders £12k in costs. The Council’s costs are reported as £27k !  A fair old bit of Ramsden Road or Scaly Gate or Scar End Lane could have been repaired on that.

Another stunning performance whichever way you look at it for our supposedly cash strapped council.

Who Owns Public Footpaths?

signs (1 of 1)

Now that’s a good question. For many highway authority managers the answer makes them distinctly uncomfortable. Most that I have dealt with have been in denial of the simple statement laid out in section 263 of the Highways Act 1980….”every highway maintainable at public expense  together with the materials and scrapings of it,vests in the highway authority”.

Most public rights of way are publicly maintainable and therefore “vest” in the highway authority for so long as the path remains a public highway. Landowners do not own public paths across their property although they can use the land for certain purposes. Landowners usage and interest is secondary to the highway authority.

Culturally of course we all doff our caps and feel awkward in certain circumstances walking on “private land”. It’s only natural that this long established sense of inferiority to private landed interests extends to Council managers responsible for keeping public access open. Time and again here in Kirklees the law is seen as a bit of an embarrassment and “little arrangements” are made between those charged with enforcing the law and those breaking it.

Paths are built on, moved and blocked across the district on the strength of a nod and a wink from council managers and councillors acting as National Farmers Union representatives. These little arrangements are then protected by the substantial indifference of the Council as an organisation to do anything other than protect the seedy status quo.

This little piece sums up the situation very well and the final paragraph on why ownership matters is particularly relevant in terms of how both landowners and council managers currently behave.

Why does ownership matter?

If the local ‘landowners’ understood that they do not own the paths, or at least that any ownership is subservient to the highway authority’s ownership, then they might not feel such a sense of personal possession of these little public highways. And then they might treat them more like they treat the public roads which cross their holdings, and be less concerned at public use and less likely to try to move or to disturb these little ways.

If Highway Authority officers fully understood that the paths are their official property then that would help to direct their actions when for example local ‘landowners’ plough up their paths or obstruct them. It is the Authority’s property being messed with, it does not require even-handedness between the underlying landholder and the public.

And in certain cases the Path Officers can act at once under common law as owners of the paths without waiting for the sometimes tediously lengthy and time consuming statutory processes. Senior management at at least one Home Counties Highway Authority accept this in principle but have seemed reluctant to act, even in clear-cut cases (eg A footpath, part of the London Loop, complete pre Christmas blockage some years ago).

 

Colne Valley Footpath 144. Information Commissioner To Investigate Kirklees.

IMG_1884

In an attempt to  understand the Councils decision making process and it’s contacts with the landowner in this case PathWatch submitted a Freedom Of Information request to Kirklees way back in 2018. As we often find the publicly paid for Council was very reluctant to disclose anything at all. In fact all we got was a photo taken in a field on a wet summer day that could have been anywhere. That’s how valued engaged members of the public are these days. It wasn’t even a good photo….

After exhausting the councils internal appeals procedure we’ve gone on to the grandly titled Information Commissioner. Having looked at our case they’ve decided feel the councils’ corporate collar on this one.

More on this at a later date.

 

 

Scaly Gate Hepworth.”Unmaintained In Character Only”

IMG_20190430_122941475 (1)
The shocking state of Scaly Gate . Unmaintained In Character Only?

Scaly Gate is another public road much used by walkers. As well as being popular locally it is also part of the Kirklees Way, a Council devised and promoted route. Scar End Lane  requires a skill set last seen in the New Testament for safe passage and is also part of the Kirklees Way.

It would be very easy to conclude that “Unmaintained In Character” is a more fitting description for the Councils Street Register as regards these neglected routes.

IMG_20190430_123122226
Scaly Gate.

 

 

Is There Already Authority For A TRO On Ramsden Road?

IMG_0430
The “unsafe” Ramsden Road.

In the murky world of local government truth is a rare sight. PathWatch learnt from several reliable sources that the  2009 Cabinet Report On Ramsden Road.  never made it to committee. This is incorrect. The report went to Kirklees Cabinet on 16th June 2009 and was approved according to Councillor Jim Dodds in this email 2009-06-17 Re Cabinet 16th June 09 (1) The approval was a modified one which specified further discussions as a proviso. The decision is recorded here 2009-06-17 Re Cabinet 16th June 09  (TRO is a Traffic Regulation Order. ETRO is an Experimental Traffic Regulation Order. Both have been identified as required by the council to ban motor vehicles on a time limited basis from Ramsden Road)

Could it be that Kirklees Cabinet have already approved a course of action on Ramsden Road and that current actions by officers and councillors are going against this democratic and transparent decision? Why was this previous report and decision not mentioned at the public meeting held in Holmfirth Civic Hall on 22nd January 2019?

PathWatch has been asking who,when and why Kirklees made a decision not to continue with the new ETRO in December 2018 but has met a proverbial brick wall. From emails we’ve seen the Council is arguing in support of the new ETRO with Councillor Nigel Patrick up to 5th December 2018. However by the 10th December 2018 the councils’ approach changes abruptly and an email is sent out to a wide range of groups inviting them to the Civic Hall Meeting and completely dropping the new ETRO. Who made this decision and why?

There would appear to be a direct conflict between the professional view of council officers who have identified a need for a TRO on Ramsden Road and the two ward Councillors, Sims and Patrick, who are against it.

In May 2018 the Greenspace Manager wrote to Councillor Patrick advising “As to the issue with Ramsden Road, it is not safe at present, this is not being helped by the actions of a minority of users, but to make the route available for the majority of users then works need to happen, and they need to be allowed to bed in. This is why an experimental TRO is proposed rather than a straight TRO allowing the highways authority to take a knowledge lead approach to this and other similar routes on how best to meet the needs of users.” Has Ramsden Road been made safe in the intervening year? No it hasn’t. In fact it is in a worse state of repair. And yet the Council has stepped back from doing  any works on this “unsafe” byway and handed this responsibility to a group of enthusiasts.

The Principle Engineer,Highways Safety who undertook the initial consultation on the ETRO wrote “As a result of severe damage caused by recreational use of 4wd vehicles, the Council is proposing an Experimental
Traffic Regulation Order to close Ramsden Road to such traffic (other than those with land access rights).” A year later this aspect of the Ramsden Road problem has been quietly dropped to elephant in the room status. Yet the council spent some £8k of public money pursuing this ETRO up until December 2018.

Clearly the professional assessment of council officers is that any remedial works need to “bed in” and be protected from vehicular use for a period of time. This will not now happen and raises a serious question as to the sustainability of any future works paid for via funding from organisations like the national lottery heritage fund for instance. Will these potential funders be fully apprised of the council officers professional advice going back to 2006 that a TRO is required? Or will any future investment be vulnerable to failure because this aspect is ignored?

There is no consistency or transparency in the councils decision making process on Ramsden Road. We can find no committee, cabinet or delegated officer decision recorded on the December 2018 change of direction regarding the ETRO. The initial 2018 decision was delegated at officer level and the political portfolio leads at Kirklees were consulted. The 2009 decision was agreed at Cabinet. Both seem above board and legitimate. There doesn’t seem to be any formal record of an evidence based decision  overturning the identified need for a TRO or ETRO on Ramsden Road. Why not?

Principle Engineers and Green Space Managers are well qualified, experienced and trained on a wide range of technical specialisms. Both the quotes in this article are from this level of management at Kirklees. In contrast Councillor Patrick has had no training in public rights of way during his tenure as a councillor and in 30 years of sitting on the planning committee neither has councillor Ken Sims. This link  shows both councillors explaining their lack of training at a meeting in December 2018 (cllr Patrick at 8:15 and Sims at 25:55).

As a footnote Councillor Sims lost his seat in the local elections on 2nd May 2019.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Repairs By Derbyshire CC To Chapel Gate Byway Fail

IMG_0928

link to Peak District MTB site reporting the rapid & catastrophic failure of this infamous Byway in the Peak Park.

A dramatic example that stoning up these routes is a technique extremely vulnerable to failure on Pennine slopes. A number of recently repaired bridleways in Meltham have suffered the same fate. A timely warning perhaps that any future repairs on our very own Ramsden Road are incredibly prone to something similar. Ramsden Road will be exposed to the twin assaults of weather and motor vehicles.