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.
The works to Ramsden Road have got off to a good start. Really pleased to see a 1000m or so of reinstated drain on the moorland side of the road. Also about 8 reinstated culverts to connect this into adjacent land drains so water can get away. This will make such a difference. Excess soil from the ditching is being very carefully placed in the old parish quarry which will also improve this area.
Regular readers may recall my previous blog highlighting the making & advertising of a diversion order on Spen 110 back in March. In that article a bucket full of scorn was poured over Kirklees for making such an order during the Covid 19 travel restrictions on public movement. In effect the council were asking the public for comment on a proposal when it was illegal to go and visit the site in question. Requests to re advertise the order when restrictions were lifted fell on deaf ears.
PathWatch has subsequently discovered that Kirklees had a temporary closure order on Spen 110 (the section subject to the diversion application) to facilitate safe demolition of the leisure centre buildings. This temporary closure order ran out on 31st January 2020. At that point Spen 110 should have been reopened to public use. It’s worth noting that the granting of any planning permission affecting a public right of way does not in itself permit the movement of, damage to, or construction of anything on the path until a lengthy legal diversion process has been completed successfully. One outcome of that process is that the path may not be diverted and the development, as proposed, cannot not go ahead. See Holmfirth Footpath 60 which fell at an early hurdle in the Grand National diversion race. There are problems with the council’s diversion proposals for Spen 110 which need properly addressing through this process.
I am sure by now you have guessed where all this is leading. Spen Footpath 110 has of course been completely obstructed by site fencing at the council owned development. The public footpath sign off Bradford Road points straight at an unscalable fence whilst at the other end a view of the path apparently being dug up can be had through the more open fencing. The council have confirmed that the path was not reopened on expiry of the temporary closure on 31st January but remained illegally closed for some three and a half months until 14th May.
PathWatch asked Kirklees on 12th May to confirm that Spen 110 had reopened as legally required on 31st January . On the 19th May Kirklees sent a copy of an “emergency” closure notice they had placed on the path on 14th May . This closes the path legally until 3rd June at which point a further 6 month closure will come into force lasting into December . A cynic might suggest that it is no coincidence this emergency closure order appeared 2 days after my enquiry. The council say it is a “mix up”.
Clearly Kirklees have illegally obstructed their own footpath for three and a half months. Reputable authorities would normally only issue an emergency closure for…well… an emergency. Something like damage,danger,flooding etc. Cock ups aren’t really the intended purpose for this legislation. One of the reasons cited in the closure order is “demolition” despite all buildings on site having already been knocked down!Kirklees have now said that Spen 110 may remain closed with the use of temporary orders until 2022.
In closing, digging up and placing permanent fencing on Spen 110, whilst at the same time constructing and providing part of the proposed new route, Kirklees are arguably giving the impression that the diversion process is a forgone conclusion. The use of emergency and temporary closures to keep a path shut for the duration of a diversion process is very poor practice from a local authority. This sort of situation does tend to undermine the legal process and really should be avoided.
Kirklees are funding most of the high profile £15 million Spenborough pool development at this site. They are the planning applicant, landowner and applicant for the diversion order. They are also the Highway Authority for Spen 110 with a duty to ensure such paths are not obstructed or built on. It is therefore essential that they not just do things properly but are seen to do so. If a public body responsible for both planning and rights of way cannot manage the related legal processes correctly and maintain public confidence they could very well set an unhelpful precedent for private companies to follow.
The council could pull back the site boundary a few metres so that Spen 110 remains open and outside the site. This would protect the path from further “mix ups” and leave it intact until the diversion process is properly concluded.
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 🙂
News just in. Kirklees have put up a public footpath sign on Holmfirth Footpath 121 to avoid confusion with a Private Road sign. It would be nice to feature more “good news” stories on PathWatch. Exciting things like obstructions being removed, paths through crops being reinstated and big things being fixed. We like a warm glow as much as anyone.
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 !
The unmistakable Spring chorus of a two stroke engine breaks the evening silence to echo far across the Pennine hills. This lone male is searching the Yorkshire moors for a potential mate. He will ride hundreds of miles of public rights of way to show off his flamboyant courtship display to any female he comes across in his lonely quest for a potential partner.
Around the corner the less common over revving screech of an urban quad bike can be heard. Complete with tracksuited male rider and terrified but giggling female pillion. This is a typical but rarely observed courtship routine. The quads intricate movements around the abandoned quarries rocks and murky pools are the males way of both impressing the hapless female passenger and showing her his suitability as a mate.
These unique natural phenomenon are now protected in perpetuity by Kirklees Councils complete inability to put a Traffic Regulation Order on the rare habitat of Ramsden Road.
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
The 2020 January weather wasn’t kind to Holmfirth paths. Although a little late to the party another casualty of the unusually wet winter storms is Holmfirth Footpath 57 at Netherthong.
After many years of hassling Kirklees they resurfaced this path in June 2019. It has now all been washed away. At some point PathWatch will pull together a piece on recent Kirklees works to stone up out of repair paths in the Holme Valley and what has subsequently happened to them. It’s not pretty.