A modest success ;-)

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That’s better!

Eleven weeks after I first brought the blatant obstruction of Holmfirth Footpath 188 to the attention of Yorkshire Water and subsequently Kirklees Council the issue has been resolved!

As suggested in my original post all that was needed was some new hinges and a sneck to get the old gate working again.  Incredible that someone would go to the lengths they did to block the path with boulders and drag their feet  when politely asked to put it right. Several Yorkshire Water staff were involved in requesting the removal of the obstruction on a number of occasions and I understand two members of staff attended a site visit with the tenant. I know at least one visit was made to the site by a member of staff from Kirklees Council. In addition time has been spent liaising with Yorkshire Water and directly with the tenant responsible for the illegal obstruction.

It’s worth pondering  –

  1. Obstructing a public footpath is illegal
  2. Yorkshire Water’s costs are paid for from everyone’s water rates
  3. Kirklees Council is in dire financial straights
  4. The taxpayer funds Kirklees Councils costs on this matter
  5. The tenant is subsidised via cap payments by the taxpayer
  6. The public are paying for everything here but have been denied access along the public path.

My initial reports to Kirklees Council were ignored so on 28th August 2017 I served a Section 130a notice and it was only after this that my reports were taken seriously and acted upon. From experience I find that if an obstruction makes it to 6 months it becomes part of the status quo and council managers will try to explain it away and justify it’s presence rather than get on and shift it. So maybe after receiving a few “unique” reference numbers but no action Section 130a is the answer?

The issue has also been passed onto the Rural Payments Agency and I’ve had a very encouraging response from their office.

It is Kirklees Council’s policy to refer incidents such as this to the RPA and it would be a powerful deterrent to landowners obstructing public rights of way if it was used. I don’t believe it ever has been in Kirklees despite many opportunities. The Council could save a lot of money if it took this option on reported obstructions. I’d suggest that noone in receipt of CAP payments would block a public right of way if they seriously thought Kirklees would inform the RPA and a full land inspection was on the cards.

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Holmfirth Cricket Club Public Right Of Way

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The signs challenging the right of way had been removed along with the fencing when I visited. Only the challenge to the illegal sign remained.

This public right of way must be one of the most well used in the Holmfirth area. Generations of children and parents have used it to  access Sands Rec, Holmfirth Pool , the River Holme, Holmfirth High School or just cut through to Huddersfield Road.

Many of us use it early or late in the day for a quiet dog walk past the cricket field and down to the river. During some of the festivals and events which take place in Holmfirth such as the duck race,folk festival,bonfire etc many hundreds of people will walk this public right of way during the course of a day.

Everyone using this right of way does so as of right . No one asks permission or would even think permission was needed. No permission has ever been given by the owners who are fully aware of the popularity and extensive use of this public right of way over their property. I doubt you’d find many people in Holmfirth who are not aware of its existence or who have not walked it at some point in their lives.

Unfortunately the public use of the right of way is now being challenged and signs have gone up stating it is a not a right of way but a permissive path during daylight hours. This is news to most people I would think and has caused a lot of interest on the local Facebook Page

The right of way is not recorded on the council’s Definitive Map and Statement so it is vulnerable however there is a claim to add the right of way as a bridleway. A decision has to be made by the council in the coming weeks on this claim.

Claiming rights of way can  be a long winded process  but I’d urge anyone who has used this route regularly for 20 years to complete an evidence form this week and return it to Kirklees. Evidence forms can be downloaded here

The council has been aware of this right of way for many years and should have been more proactive in securing it’s future. The Holme Valley Riverside Way nearly came along this path and it was strongly suggested at the time of the routes creation that the Council make a legal order to formally create a right of way here as there is a proven need and long established and accepted public use.

Furthermore  such is the weight and regularity of use of the right of way that there is a case  that public rights have obviously been established at common law. You only need to look at the Facebook response to see how many people  regularly use it. So in addition to the current claim the council ought to be recognizing the long established use of the route both past and present, the need for the route as a safe off road path and the routes integral role in access to the River Holme and surrounding green spaces.

The council perhaps with an input from local Holme Valley South Councillors , Holmfirth Parish Council and groups such as River Holme Connections needs to come up with a plan beyond the claim which ensures this public right of way for the future.

When I wandered down to photograph the “No right of way” signs they had gone!! Along with the fencing which had narrowed the right of ways width. This would seem like an emphatic bit of people power or a tactical retreat by the landowner who may just have recognised that placing the signs has given the issue a much higher profile and will provoke much more evidence in support of the right of way.

 

Battle of the green fields – Scholes

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Footpath off Cross Lane Scholes

Kirklees planners and councillors reached a new low at the Planning Sub Committee (Huddersfield Area) on 31st August 2017 approving a development of some 39 homes at a greenfield site at Scholes in the Holme Valley.

The attitude of councillors and planners towards local residents genuine concerns and their ignorance of the value of green public open spaces for public health and well being caught my eye.

This is another case of sharp suited wolves picking off green space aided and abetted not just by the council’s planning policy vacuum  but by turning a blind eye to a further nearby  greenfield site where some 140 houses could be built. Only a fool would consider the effects of the two sites separately.

The webcast of the meeting is revealing. Chair Cllr Terry Lyons is in a very grumpy mood and votes in support of the proposal. It will be interesting to see how Cllr Lyons votes when a similar proposal affecting a greenfield site and a public footpath in his own backyard comes up before the committee.

In contrast to the reasonable,articulate and well made arguments of  local residents members of the committee seemed slightly annoyed and disinterested, voting predictably along tribal party lines instead of the details and merits or otherwise of the application. Sadly this is how it works in Kirklees. Typical labour councillors from Batley or Dewsbury do not have a grasp on the public value of green spaces or rights of way.

Tellingly one Labour councillor dismisses the value of green space completely saying “I do think we’re getting to a stage where we’re paying more attention to public open space than we are to bigger issues such as highways issues.What I would say is put  money where it’s really needed in highways”  The highways referred to are of course the ones gridlocked with cars rather than the footways,cycle lanes ,footpaths and bridleways which the council is also responsible for but routinely ignores.This attitude infects the council,it’s management,officers and decision making processes.

It’s staggering that a councillor could be so dismissive of public open space where children,parents and grandparents can spend quality car free, healthy time together. Over half the population in Kirklees is obese yet the committee puts £140k of developers money into roads rather than green space or public rights of way which offer an alternative to the epidemic of inactivity costing the country so much.

The council should be looking to improve the green infrastructure and with it public health at every opportunity rather than continually pouring money into roads. £140k would enable a lot of basic maintenance works to be undertaken on the Council’s neglected public rights of way network. Such an idea seems beyond the imagination of planning officers or councillors. Instead this money will  fill in a few hundred potholes or a few nights winter gritting.

 

There’s an account of the meeting in the Examiner

The webcast of the meeting is here

 

Holmfirth Footpath 31 Robinson Lane

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A 4 metre  retaining wall will be built to left of path and a tunnel for the path at the far end as site will be raised by 5 metres for building.

Until fairly recently this field which is crossed by Holmfirth Footpath 31 produced an annual crop of silage around this time of year. The neighbouring fields were stocked with cattle and the public enjoyed walking here amongst land that has hardly changed since farming came to the valley. Agriculture has stopped now and this little green oasis off Woodhead Road is likely to be paved over and built on.

In the planning void which currently exists in Kirklees provisional open land like this is prey to developers. The council is in a wilderness of it’s own making caught between an out of date Unitary Development Plan and a new Local Development Plan. The council cannot demonstrate a five year housing supply and so land such as this is picked off by developers like wolves nailing a sickly deer out in the open.

The plan for this field and Holmfirth Footpath 31 is to build 70 houses here. You can’t blame the wolves for doing what comes naturally but you have to ask how has our local council allowed this situation to happen?

These green spaces and public rights of way are valued by many  and this path is well used by locals. I walked the path today in warm August sunshine, surrounded by trees and with a view to Castle Hill. Swallows were feeding in the air above and there was a real sense of place, tranquility and amenity.

The path will still be there when the houses are built but the green grass,views and rural character will be gone. The path will be a ghost of it’s former self, contained by retaining walls, overlooked by residents who don’t want it, littered with garden waste probably and  forced into a tunnel beneath a new road. The amenity and character of the path will be lost forever.

The plans can be viewed here but the deadline for comments is tomorrow!

 

 

When is a gate not a gate? 4

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Negotiating the gate.

Who’d have thought this would have run to 4 blog posts? I’m beginning to think this could go to a second series.

Yorkshire Water have previously confirmed that the land belongs to them and that as long ago as 4th July 2017 they asked their tenant to remove the boulders.  That’s a full 8 weeks ago. I wonder why it is taking so long?

It’s interesting to compare this lack of activity on Yorkshire Water’s behalf with the situation at Bartin & Greaves Planning Applications which are a just a few hundred metres away . Having met a lot of well argued objections to these proposals Yorkshire Water (Keyland developments) have submitted some 6 reports/letters, compiled by consultants Wardell Armstrong to peak park planners in an attempt to justify the planning applications see here. One can only imagine the resources involved to produce these reports in such a small space of time. The planning consultations ended on 16th June and the reports arguing against the consultees are dated July. So it’s likely that a polite request to remove a simple obstruction from a public path on Yorkshire Water land has already taken up more time but produced no results. Why not put a kissing gate here ? Stock proof and pedestrian friendly. Kissing Gate Spec

Yorkshire Water has 2 tenants in this area and they are clearly capable people who run businesses and can meet deadlines. This is demonstrated by the fact that between them they claim over one hundred thousand pounds in public money via the CAP payments scheme. A condition of receiving such payments is that all rights of way on the land associated with the claim are open for public use. See here Cross Compliance

 

 

 

Doing the right thing

Unlike the hapless Kirklees Council Ceredigion County Council do things differently. Fair enough give someone a chance to do the right thing but if they don’t then use all the legal powers available. Here in Kirklees the council  eagerly appease law breakers as a first and only option. Doing things right is cheaper, more effective, gives the public confidence and is of course what the council should be doing!

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It is in fact a public path.

 

When is a gate not a gate 3

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The obstructed gate is top rightish in this photo where the wood is.
Following on from yesterday’s episode we contacted Yorkshire Water again to highlight the lack of progress.
I have walked this path again today and no attempt has been made to clear the boulders.
Could you please clarify if Yorkshire Water itself are responsible for the land and obstruction or whether it is entirely the Tennant’s responsibility?
I have also reported the issue to Kirklees Council but have heard nothing.
As such I believe I can myself serve a notice on the Council for removal of the obstructions and they are obliged to serve notice on the persons responsible hence my query above.
The issue would ultimately be resolved at Huddersfield Magistrate Court should the obstructions remain.
Regards
The following response was received this morning. As is the way with official bodies it doesn’t answer what was asked but seems slightly panicky and defensive.

Thank you for notifying this.

I have made numerous attempts to the tenant and still nothing has been
done.

Myself and another colleague are looking into this. As we will need to take
action on this matter.

So Yorkshire Water are “looking into this” and “will need to take action”. That’s a little disappointing considering the length of time this difficult obstruction has now been in place and the degree of inconvenience which is being caused to the public.
We contacted Yorkshire Water directly as the Highway Authority, Kirklees Council, seems to have disregarded its own legal obligations with regard to public rights of way  and enforcement. The hope was that Yorkshire Water would be able to sort out this relatively straightforward issue in a timely manner by speaking directly to its Tenant.
However Kirklees Council, who are responsible for the footpath and for keeping it open and available for public use were informed on 17th July 2017 of the obstruction. They very helpfully and gave us our own unique reference number.
Your unique reference number is: 3578243
Your request will be dealt with as soon as possible. Kind regards,
Kirklees Council
Since we’ve heard nothing further we contacted Kirklees Council again today and they very helpfully gave us another unique reference number!
Your unique reference number is: 3590269
Your request will be dealt with as soon as possible. Kind regards,
Kirklees Council
The point of all this is to demonstrate how under valued and increasingly forgotten our public rights of way network  is becoming. No one wants to know. There is no self remedy here. The boulders need a machine to move them and most walkers don’t carry that kind of kit!
Kirklees Council is super keen at the moment on people volunteering in its parks,open spaces and public rights of way Natural Kirklees. It seems to be a one way street with the council  happily taking  free labour and publicity but refusing to carry out the work which volunteers cannot do such as removal of illegal obstructions. You can of course have as many unique reference numbers as you wish!
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