Some 8 months after making our less than conscientious highway authority aware that one of it’s bridges was in need of some TLC things on site at Blackpool Bridge have predictably deteriorated further.
More decking is coming away from the rotten cross beams, the handrail is full of rot and sports a good wobble when touched. However on a more positive note some public spirited walkers have propped up one of the cross beams on rocks!
Hopefully our Comedy Council Leader will have met some bargain basement Chinese bridge builders on his recent holiday..er…business trip to the People’s Republic.
Pleased to report that the Peak District National Park have written to Yorkshire Water (Keyland Developments) regarding the woeful resurfacing works on Holmfirth Bridleways 68 & 189. Whilst clearly constrained by planning law and the hapless actions of Kirklees the letter is a positive response to the concerns of the many users who have contacted the park on the issue and is in stark contrast to the complete lack of action or interest from our council. The letter was copied to me and I reproduce most of it here.
I understand that you are the surveyor at Keyland who has been dealing with the works to the Holmfirth public bridleways numbers 68 & 189, which serve the buildings at Greaves Head and Bartin. You will be aware that the National Park Authority has recently dealt with planning and listed building applications for proposals to reintroduce the residential use of the houses. All four applications were refused at the Planning Committee on 13 October (please see this link for the Committee reports: https://democracy.peakdistrict.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=132&MId=1591&Ver=4 ).
My purpose in writing to you is to express my concern at the works that have been carried out to the track which serves these buildings. I should say that the works are likely to be “permitted development” and would not require planning permission under Part 9 of the General Permitted Development Order 2015, which allows improvement and repair works to tracks, so we do not think that there has been a breach of planning regulations. I am also aware that you have received permission from Kirklees Council, as Highway Authority, for the works. I understand that this was subject to agreement on the precise stone to be used in the surfacing works. Notwithstanding this, we have received several complaints about the extent and appearance of the work that has been carried out, particularly the colour and size of the surfacing material, which is very light and fine textured, giving an inappropriate compacted appearance covering the whole width of the track. Given that this is a popular bridleway in a relatively wild area, these works are out of keeping with the appearance and enjoyment of the area.
I have been advised that the works were carried out either by or on behalf of Yorkshire Water, but that you may have been involved; I do not have a contact at Yorkshire Water so I would be grateful if you would let me know who I should contact if it is not you. I think it is important for me to say that the works to the track do not change the National Park Authority’s position regarding the principle of re-introducing a residential use to Greaves Head and Bartin, as the reports to Planning Committee should make clear.
Finally, I would ask that you or Yorkshire Water consider carrying out works to reduce the harsh and inappropriate appearance of the track following the resurfacing works.
If like me you contacted Kirklees Council this week about the resurfacing of these bridleways with a “sandstone” that has the appearance of concrete you’ll have received a classic fob off email this afternoon. It’s taken from the Kirklees Infinite Book of Excuses “Easy ways to avoid answering tricky questions” chapter. Basically select one thing you are right about and ignore everything else.
In my case I had checked with the Council about the surfacing material which looked like a dry concrete mix. The appearance is so convincing the Council had to take a sample and get reassurances from Kelder Group which included a receipt from the quarry. I never mentioned the bridleway being concreted in my email. And had clarified that point on here.
I still got this email answering a question I hadn’t asked
This email is blind copied to recipients. Thank you for contacting Kirklees council.
The Council received reports earlier in the year from the public, regarding works to the above bridleways, undertaken on behalf of the landowner. Council officers concluded that the works were inappropriate and that further work would be required. The contractor had permission from Kirklees PROW to carry out more recent works, laying a top dressing over parts of the bridleway. The specification for the recent surfacing material was 20mm to dust sandstone aggregate. Council officers have confirmation from the quarry that this is what was delivered. The specification agreed with the landowner did not include agreement to add cement, and the contractor undertaking the works for the landowner states that none has been added during the surfacing works. We have samples of the surfacing material from the site, both before and after the works.
This email is copied to officials at Peak District NPA, who have been contacted by some of you.
The “jog on pal” response ignores the questions I asked…
As kelder Group have not used a local stone can the council ask them to remove all the limestone and grey stone from the bridleways?
Can the Council advise Kelder Group that no further works are to be carried out on the bridleways without a full consultation with the peak park and user groups?
I also highlighted the poor standard of work, the leaching of the grey stone onto adjacent land and the fact that the bridleways were not out of repair.
There’s a quarry about a mile away which could have supplied a local stone which when weathered would match what is on the bridleway. Tingley quarry is 20 miles away and obviously produces a different quality of stone in terms of colour and texture. It simply does not fit the sensitive environment it has been placed in.
Kirklees were on the ball with their robust response to the planning applications but have managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory with the attitude taken towards these awful resurfacing works.
Kirklees seem to think Kelder Group are an altruistic organisation who completely out of the blue wish to resurface a public bridleway at their own expense. Meanwhile back in the real world most of us can put two and two together and see the works for what they really are. An attempt to improve vehicular access to Bartin & Greaves Farms in connection with two recently refused planning applications which may yet go to appeal.
It’s no surprise that Kirklees sides with those wishing to take advantage of public property for private gain. It’s much easier than doing things properly and I suspect far less scary for them to send out a “Round Robin” email to concerned members of the public telling them to get lost rather than challenge a private company.
Having made some enquiries it seems the resurfacing of these bridleways is more cock up than conspiracy. Yorkshire Water have confirmed that they have carried out the works with…wait for it….permission from Kirklees Council. Yes that’s the same Kirklees Council who have a legal duty to assert and protect the rights of users of public rights of way. In this case that’s walkers, riders & cyclists. These groups are well represented in Kirklees and it’s interesting to ponder why none of their representative groups were consulted on the works to these popular but vulnerable bridleways?
It seems the Council received complaints back in the winter when Yorkshire Water made a ham fisted attempt to cover sections of the bridleways with limestone. Subsequently the Council agreed that Yorkshire Water could carry out resurfacing works but with a local sandstone sized 20mm to dust. It doesn’t appear that the Council asked any questions as to why an organisation like Yorkshire Water which is part of the bigger Kelder Group who also own Bartin & Greaves Farmsteads would suddenly wish to resurface a public bridleway at its own expense. Someone doing something for nothing? Surely not?
At the same time as these discussions were going on between Kirklees and Yorkshire Water Kirklees were objecting very strongly to the planning applications at Bartin & Greaves. It seems odd to me that the Council didn’t put 2 + 2 together and realise that Yorkshire Water’s sudden rush of altruism in wishing to resurface the bridleways must surely be linked to the companies planning applications who’s access is entirely along these bridleways. I’ll quote directly from the Council’s written submission which was excellent by the way!
KC PROW objects to the application in its role on behalf of the council as highway authority for public rights of way in Kirklees. The application submissions are silent and inadequate in terms of public rights of way. The submissions make no mention that the access to the property from the public vehicular highway network at Acres lane is entirely along public bridleways Holmfirth 68 & 189. No submission is made on the impact of the development, both construction and use, on users of the public bridleways. The lack of information in submissions is of concern. The application refers to the “adequate width and construction” of Nether Lane (public bridleway 189), however recent works to the public bridleway have been undertaken without authority of this council as the highway authority for the public bridleways; those works have included the importation and use of unauthorised non-vernacular surfacing materials. Public bridleways are relatively scarce in Kirklees and the network north of Digley reservoir is one of our area’s main resources for riders and merits adequate protection. The site is remote from the public vehicular highway network, over 2200m away along the public bridleway, and a significant distance from any public transport service or even small centre of population. Sustainability is an evident question for the planning authority to consider, particularly in this isolated important landscape which forms part of the very popular Digley area, important for local recreation and public access to the countryside,including in-bye land and moorland. The red line boundary shown in submissions does not include all land necessary to develop the site, unless development is proposed to take place on foot, cycle and horseback. The submissions do not include any blue line boundary for further ownership outside the red line. The submissions appear inadequate for members of the public to fairly and easily identify and consider the merits and effect of the application proposals. KC PROW would ask the PDNPA to consider the benefits of requiring further information in additional or amended submissions and then re-advertising the applications. The lack of public rights of way information in submissions may give the impression that the applicant is avoiding this material topic, which may mislead the public. Much of the access from Acres Lane is narrow, with insufficient space for the passing of two vehicles, and insufficient for passing of even vehicle and rider over a number of lengths (e.g.White Walls Lane over a length of 180m+, and the corners and straight approaching Bartin). Intensification of use of this access by motor vehicles would have a negative effect on public bridleway use and peaceful enjoyment of this special part of the PDNP within Kirklees. KC PROW does not agree with claims made in the application that the application submissions address all relevant points for consideration. Public rights of way are a material consideration in the planning process and have been largely, if not entirely, ignored, despite the applicant’s knowledge of their existence and location and despite the inclusion in submissions of “access” and “planning” statements.
To add a rich layer of irony to the situation Yorkshire Water’s contractors arrived on site on the very day that the Peak Park Planning Committee were discussing the planning applications. As park officers were advising the committee of the special qualities of the landscape and the recreational value of the rights of way here and in particular the bridleways, Yorkshire Water’s men in hi viz were tipping large amounts of a concrete like aggregate on the bridleways surface,blinding it in with rollers and in effect making a nice smooth road to Bartin & Greaves farmsteads.
Joined up thinking between our public bodies? The peak park, Kirklees Council and even various sections within the Council would appear to not so much know what the left hand is doing but are completely unaware they have a left hand or even an arm with it on. The only people who are on the ball here are Yorkshire Water/Kelder Group.
Moving on to to the material used to resurface the bridleway. It does look and have the consistency of a dry concrete mix but I am assured by Kirklees who are assured by Yorkshire Water that there is no cement in with the aggregate. The stone used although grey and very sticky is, I’m assured by Kirklees who are assured by Yorkshire Water, sandstone from a quarry at Tingley. Very reassuring.
This stone is inappropriate for surfacing a sandstone bridleway. It looks like concrete and has ruined the aesthetics of these historic bridleways which have been largely untouched since the time of the enclosures when they were built. The bridleways did not require any resurfacing and were more than adequate for their normal traffic of agricultural vehicles and recreational use by the public. They were not however in a fit state to provide vehicular access to any future residents of Bartin & Greaves Farms nor would they look very good to any planning inspector involved in a planning appeal.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing but isn’t required here as what’s going on is so blindingly obvious. If the public reported illegal surfacing works on a bridleway which gives the only access to 2 properties subject to 2 very contentious planning applications it’s pretty plain what is going on. All Kirklees had to do was stop the works and advise that no further works were to be undertaken. How hard can it be?
Regular readers might be noticing a pattern by now in how Kirklees behaves in regard to its responsibilities on public rights of way. Uppermost in the Council’s corporate mind should be its duty to assert and protect public rights but in the short time I’ve been writing this blog this has been largely absent. The Council are only to willing to consult the Kirklees Infinite Book of Excuses when a member of the public reports a problem on a right of way, and austerity has been a godsend for them in this respect, whilst at the same time they cannot bend over far enough for anyone sailing close to the wind or acting illegally on those very same public rights of way.
If like me you think what has been done to Holmfirth Bridleways 68 & 189 is out of order you could email the Chair of the Peak District National Park Planning Committee Councillor Paul Ancell , Head of Planning at the Peak District National Park John Scott and the man in charge of Rights of Way at Kirklees Rob Dalby and tell them what you think and what you’d like them to do. It’s what we pay them for so don’t be shy.
Last Friday 13th October 2017 the planning applications for Bartin and Greave farmsteads were refused by the peak park planning committee at Bakewell. One of the concerns discussed by the committee was the access which is entirely along Holmfirth bridleways 68 & 169 and the negative effects the increased traffic would have on the recreational users of the bridleways. The committee were also very concerned about the potential negative effects of the developments on the wider unspoilt surrounding landscape.
This week the bridleways have been regraded and resurfaced with what appears to be a dry concrete mix(update from Kirklees who took a sample of the material – it isn’t concrete although it has that colour/appearance) over large areas of the 2km length. This work has ruined what was an unspoilt and unchanged sandstone surfaced bridleway. It has created a visible scar in the landscape which the planning committee were so conscious to protect last Friday. Clearly the intention is to create a roadway into Bartin & Greave but who would do such a thing?
I have asked Yorkshire Water Estates if they have any information as to who has carried out the works,whether it has planning permission or permission from the highway authority, Kirklees Council and await their reply.
In the meantime enjoy some more images of this wonderful piece of work in our oldest national park.