Colne Valley Bridleway 197 – Open!

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Previously on PathWatch we’ve blogged about a couple of large beech trees coming down on this popular bridleway and the sluggish response to getting them cleared. After last weeks job half done it’s pleasing to report that the route is now clear. The broken guardrail has also been cleared away. It will be interesting to see if this ever gets replaced.

 

 

Kirklees Prow Emergency…

Ramsden Puddles.
Global warming on Ramsden Road

A report on the Kirklees Climate Emergency was approved by the Council’s Cabinet on 13th November 2019. You might have thought that a carbon free network of public rights of way across the entire district would have got a little mention? How useful is this historical transport network? How can it be improved and updated to meet modern demands and be of relevance to the councils wish to become carbon neutral? How can it improve the quality of life and health of our unhealthy population and decrease demands on our NHS? That kind of thing.

Well you’d have thought wrong. Hardly a surprise because it was the Kirklees Cabinet that voted to stop maintaining public rights of way in 2015. That is perhaps a truthful indication of senior directors and politicians views on people using their legs,pedals or god forbid a horse as a means of transport.

However 4.9 of the councils aspirations in the approved plan says

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.

PathWatch has recorded council shenanigans on public rights of way in one small district over 2 years. It’s fair to say we haven’t really noticed the council promoting or developing sustainable and active travel etc etc. Or that Kirklees is a great place to walk and cycle etc etc. We have noticed the council failing on a regular basis to remove simple obstructions,maintain surfaces and ensure paths are open to the widest range of people by using BS5709.

However  aspiration 4.9 is useful and it is something PathWatch will come back too. It’s certainly a helpful benchmark to measure council performance against. Of course any council manager worth his or her pay grade will recite “it’s only an aspiration” as a get out of jail free card.

The council has this week refused to undertake some simple repairs to a couple of large inland lakes on Ramsden Road. At present these lakes force pedestrians off the road onto a very narrow,muddy verge and up against two strands of tensioned barbed wire. The council who spent £10,000 on an abandoned Traffic Regulation Order and associated works will not fork out £1500 to rectify this obvious hazard. Instead they hold their corporate hands up and hide behind Friends Of Ramsden Road.

When viewed through the prism of Aspiration 4.9 they look even worse than normal.

Ramsden Rd-2
The best option for walkers to navigate the sea of tranquility on Ramsden Road.  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.

 

 

The Big BS5709 Lottery Give Away!

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In a generous autumn give away Kockuplees Council are throwing the troublesome but widely recognised and essential British Standard 5709 out the window and will allow any old thing to be placed on local public rights of way.

“So what’s new” said Benny Rothmans, stalwart member of Peak & Southern Footpaths Society “You’ve got to be a contestant on Who Dares Wins to get over most of the stiles & gates around here and up to date with your tetanus.”

We put this point to Les Battersby, the Councils Strategic Director of Not Giving A Toss. Les told us more about the controversial offer “Mr Rothmans certainly has a point and it is true to say that we have turned something of a blind eye to the awful mess of stiles & gates on our public footpaths since the relevant date of the year dot.However we’ve decided to be more honest and stop pretending we’re remotely interested in Rambers or anyone else who might like to enjoy a walk in the fresh air. The thing is we really don’t care. Any farmer who we have inadvertently forced to use BS5709 can contact us and will receive a very generous compensation package. This includes council staff removing the quality BS5709 gate and putting in any old crap, preferably with some barbed wire and a good wobble. We are able to offer ramblers over the age of 96 a reduced price tetanus injection with our medical partner BURPA for a small BURPA subscription of £300 a month (terms & conditions apply). I think Mr Rothmans may be eligible at 102.”

Back in the “real world” of Kirklees rights of way the council is currently running a dual system for use of BS5709 on our public paths. In some cases where the council has required removal of an obstruction the landowner is required to put in place a gate to the recognised British Standard 5709  . The process involves the usual form filling and checks by Kirklees staff. The standard is compliant with the councils Disability Discrimination Act obligations and allows the council to put conditions on such as clear signage and removal of the gate if no longer needed.  In other cases landowners can put in anything they want and Kirklees isn’t bothered.  The Council are unable to provide a rational explanation for this particular double standard.

Whilst it is a very poor deal for path users to be subject to sub standard and unauthorised structures which the council has no control over, it also seems unfair to landowners and farmers. There seems to be something of a BS5709 lottery here in the Holme Valley with landowners in identical situations being treated very differently.

Hippo Tourism Comes To Dover Lane, Holmfirth.

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A new council scheme will attract Hippopotamuses to Dover Lane,Holmfirth where there is guaranteed all year round mud.  

Dover Lane,the popular path off Dunford Road to Washpit Mills, is best left to the Hippos at the moment. The mud is boot top deep and unavoidable. A sorry mess for October.

As our regular reader will know there are few all new public rights of way problems in Kirklees. Most are recycled versions of age old issues never properly sorted by our hapless bureaucrats.

So it is with the surface of Dover Lane. Over a year ago PathWatch highlighted  Washpit Mills – A Missed Opportunity  .The thought of getting this path repaired and upgraded by a developer and at no public cost (which was offered but the council  failed to secure) was on my mind today as my boots filled with cold black mud whilst negotiating the lane.

This path links an approved  development of 50 houses to a Bus Stop on Dunford Road. Whilst the Council declares a climate emergency on the one hand its planners fail miserably to gain an improvement which would benefit locals, the new home owners and of course  poor old planet earth. As it is you can’t really blame anyone living at the future Washpit Mills development for driving everywhere.  Where’s the alternative?

PathWatch spoke to Johnny Morris the council’s wildlife zsar who told us “We prefer to see the state of this public footpath in a much more positive light. Whilst it may no longer be suitable for bipeds I can reveal that following an extensive fact finding visit to The Gambia, very nice at this time of year by the way, we are launching a scheme to encourage overnight stays in Holmfirth from Hippopotamuses. Whilst Dover Lane may seem to be inconveniently situated in the Northern Hemisphere there is a bus stop on Dunford Road with direct links to the rail network from Huddersfield. What Dover Lane can offer the well healed and adventurous travelling hippo is year round mud and a range of excellent farm style accommodation which includes an all you can eat silage offer.” 

You couldn’t make it up.

 

More Fiction From Kirklees On Ramsden Road FOI.

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Previously on PathWatch we’ve blogged about Kirklees piss poor answers into its standards of governance and decision making process regarding Ramsden Road. Regular readers will recall that Kirklees spent 2018 securing an Experimental Traffic Regulation Order prohibiting motor vehicles on the route. This cost the taxpayer around £10K. The councils’ stated view was that this closure was essential to protect Ramsden Road from ongoing damage by vehicles and to protect the proposed repairs which it had agreed to carry out in 2019.

Without any explanation or obvious decision making process this was all dropped around 10th December 2018. It took a freedom of information request to get an explanation from our publicly funded council and in May 2019 they came up with “The decision was based on a visual assessment of the road and discussion with colleagues and the Peak Park on the most equitable way forward.” This would class as an insult to the intelligence of a single cell amoeba with an interest in rights of way let alone a human being. Crucially the answer contains no facts, such as whether this was a delegated officer decision, a committee decision or some other kind of formal decision. It contains no evidence showing how and why the decision was made. No manager,director or officer is named . No date is provided as to when the decision was made and there is no reference to any documentation involved in the process.

The Council’s Head of Legal Services upheld an appeal against this response and asked the service to answer this question again. In his words ” you should be provided with further information as to who took the decision not to proceed with the ETRO and additional information to the reasoning behind the decision.”

Given the Head of Legal services clear commitment to provide this information it was a surprise to receive the following as an answer. “Reviewing this matter, the Service determined that it was arguable that the making of the ETRO was procedurally flawed in that the road haulers association was not included in the consultation – they are a statutory consultee, the groups who were most impacted then contacted the Council and advised they would take the matter to court to challenge. In light of these representations and the consultation issue mentioned above the decision was taken to not continue with the ETRO.” Again the absence of a date, names of officers/managers/directors involved, reference to a committee report or delegated officer decision is striking. It is taking the piss to a new level but it is not an answer to the question asked. Amusingly it also completely contradicts the original equitable way forward” answer.

There is the slightest hint of something here In light of these representations and the consultation issue mentioned above the decision was taken to not continue with the ETRO.” but of course no detail. The Council is keeping very quiet about who it met and what was discussed or agreed prior to the public meeting on 22nd January 2019.

In an email dated 21st January 2019 the Kirklees Greenspace Manager, Rob Dalby tells Councillor Nigel Patrick that he has “met with the TRF(trail riders fellowship) informally and had a very informative conversation” . That wasn’t mentioned at the public meeting in January 2019 and PathWatch is not aware of the council holding “informative conversations” with other interested user groups – quite the opposite in fact. The council had agreed in writing with one walkers group to repair Ramsden Road this year. To date it has never contacted them to advise this is not happening.

This latest answer is nonsense. The council completely ignored walkers groups who contacted it pointing out the school boy errors in it’s legal order and at the time it gave assurances to at least one mountain bike group that it would correct the errors and continue. Of course errors can be corrected and are not in themselves any reason to abandon a process in which time,money and reputation has been invested in. Have the Council agreed to something through embarrassment at their errors, through political pressure or lack of experience in these matters? Who are the “groups most impacted” ? Did the council meet these groups ahead of the January 2019 public meeting and agree a course of action behind closed doors? Certainly what is being presented to the public is not the truth.

It matters because scarce public money has already been wasted here and a valuable public asset is not being managed properly. Further monies from the public purse or voluntary subscription, by the council’s own admission, may also be at risk because of the damage motor vehicles do on unsealed roads like Ramsden Road.

Why is the council finding it so hard to explain it’s change of stance from promoting a legal order banning vehicles on Ramsden Road and blaming the damage to the road on 4×4’s to the complete opposite? If it is doing things properly and in the public interest then surely it can put forward an evidence based answer to this question? There must be some compelling reason to abandon a years work, waste the public money spent and risk the councils already damaged reputation in these matters. What is that reason?

The council’s position on Ramsden Road and the ETRO was explained clearly by Rob Dalby,Greenspace Manager in an email to Councillor Nigel Patrick on 1st May 2018. “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” Compare the clarity of that answer to the two received to the Freedom of Information request.

Council officers have had correspondence from Councillor Nigel Patrick on this issue in support of motor vehicle use on Ramsden Road. In an email dated 28th November 2018 Councillor Patrick says “at least both key vehicle user groups are aware and they both have the legal clout to take action against the council”. On 24th August 2018 Rob Dalby (Greenspace Manager) supplies Councillor Patrick with the s56 notices served on Kirklees for Ramsden Road by a walkers group. Why would he need to see these? He also asks in an email dated 22nd August 2018 “Please could you tell me if (redacted) has been involved in the s56 notice? (Redacted) name keeps cropping up in relation to footpath issues” Why would Councillor Patrick ask to know the name of a volunteer trying to get a public right of way repaired? What would he do with that person’s name?Does he ask for the names of people who report potholes or street lights?

There’s evidence and a paper trail to show the original decision (which was discussed with political leads,copied to the Chief Exec, Strategic Director and ward councillors) but there is absolutely nothing for the change of tack. Why?

Holmfirth Footpath 135 Goes Under The Plough.

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Freshly ploughed.

In a race against time I thought I could squeeze one more evening walk in on Footpath 135 before it clocked off beneath plough and crops for another 10 months. See here and here .Alas it was not to be. The path was being ploughed out as I battled my way across. This is legitimate but the farmer is legally obliged to reinstate the line of the path on the ground so that it is convenient to use and apparent within 14 days. So by about the end of September. It never happens and our local council who have responsibility to ensure it does happen know all about it and usually do nowt.

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Gone!

Public footpaths aren’t really intended to be part time but from now until late July 2020 Holmfirth Footpath 135 is working from home or on extended sick leave. An out of office message would be useful on these sort of paths.