PathWatch can exclusively reveal the all new Kirklees standard for structures on public rights of way! The standard known as Not To Standard But Acceptable (this is not a joke.Ed) has recently been launched on a Holmfirth path.
Most Highway Authorities in the UK use BS5709 which is the British Standard drawn up and agreed by representatives of Natural England, CLA, NFU, OSS, BHS, Disabled Ramblers, IPROW, Highway Authority and a gate designer in a long process involving opportunity for public comment . It has been around for 40 years and was recently updated in 2018. BS5709 allows the widest range of users to access public paths and is compliant with the Disability Discrimination Act. The Kirklees Not To Standard But Acceptable standard appears to be based on…er…keeping certain councillors happy!
Councillor Nigel Patrick has previously expressed his opinion on BS5709 and his displeasure with officer decisions granting authority for structures (gates) on public paths to BS5709. As recently as 16th November 2019 Councillor Patrick wrote to Karl Battersby ( a strategic director at Kirklees) saying he thought BS5709 was “only advisory and not law” He also said to Mr Battersby on 18th November 2019 that “a complaint that it is not to British Standard is not a complaint that needs to be addressed if it is usable” The whole point of BS5709 is that these structures can be shown to be “usable” because they meet certain accessibility criteria laid out in the standard. The Kirklees Not To Standard But Acceptable standard amounts to nothing more than subjective opinion.
However Mr Battersby has recently agreed to authorise a number of Not To Standard But Acceptable structures on a Holmfirth path following Councillor Patrick’s intervention. In a 13th November 2019 email Mr Battersby advises Councillor Patrick that the council will be contacting a landowner to advise “their structures are not to standard but acceptable.”
This raises a number number of genuine concerns. Firstly this decision has been taken behind closed doors and out of public view. It shows Kirklees Council ditching a widely recognised British Standard on accessibility in favour of something completely unspecified and unauthorised on a public highway. Who decides what is an acceptable structure on a path? Is this a decision in the public interest? Will the Not To Standard But Acceptable standard be rolled out to all other landowners in Kirklees? Why is a Strategic Director on a £125,000 per annum salary making decisions about gates and water troughs on public footpaths? Is that the best use of public money? The decision would seem to undermine the work of front line council staff and their efforts to keep paths free of unauthorised structures and obstructions. How does this decision fit with the councils statutory obligations to assert and protect the public’s rights to use public paths and to keep them free of obstructions?
And finally how does the Not To Standard But Acceptable standard fit with Kirklees recently expressed aim to increase walking by 20% and its aspiration to “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 expressed in its recently adopted climate emergency plan ?
Previously on PathWatch we’ve blogged about works to Holmfirth Footpath 133 being undertaken,washing away within weeks and having to be done again. See here and here. We’ve questioned the wisdom of using stone aggregate on steep Pennine paths with a history of drainage problems and acknowledged the need and difficulty of using a more sustainable method.
Sadly Holmfirth Footpath 133 has again failed over the weekend after the passage of Storm Ciara. Most of the stone aggregate is half way down the hill. The drains are blocked and there are deep gullies in the path surface. The path needs extensive repairs for the 3rd time in less than a year.
What Holmfirth 133 neatly demonstrates is the extent and seriousness of Kirklees Councils maintenance liability for rights of way, the false economy of using sandstone on such slopes and the lack of imagination amongst senior managers (to busy authorising “unauthorised” water troughs? Ed) in developing a sustainable maintenance strategy for the rights of way network. As an organisation the Council seem entirely content with making the same mistakes over and over again.
Footpath 133 was a decent job. Great attention had been paid to drainage and the second lot of stone put down was larger and less “clean” than the first, so bound together very well but it still could not handle the weather here.
What Kirklees are proposing to do on Ramsden Road (largely to keep 4×4 drivers happy.Ed) is the same technique used on Footpath 133 (and others) but with the added ingredient of heavy 4×4 vehicles using the route. The Council know this technique fails sooner or later (without vehicle use) and it also knows legitimate 4×4 use on Ramsden Road damages the unmade surface. It seems more than happy to ignore this information and potentially make a more expensive version of the same mistake on Ramsden Road. Go figure.
PathWatch is pleased to report that Holmfirth Footpath 165 has had a significant short back and sides to the laurel hedges which just about met in the middle. A new footpath sign has been installed and surface vegetation cut back too.
It is reported in the Harrogate Informer that Kirklees Strategic Director and some time authoriser of “unauthorised” water troughs on Holmfirth Paths , Mr Karl Battersby, is leaving the promised land of Kirklees to join North Yorkshire County Council where he will look after Highways & Waste.
PathWatch would like to take this opportunity to offer our deepest condolences to ramblers in North Yorkshire.
A public inquiry is to be held next week into the soup of claims and stopping ups on the paths at Clayton Fields,Edgerton,Huddersfield. A flavour of this particular disaster can be read in Clayton Fields – Peak Parody? There have been further developments since that article but even PathWatch lost track (got bored?Ed) of the councils tortuous efforts to deny public access to a popular urban greenspace and build houses on it instead.
If you are having trouble sleeping the Inquiry starts at 10.00am on 21st January 2020 at Brian Jackson House,New North Parade,Huddersfield. HD1 5JP.
After a quiet period chart wise the path became a Christmas no.1 for 2019 and hits the new year at the top of the charts. As you can see from the photos the public path has been obliterated by works associated with a nearby development. The legal line of the path has gone and so to the proposed diversion (new path) approved by kirklees as a splendid idea at committee in July 2019.
This could be top of the path pickers charts for months to come…. Whatever you do don’t try to walk it.