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.
The Kirklees admiralty who are based at Wilton Park, Batley, (home to the Kirklees navy) have announced that a new Shipping Forecast Area is to be added to to the famous list in …er…Kirklees! Rear Admiral Birdseye (oh yes),one of Soothills most famous sons, told PathWatch of the exciting nautical development. “Following the loss of Whitby Fishermen the other winter on Ramsden Road it has been recognised that we need to alert seafarers to the risks of Kirklees and it’s treacherous rights of way waters”.
“The Admiralty have belatedly recognised that although Ramsden Road isn’t actually the sea, the body of water on Ramsden Road is navigable and is of such a size that the moon exerts a significant tidal pull. Spring tides here are some of the largest in UK waters due to landrovers causing further tidal movement when driving through. It’s clear to the Admiralty that the waters on Ramsden Road are a permanent and growing feature which is why we’ve squeezed it in the forecast between German Bite and Dogger” said the Admiral before heading off to Batley Working Mens Club for his rum ration.
The latest Peak District Green Lane Association PDGLA Newsletter 2019_10 reports on the new Traffic Regulation Order prohibiting motor vehicles from Wetton Hills. The newsletter provides a link to background information and committee reports at the Peak Park.
In common with Derbyshire CC at Jacob’s Ladder the Peak Park have followed due process and all the information is in the public realm. This is in stark contrast to our local highway authority, Kirklees, who cannot reference a date or any documentation to their decision to revoke the Experimental Traffic Regulation Order on Ramsden Road. The implications of this unrecorded decision would appear to go against the council’s own view that an ETRO was needed to protect Ramsden Road from damage by 4×4 vehicles and to protect any repairs from damage whilst they bedded in.
Wetton Hills currently has a temporary closure in place for these very reasons which suggests Kirklees original plan was on the money.
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?
Regular readers will recall PathWatch inquiries via the Freedom of Information Act here into how a Council decision to put an Environmental Traffic Regulation order banning 4×4’s from Ramsden Road was overturned in December 2018. The result of this decision is that any works carried out to repair Ramsden Road will be instantly vulnerable to damage by motor vehicles. The Council identified 4×4 damage as a problem as far back as 2004 and of course spent £10k and all of 2018 securing an ETRO in order to protect proposed works from 4×4 damage. It’s abrupt change of mind never made any sense.
When asked how the decision was made to abandon the ETRO Kirklees stated that “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.” No dates, names, new evidence on the effect of 4×4’s or outline of the process were provided. Presumably whoever wrote that is an up and coming comedian or an expert in evasion?
After an unseemly delay the Council’s Head Of Legal Services has completed a review and in respect of the answer above says –
However, my conclusion is that the council’s response to item 3 in your request – “please also provide information which shows who at Kirklees Council took the decision not to proceed with the ETRO on Ramsden Road and the reason behind this decision:-“ does not fully comply with the requirements of the Act and Regulations. I have therefore decided that this matter should be referred back to the relevant service and that you should be provided with further information as to who took the decision not to proceed with the ETRO and, if the council holds further information on this point, additional information has to be reasoning behind the decision.
I therefore partially uphold your request for a review. I have referred this matter back to the council’s Information Governance Team with a request that they reconsider the matter and that supplementary information (if any) is provided to you as soon as reasonably practicable.
Of course there are a number of caveats as to why the Council may not have to provide this information but we will wait and see. More on this in due course.
As ever with our hapless Council there is a rich irony here. The Head of Legal Services undertook the review and of course it was the errors made by legal services in the drafting of the ETRO which set off this unfortunate chain of events.
Derbyshire County Council are open,transparent and follow their authorities decision making process. Kirklees take more of a nudge,nudge,wink,wink approach and hold no record or documentation relating to their decision to overturn a delegated officer decision and drop their Ramsden Road TRO last December, having spent some £10k of public money in the process.
This is an interesting approach to doing things as it would appear to be well outside the Council’s constitution in terms of its decision making processes and of course shows the usual disregard for public money, residents concerns and the long suffering tax payer who funds it all.
Derbyshire have now made a TRO for Jacob’s Ladder at Stoney Middleton and because they follow due process the order and background information can be viewed at tro-jacobs-ladder . Kirklees have not followed the decision making process laid down in the Council’s constitution and it may be worth reading your tea leaves or seeing Mystic Meg as alternative sources of information.
It is some 7 months on from Kirklees Council’s unexplained decision to drop plans for an experimental traffic regulation order to restrict motor vehicles on Ramsden Road for 18 months. The plan, agreed with senior managers and councillors, was to allow for repairs to be undertaken and then bed in whilst being protected from vehicles for a short period.
So 7 months on how is the “Equitable Way Forward” getting on? Well it’s looking rather potholed as you can see from the photos. Despite the dry summer of 2018 and the equally dry winter that followed Ramsden Road continues to deteriorate and is particularly bad for pedestrians (traditionally the lowest of the low here in Kirklees). The flat top section of Ramsden Road is pitted with potholes and developing inland lakes despite the unusually dry past 12 months.
Repairs carried out by Kirklees in June 2018 have noticeably suffered from damage by vehicles. Even now in late June there is a large new pool which has developed this year and which walkers now have to deviate around. This damage is caused by legal use of Ramsden Road by vehicles. This sort of thing and this sort of thing for instance. It’s hard to see how the current surface or any future repairs will hold up to this type of usage or to understand why the council have now chosen to ignore the issue.
Of course the council know exactly what the issue is as can be seen from the following correspondence
From: Rob Dalby Sent: 22 August 2018 17:45 To: Cllr Nigel Patrick <email@example.com> Subject: RE: Ramsden Road – Experimental TRO
Dear Cllr Patrick,
I do take this seriously, and this is not a decision taken lightly. You raised the decision process previously and as you may recall I CC’d in the portfolio holder Cllr Mather, I subsequently discussed the matter with her and she advised this was an operational decision, and as such rested with officers.
These actions are to address some long term issues that I have inherited, and have been in response to a s.56 notice . The upper section has been repaired, but as I have previously advised the lower section with the significant degradation that is the result of both damage caused by recreational off road vehicles such as land rovers and that damage being exacerbated by the water ingress and action within the non sealed surface and damaged substrates, is beyond an easy remedial fix, and will require significant intervention.
I do fully appreciate your points raised previously that relatively small scale actions to maintain the route earlier would have forestalled the need for this more drastic and on the face of it draconian response, but given the present condition of the route, the way forward of putting in place an experimental – and so by its nature time limited restriction of use, and then comparing that against another route of similar character that does have the earlier water management intervention possibly opens up more routes longer term, as it will demonstrate the cost benefit of those works.
This was gone into following talks with the national park, and how they are looking to address similar issues, and it is my intention to meet with and discuss the various merits and objections with as many groups as possible once we have all the interventions in place.
From: Rob Dalby Sent: 19 July 2018 11:25 To: Cllr Nigel Patrick; Cc: Elizabeth Twitchett; Jacqui Gedman; Cllr Donald Firth; Cllr Kenneth Sims; Cllr Naheed Mather; Karl Battersby Subject: RE: Ramsden Road, Holmbridge Attachments: RE: Meeting with Rob Dalby and Will Acornley – More suggested dates and times Dear Cllr Patrick,
I do appreciate your viewpoint, and this was why I understood after the conversation with yourself and your ward colleagues ( notes sent afterwards attached) that the experimental notice would be put in place and that we would then identify similar routes that could have drainage work undertaken to see if this would preserve the surface. The reason it is a time limited notice is that the matter can be subject to some rigour to come up with a longer term solution to allow sustainable access to our routes.
You have mentioned enforcement, but the issue at Ramsden road specifically is that the route is not being used illegally, there is a legal right for 4×4 usage, but it is that very allowed usage that has certainly contributed and exacerbated any issues with surface degradation. The issue of illegal use would be more in the realm of the Police if the driving was dangerous.
This issue was discussed with the previous portfolio holders but I have including the present portfolio lead Cllr Mather so that she can if she wishes comment on this.
It’s plain to see that any repairs are vulnerable to damage by legal vehicular use and that the council know this is the case. Why then would they permit any future works to go ahead without mitigating this risk?