Ramsden Road Kirklees V Jacob’s Ladder Derbyshire

 

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Both these Byways are located within the Peak District National Park (in the case of Ramsden Road the section of byway most out of repair & problematic falls within the park boundary) . Both have very similar  long standing issues relating to damage by vehicles, water damage and conflict between vehicles and other users.  However both byways have different Highway Authorities responsible for them. Ramsden Road has Kirklees Metropolitan Council whilst Jacob’s Ladder has Derbyshire County Council.

The difference in the decision making processes regarding the future of each byway by its respective highway authority  is striking.

Officers at Derbyshire County Council have compiled a 19 page  report which will be presented to the County’s Highways Committee later this month. The report contains results of an extensive public consultation on the proposals for the byway which involved over  1000 responses. Various Defra policies on byways are referenced along with the councils policy on green lanes and a detailed officer analysis. Financial and legal considerations are explained in detail and there is a list of referenced background papers. There’s much in this report applicable to Kirklees and Ramsden Road and it is well worth a read. Most of what it covers has never been taken into account  properly by Kirklees in respect of  Ramsden Road.

In contrast there is no transparent decision making process here in Kirklees, no report on Ramsden Road, no traffic survey, no reference to Defra policy, no local policy, no site survey, no consultation and no record of any legitimate decision making process for the council’s current course of action.  Kirklees Council as Highway Authority for Ramsden Road have said on record that its decision on Ramsden Road was “was based on a visual assessment of the road and discussion with colleagues and the Peak Park on the most equitable way forward”. No date of when this decision was taken, no details of who was involved, what information it was based on, absolutely no record of it whatsoever.

Again it is well worth reading the Jacob’s letter report as an example of how these matters should be properly dealt with.

 

This report concerns Jacob’s ladder which is a byway at Stoney Middleton rather than the bridleway in Edale of the same name.

 

Kirklees Take Being Economical With The Truth To A New Level.

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Kirklees have gone into the Guiness Book of Records for the local authority most economical with the truth. PathWatch has spoken to the Councils Truth Zsar Ms Georgia Orwell-Trotter who has worked at the authority since 1984. “We are delighted to hold the world record for being economical with the truth. I can’t see our record being broken for a long time,if ever” said Ms Orwell-Trotter. “Only Council approved versions of the truth are permitted in Kirklees and we keep a close eye on how much is used. In these times of austerity we must make the truth go as far as possible by using  half truths, evasions  or better still just completely ignoring the public who fund us and expect us to answer their questions” snorted Ms Orwell-Trotter.

Meanwhile back in the real world they probably ought to go straight into the Guiness Book of Records for the latest answer to a series of legitimate and very straight forward questions concerning the decision to drop a Temporary Traffic Regulation Order and proposed repairs on Ramsden Road. Some £8k of public money was spent in 2018 securing the TRO and doing works on site.

The decision to make an order was a delegated officer decision agreed with senior managers and councilors at Kirklees and subject to a public consultation. However according to Kirklees the decision to drop the TRO was “based on a visual assessment of the road and discussion with colleagues and the Peak Park on the most equitable way forward.” Really? What does that statement actually mean?  If this was a delegated officer decision there should be a record of who took the decision, why,when and what other options were considered. This is a legal requirement under the openness in government regulations. If it was a Committee decision there should be a report, record of the meeting and decision and even a webcast! But there is nothing, just this meaningless statement. The contrast between the decision making process to secure a TRO and the decision to drop it is rather illuminating.

We also asked Kirklees if the decision was a result of any influence from Councillor Nigel Patrick and the now ex Councillor Sims. In answer to this they referred us to the previous answer  “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.” Another belting answer 🙂

We also asked how much it had cost Kirklees to go to court and rescind the order. They answered “We don’t have a figure”. More excellent management of public money there then! Was it a few hundred quid or 10 grand? Who knows?

Obviously PathWatch will not be fobbed off by this nonsense and we have lodged an internal appeal and will go to the information commissioner should our legitimate questions not be answered fully and honestly.

The Council’s thoughtful and considered response is below.

Ramsden Road, Holmfirth

  1. Please can you provide me with the notes of the meeting held on 14th June 2018 between Rob Dalby, Wll Accornley and Councillors Simms, Patrick & Firth (or whichever of the 3 attended.)

Notes were not made of this meeting.

  1. Please also provide details of the other items on the agenda at this meeting which are redacted in Rob Dalby’s email of 13 June 2019 (attached for information).

The agenda items were:

  • Information flow to Elected Members on volunteer activity
  • The sale and re-investment of funds for the land parcel behind the library
  • The Ex’ TRO on Ramsden Road
  • Concerns regarding the landscape standards within the ward in general
  • Agree a schedule of update meetings to ensure that any issues and activity is flagged early to ward members.
  1. Please also provide me information that shows who at Kirklees Council took the decision not to proceed with the ETRO on Ramsden Road and the reasoning behind this decision.

This decision was based on a visual assessment of the road and discussion with colleagues and the Peak Park on the most equitable way forward.

  1. Please advise if this decision was a result of Councillor Patrick and/or Simms involvement.

Please see answer to question 3 above.

  1. Please also advise how much money withdrawing the ETRO has cost.

The Council does not hold a figure of the costs for withdrawing the experimental traffic regulation order.

Bank Holiday Fun On Ramsden Road.

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4×4 negotiating Ramsden Road, Peak District National Park

The decline in the condition of Ramsden Road continues and indeed would seem to be accelerating. These images were taken on the long sloped section which is within the Peak District National Park. Some 12 years or so ago when a local petition was raised to Kirklees Council about the condition of the road and use by 4×4 vehicles the road looked like this.

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Ramsden Road 2007

 It was just at the point of perhaps being repairable and it’s rural character saved. Sadly the Council, subject to a toxic mix of ineptitude and political interference, did nothing. The sloping section in the Peak Park has gone completely now and is recognised as being unsafe by the Council.

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The cattle grid in 2019. The structure is breaking up in situ.

 

That same toxic soup of ineptitude and political interference drives the Council in 2019. Walkers are vulnerable users and have to negotiate a surface akin to walking on marbles, deep ruts, holes, a broken cattle grid and of course 4×4’s and motorbikes. Who is standing up for pedestrian users? Certainly not our local tory councillors who are determined to protect motorbikes and 4×4’s and in doing so prolong the mess in England’s most popular National Park .

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Motorbike on Ramsden Road,Peak District National Park

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Is There Already Authority For A TRO On Ramsden Road?

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The “unsafe” Ramsden Road.

In the murky world of local government truth is a rare sight. PathWatch learnt from several reliable sources that the  2009 Cabinet Report On Ramsden Road.  never made it to committee. This is incorrect. The report went to Kirklees Cabinet on 16th June 2009 and was approved according to Councillor Jim Dodds in this email 2009-06-17 Re Cabinet 16th June 09 (1) The approval was a modified one which specified further discussions as a proviso. The decision is recorded here 2009-06-17 Re Cabinet 16th June 09  (TRO is a Traffic Regulation Order. ETRO is an Experimental Traffic Regulation Order. Both have been identified as required by the council to ban motor vehicles on a time limited basis from Ramsden Road)

Could it be that Kirklees Cabinet have already approved a course of action on Ramsden Road and that current actions by officers and councillors are going against this democratic and transparent decision? Why was this previous report and decision not mentioned at the public meeting held in Holmfirth Civic Hall on 22nd January 2019?

PathWatch has been asking who,when and why Kirklees made a decision not to continue with the new ETRO in December 2018 but has met a proverbial brick wall. From emails we’ve seen the Council is arguing in support of the new ETRO with Councillor Nigel Patrick up to 5th December 2018. However by the 10th December 2018 the councils’ approach changes abruptly and an email is sent out to a wide range of groups inviting them to the Civic Hall Meeting and completely dropping the new ETRO. Who made this decision and why?

There would appear to be a direct conflict between the professional view of council officers who have identified a need for a TRO on Ramsden Road and the two ward Councillors, Sims and Patrick, who are against it.

In May 2018 the Greenspace Manager wrote to Councillor Patrick advising “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 rather than a straight TRO allowing the highways authority to take a knowledge lead approach to this and other similar routes on how best to meet the needs of users.” Has Ramsden Road been made safe in the intervening year? No it hasn’t. In fact it is in a worse state of repair. And yet the Council has stepped back from doing  any works on this “unsafe” byway and handed this responsibility to a group of enthusiasts.

The Principle Engineer,Highways Safety who undertook the initial consultation on the ETRO wrote “As a result of severe damage caused by recreational use of 4wd vehicles, the Council is proposing an Experimental
Traffic Regulation Order to close Ramsden Road to such traffic (other than those with land access rights).” A year later this aspect of the Ramsden Road problem has been quietly dropped to elephant in the room status. Yet the council spent some £8k of public money pursuing this ETRO up until December 2018.

Clearly the professional assessment of council officers is that any remedial works need to “bed in” and be protected from vehicular use for a period of time. This will not now happen and raises a serious question as to the sustainability of any future works paid for via funding from organisations like the national lottery heritage fund for instance. Will these potential funders be fully apprised of the council officers professional advice going back to 2006 that a TRO is required? Or will any future investment be vulnerable to failure because this aspect is ignored?

There is no consistency or transparency in the councils decision making process on Ramsden Road. We can find no committee, cabinet or delegated officer decision recorded on the December 2018 change of direction regarding the ETRO. The initial 2018 decision was delegated at officer level and the political portfolio leads at Kirklees were consulted. The 2009 decision was agreed at Cabinet. Both seem above board and legitimate. There doesn’t seem to be any formal record of an evidence based decision  overturning the identified need for a TRO or ETRO on Ramsden Road. Why not?

Principle Engineers and Green Space Managers are well qualified, experienced and trained on a wide range of technical specialisms. Both the quotes in this article are from this level of management at Kirklees. In contrast Councillor Patrick has had no training in public rights of way during his tenure as a councillor and in 30 years of sitting on the planning committee neither has councillor Ken Sims. This link  shows both councillors explaining their lack of training at a meeting in December 2018 (cllr Patrick at 8:15 and Sims at 25:55).

As a footnote Councillor Sims lost his seat in the local elections on 2nd May 2019.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 2009 Cabinet Report On Ramsden Road. A Missed Opportunity.

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Ramsden Road 2007
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The same section of Ramsden Road in February 2019

PathWatch has obtained a copy of a report on Ramsden Road written by Kirklees Officers for approval by the Councils Cabinet in 2009. The report was the outcome of several petitions from local people and other members of the public  from 2006 onwards in an admirable  effort to have the road repaired and secure a Traffic Regulation Order to protect these repairs.

The photo at the top of this article shows a section of Ramsden Road in July 2007. The second photo shows the same section 12 years later. This is what inaction and council waffle results in.

There’s no record of this report ever making it to Cabinet for a decision or any explanation as to why this did not happen. This seems odd and something of a missed opportunity. Clearly the senior officers who put the report together had done a reasonable job in the expectation that a democratic decision would be made by elected members.

Fast forward to late 2017 and senior council officers again decide that a Traffic Regulation Order is required to assist in the restoration of Ramsden Road. This time money is spent and an order is made in late 2018. In fact Ramsden Road is closed physically by a gate and bollards as a result of the TRO but only for a few days. The order is full of mistakes and needed redoing but mysteriously the whole idea of a TRO is dropped without explanation. See here.

It’s clear from the 2009 report that council officers understand the problems on Ramsden Road and grasp what is needed to put things right. However any effort to put a plan into action for some reason fails. Genuine requests from the public, residents and non motorised users of Ramsden Road are ignored time and again and the condition of the Road deteriorates year on year.

There is a complete lack of transparency on how the council has dealt ( or not dealt? Ed) with Ramsden Road. Key decisions by officers have been overturned behind closed doors on more than one occasion. Cabinet reports don’t make it to cabinet without explanation and the concerns and requests of residents and users are completely ignored.

Having back tracked as far as it is possible to go since December 2018 Kirklees are now pleading poverty and expecting a Friends of Ramsden Road Group to miraculously haul them out of the mire. The sad fact is that had the council acted in line with its statutory duties and in the public interest back in 2006 the difficulties it faces today on Ramsden Road would not exist.

Lets hope there are grants available to fund and rectify highway authority negligence!

The full report can be read here CAB-08-120-S PET 845 Ramsden Rd 

 

Somewhere Over The Rainbow….

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Somewhere over the rainbow….Friends Group puts in a bid for pot of gold to fix Ramsden Road.

The latest installment of  one of the many Prow Sagas of Kirklees continued with a meeting at Holmfirth Civic Hall on 7th March to discuss forming a Friends of Ramsden Road Group. Chaired once again by the same Kirklees manager who but a year ago promised to fend off all 4×4’s with a TRO prior to fixing the road (Read the email in Ramsden Road) . Promises which have proved to be little more than empty words. No surprises there then!

The meeting was attended by 12 members of the public. 10 from groups representing motor vehicles users and 2 from walkers groups. There was only one model for a “Friends of Ramsden Road Group” on offer and that was the councils. The deal is that the Friends Group would raise the funds (several hundred thousand pounds), come up with a scheme of work, identify and engage contractors, be responsible for health & safety, have it’s own bank account,contribute physically to the works on site and in effect do the councils job for it.

None of the 12 members of the public present had any experience of raising that level of funding nor of procuring civil engineering works etc etc. It would seem the councils only aim here is to pass the responsibility for the state of Ramsden Road onto someone else as quickly as possible and without thinking to much about it. A case of asking for volunteers to step forward whilst taking two big steps back itself. Oh dear,how sad,what a pity, never mind as Windsor Davies might have said.

In a recent letter to an interested party the council’s Greenspace Manager justified the current lack of council action thus “The route has been in a state of disrepair for some period of time and whilst it is recognised there is a need for action,it is more important to ensure that any interventions undertaken are useful and sustainable,not reactive or short term” I don’t think anyone could accuse Kirklees of being “reactive or short term” given the problems were first brought to their attention in 2006!

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Having evaded questions via a freedom of information act request relating to the costs of a flawed legal order on Ramsden Road Kirklees have now released some further information as a result of an appeal. The letter containing these costs is at the end of this piece. It reveals legal costs of over  £1,000 in addition to the costs of work on site of £2,300 odd pounds.

This is public money wasted. Kirklees legal services  processed the order incorrectly resulting in it’s failure. The service was paid £1000 for this work.

The Council have had to go to court to revoke the order and presumably have paid their own legal services again to do this? As this is a further cost to the public purse PathWatch will be asking.

It seems the Kirklees Cock Up Budget is a bottomless pit of public money.

Dear Sir / Madam

Re: Freedom of Information Request Reference 18831

I have reviewed the Council’s response to your request for information under reference 18831.  In conducting this review I have had regard to relevant guidance issued by the Information Commissioner’s office.  I was not involved in the Council’s initial response to your request.

Background

You have made a request for information on the 18th December 2018. You asked for the following information: 

Please can you advise me of the costs the council has incurred in making this experimental traffic regulation order? This should include the costs of the bureaucratic process and the works on site to physically stop up the highway to motor vehicles. 

The order was advertised as being in force for 18 months. After only a few days the gates on site were unlocked and the council advised it was not enforcing the ETRO. Please can you provide a reason/s for this course of action? Please provide documentation you hold relating to this decision.  

The Council responded to your request on the 17th January 2019. Their response was as follows:

 

Please can you advise me of the costs the council has incurred in making this experimental traffic regulation order?

 

We do not hold a figure of the costs, the Council has incurred in making this experimental traffic regulation order.

 

This should include the costs of the bureaucratic process and the works on site to physically stop up the highway to motor vehicles.

 

The cost of the works on site to physically stop up the highway to motor vehicles is £2328 excluding VAT.

 

The order was advertised as being in force for 18 months. After only a few days the gates on site were unlocked and the council advised it was not enforcing the ETRO. Please can you provide a reason/s for this course of action? 

 

The order was subject to a technical fault so is being revoked due to this.

 

Please provide documentation you hold relating to this decision. 

 

The Council does not hold any documentation. This decision was based on a visual assessment of the road and discussion with colleagues and the Peak Park on the most equitable way forward.

 

By email of the 17th January 2019 you asked for an internal review of the Council’s response in respect of the costs, suggesting that you believed the response provided was incorrect. You also sought clarification of the technical fault that the response referred to.

Review 

I have reviewed the relevant documents and have made some further enquiries into the costs and the reasons for the technical fault. I note that you were provided with the costs of the physical work, which was £2328 plus any VAT which might have been payable, but were querying the administrative costs, having been advised that there was no record held of those.

 

The administrative work in respect of an ETRO is handled by the Council’s legal department and, following my request, they calculated, from their file, the cost of the legal work involved. This was £727.61, with an additional £288.00 plus VAT in respect of advertising costs.

 

It would appear that the total cost of the order would be £3343.61, plus any VAT that would be payable.

 

At the time your request was responded to, no enquiries had been made of Legal Services to ascertain their costs. I am satisfied that it could have been provided had the appropriate department been contacted.

 

With regards to the second part of your review request, I have been advised that the nature of the technical fault was due to a failure to consult, which is a mandatory requirement for the order that was sought. The ETRO was revoked on the 25th of January and the revocation order has been published and is in the public domain. I attach a copy of the wording of the revocation order and I trust this will provide the information that you were seeking.

 

Your original request also asked for any documentation that related to the decision to revoke the order and you were advised that there was no documentation held. I have made some enquiries and have been advised, by Legal Services, that there are emails that relate to the decision to revoke. As these contain legal advice, I would expect that they would not be disclosed on the basis of their legal privilege. However, should your request not be satisfied by the wording of the revocation notice, the matter can be referred back to the FOI team who will review the correspondence and make a decision as to whether they can be disclosed.

 

In respect of the costings, your review is upheld. At the time of the response, no calculation of the legal costs had been made, but I am satisfied that the information was held and could have been provided simply had the correct enquiries been made. Whilst the information may not have been in a ‘document’ format, it was held on the case management system and could have been produced.

 

With regards to the revocation of the order, you were provided with a response as to the reasons for the revocation. I accept that these were not as detailed as they may have been and the reasons were reflected in the subsequent revocation order. You were also advised that no documentation concerning the decision to revoke the notice was available, which is not correct. In respect of the revocation of the order your review is upheld.

 

If you are not content with the outcome of this review you have the right under section 50 of the 2000 Act to apply to the Information Commissioner for a decision as to whether your request for information has been dealt with in accordance with the requirements of the Act.  The Information Commissioner’s website is at www.ico.org.uk and gives more information about the role and duties of the Commissioner. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at: Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 5AS.

 

Yours sincerely

 

 

 

David Stickley

Senior Legal Officer

for Service Director – Legal, Governance and Commissioning

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

KIRKLEES COUNCIL

(TRAFFIC REGULATION) (No. 2) (REVOCATION) ORDER 2019

 

RAMSDEN ROAD

HOLME VALLEY

 

STATEMENT OF REASONS

 

Notwithstanding the nature and character of the route, regulation 6 of the Local Authorities’ Traffic Orders (Procedure) (England and Wales) Regulations 1996 requires in all cases consultation with The Freight Transport Association and The Road Haulage Association. This is a mandatory requirement.  No such consultation was undertaken. Following a legal challenge on this basis, and in the knowledge of the decision in  case of Trail Riders Fellowship v Wiltshire County Council (2018) EWHC 3600 (Admin)  on 9th January 2019, the Council has decided to revoke the Kirklees Council (Ramsden Road Holme Valley) (Experimental) Order No. 9 of 2018