“Equitable Way Forward” How’s That Working Out?

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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 <nigel.patrick@kirklees.gov.uk> 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.

And

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.

 

Meanwhile …

 

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Deliberate damage by a vehicle
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The type of damage caused by current legal usage. This was repaired 12 months ago.
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More of the damage caused by legal vehicular use. Again this was resurfaced only 12 months ago

 

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?

 

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!