Following on from the completion of Blackpool Bridge earlier this month a team of council staff have been in the valley carrying out a list of small maintenance jobs throughout this week. Here’s the list.
This work has been taken from footpath inspections carried out over the past 2 years on the local network by this blog. A few weeks ago Councillor Paul Davies contacted me to ask for any suggestions for path works as some resources were becoming available ie a team for a week. Paul also got 6 paths cleared of vegetation during the summer. This positive approach is unprecedented here in the Holme Valley and I hope it continues. It’s very useful to have a councillor who will listen and attempt to get something done. Light at the end of the tunnel?
It’s satisfying to see works being done which will benefit path users and to have resources directed at the network. There is agreement for some larger scale works in the next financial year with up to 4 schemes programmed and in addition the 3 footbridges in Morton Wood on the Kirklees Way are to be replaced (and temporarily repaired in the meantime). Remarkably this week the Biblical lake featured in Ramblers Must Walk On Water Say Council has been earmarked for repairs. The council has of course broken it’s vows before, most notably on Ramsden Road.
This is all very positive and although dealing with Kirklees has at times felt like being taken from your bed in the middle of the night to be waterboarded in a pool on Ramsden Road, left shivering and sobbing in your jim jams and having to beg a lift home from some passing land rover enthusiast who hates ramblers , it does seem worth it occasionally.
Clearly there are structural problems in just where Kirklees puts its rights of way responsibility and how much of a priority that work is given in comparison to the many other obligations and demands on the council. However these issues are not insurmountable.It would be good to see a move away from the dodgy deals which plague the councils approach to enforcement, a more positive attitude from managers and a much a more proactive maintenatnce regime alongside a Definitive Map and Statement fit for purpose. But let’s not get carried away.
Footpath 133 at Gate Foot was extensively repaired in the early summer and then washed away in a downpour just weeks later. Thankfully the council have not walked away from this one and are on site now carrying out more extensive resurfacing and drainage works.
What this case neatly demonstrates is the huge liability the council has in maintaining and repairing public paths in the Holme Valley. This one path has now been repaired extensively on 3 occasions and it will remain vulnerable to further damage due to it’s hillside location and the neglect of adjacent land and highways drainage.
Strategic management of the rights of way network with high standards of governance and properly funded and resourced staff are required to achieve any degree of success in such an area of work.
Stoning up hillside paths in the Pennines where there is a history of water damage is not a long term soloution on this or any other route and the council know this. Until they have a plan, a strategic direction and are properly resourced the same events will occur in the same places over and over again.
I hope the new works on Footpath 133 remain in place but the history of the site suggests otherwise.
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.
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.
And so it was told in the Book Of Big Excuses 14:22-33 (and that council email the other day) “Behold Rambler, Scar End Lane,New Mill. The great sea of Neglect rises forth each winter. Do not be afraid. It has been a long walk into the night. Fear not the storms. For it is maintained in character only. But have ye faith. For we will not repair it. Nor will you be forgiven your trespass into the next field. Step forth and come to me. Walk on the water.
A change is as good as a rest they say and the opportunity to look at a path obstruction in Calderdale turned into a bit of a treat. Erringden is the smallest parish in the great sweep of Calderdale and clings to the flanks of Stoodley Pike.
All I had to go on was an iffy grid reference and the words “South West of Cruttonstall”. I knew I was onto something good climbing through rustling,mossy woods in my pedestrian time machine. Clearly there’d never been car access to this place!
Reassuringly I came across the usual barbed wire encrusted waymarks and see saw stiles which are such a part of walking. Such features are so commonplace on public paths the average rambler would feel unsettled without them confirming the way ahead.
Cruttonstall is listed but the dry words offer no description of the real place which positively oozes the essence of Ted Hughes’ sideburns. On a raw afternoon with a biting East wind hurling Curlew babbles at Stoodley Pike it was a wonderful place to be.
Back in the autumn of 2017 we stood shoulder to knee with the little people of Kirklees and had a good old PathWatch rant at The Kirklees Play Strategy What was particularly galling about the whole sordid report was the way this particular turd was polished up into a shiny positive thing by council managers intent on stealing the kids swings( FFS!)
So here we are in Spring 2019 and approval has been given by the Kirklees Cabinet members to…well… steal the kids swings and replace them with some soil and stones. The big idea is that the kids can use the soil and stones to have fulfilling imaginative play. Maybe they’ll imagine playing on the swings?
This of course is not just wrong on many levels but wrong on every level ever and wrong in every parallel universe that has,may or does exist. Arguably the councillors and managers that have dreamt up this little wheeze to save a few quid should have their homes,cars and phones confiscated and be left for eternity in a pile of soil and rocks to reflect.
In a sad but wonderful irony one of the 137 children’s playgrounds earmarked for swapping swings for muck and rocks is in Marsden . The community here raised £70k to equip the site which only opened in 2013. Now the £8k climbing frame and £4k rope swing, amongst other things, will be taken away and replaced by dirt and rocks.
The council seem to think this is all positive and wonderful as the equipment isn’t needed because the toddlers of Marsden can just imagine!
In another bittersweet irony a tory councillor ( The same tories who have throttled councils for a decade? Surely not? Ed) has started a petition to save the swings and for the sake of the small people it can be signed here
So what chance somewhere like Ramsden Road and it’s friends group or the wider public path network? Perhaps Kirklees will actually take it all away and suggest we all just imagine….