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….
In the latest chapter of this sorry saga Kirklees Council have attempted to wash their hands of the dumping here by claiming that the “landowner” has “used hardcore to improve the footings and drainage of the Prow” (Footpath 144) . When your sides have stopped aching at that one the council go on to say that the “landowner has permission from the Environment Agency” to do this. The only evidence provided for these claims is this link which tells you absolutely nothing about this site,who is responsible for the works and under what authority they are operating. Path Watch has of course contacted the Environment Agency to check this out.
The Council’s latest position omits to mention or explain why it has allowed the complete obstruction of Colne Valley Footpath 144 for some 5 months now. The duty the council has under s130 of the Highways Act 1980 to assert & protect the rights of the public to use public paths and to prevent their stopping up has been ignored yet again.
Whatever permission the landowner has from the Environment Agency it will not extend to obstructing and destroying the public footpath here.
It’s interesting to note how the council’s story is evolving. Firstly they ignored reports of the dumping for 3 months. Then they said the dumping had been removed. Then they said they’d given permission for it to be buried. Now they are saying the Environment Agency have given permission for burying waste on Footpath 144.
As for the claims that the path has been improved- the first photo below shows how it looked in June and the following photos record what has happened since.
Back in June I came across this picturesque landscape feature, or fly tipping as it’s probably better recognised as, on Colne Valley Footpath 144. Some 3 months later I received the positive news that the fly tipping had been “removed” from the path. I put the word removed in inverted commas because what has happened is probably stretching the definition of the word beyond breaking point.
As a picture tells a thousand words take a look at the ones below which show what has happened to the fly tipping.
As you can see the public footpath has been extensively excavated and the fly tipped waste is being buried beneath the path in the style of a good old fashioned landfill site. Fly tipping is of course a criminal offence which carries hefty penalties. I don’t believe it is normal practice for those caught fly tipping to be given the opportunity to bury the waste where they’ve dumped it when caught out but perhaps this is a new initiative like the Shetland Ponies?
The Council have been asked if they know the waste is being “removed” in this way and if it has their seal of approval.
On a more positive note the John Manure Trail mountain of dung at the top of Footpath 144 has been removed (no sign of it being buried under the path) and the overgrown sections strimmed. This is good to see.
And finally here’s an image showing off the lovely walking country to be found in the Colne Valley.