Public Consultation & Covid 19 In Kirklees

2020-05-05
Prime Minister of Kirklees, Councillor Pandor. (Kirklees Cabinet webcast 1/5/2020)

Last week Kirklees Council held its very first Virtual Cabinet Meeting. This measure has been brought in to maintain social distancing and stop the spread of Covid 19. It fundamentally changes the way local councils work. Although the meeting was broadcast live there were no active public participants.

Public rights of way matters are dealt with at the councils Planning Committees and at the moment these have been cancelled. The public can normally attend and speak at these meetings. The meeting to consider diverting Holmfirth Footpath 60 for instance was well attended by members of the public who successfully argued that the proposal should be thrown out.

The direction of travel suggests it is likely that planning committees will be held virtually in future. The council need to give serious consideration on how to accommodate proper public debate and scrutiny into this process. Simply accepting written questions or arguments is not sufficient in my view. Without robust public challenge  both for and against, councillors will be tempted to nod through poor and badly thought out proposals. The easy option.

At the moment Kirklees Council are approaching consultations on public rights of way in the usual Del Boy manner. It has recently made and advertised a diversion order for Spenborough Footpath 110  entirely within the period of Covid 19 restrictions. The effect of the restrictions make it illegal for any person to visit the diversion site to assess the proposals they are being asked to comment on! As an organisation Kirklees seems happy to disenfranchise public engagement with path users in a way it would never contemplate doing with private landowning interests.

The Council is also consulting the public on an application to delete Cone Valley Footpaths 212 & 213 at Shooters Nab, Marsden. Again this is being undertaken at a time when the Covid 19 restrictions remain in force making visiting the site illegal. Nor is it possible to visit the Wakefield Archives to research background information on the case.

Both these cases are important and should be undertaken in an open and transparent manner.  In Spen 110 the Council is both the developer and applicant for diverting the path for its own benefit. Colne Valley Footpaths 212/213 is an application to delete two public paths. This applications is 16 years old! The consultation letter discourages the public from visiting the paths that the consultation refers to.

During the current situation, in line with government guidance, I must also strongly discourage people from making special journeys to inspect the paths in question

It does not look good that Kirklees is progressing both cases in the current circumstances. The council should not just do things properly but be seen to be doing so. This would once again appear to be a case of senior council managers being out of step with the spirit of the process and what is actually going on in the real world out side Civic Centre 3.

At the same time Kirklees is point blank refusing to progress a number of long standing obstruction issues and develop a coherent approach to its chaotic use and interpretation of BS:5709 . It’s excuse? Covid 19 restrictions !

 

Keighley Footpath 118

Keighly 118
A new discovery – ladder stile in a gate!

In the last days before lockdown PathWatch had a day trip to Bronte Country . Visitors were still welcome in Haworth, landowners greeted ramblers warmly, directing them with a smile down unobstructed footpaths, social distancing hadn’t been invented and the pubs were still open….

Keighly 118-2
Two gates,both locked. Must build a ladder stile but keep it narrow!

Perhaps it wasn’t quite as halcyon as I recall . Certainly Keighley Footpath 118 didn’t have such a rosy glow about it. It felt distinctly like someone didn’t want you walking along this particular public highway.

Keighly 118-3
4 gates in a row.

 It started promisingly from just below Intake Farm heading for an obvious waymarked pedestrian gate. The gate however was chained and locked shut! Although a lovely walk view wise the remainder of the path was littered with unauthorised and difficult structures culminating in a new PathWatch discovery – a ladder stile in a gate! At some point in the future PathWatch intends to open a Museum of Rambling Curiosities and the ladder stile in a gate discovery will take pride of place.

Keighly 118-5

A good start. Lovely gate with a waymark. Phew!

Ironically this little section of path is just off the main tourist route to Top Withens. Bradford Council have had enough money at some point in the past to sign the entire route up there in Japanese! The authorities statutory obligations in respect of Keighley 118 have obviously been given a much lower or no priority at all.

Keighly 118-4
Bollocks!

 

Haworth Res
View from Keighley 118.
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Keighley 118

 

Life On Prow’s -BBC Attenborough Special

Scroat

The unmistakable Spring chorus of a two stroke engine breaks the evening silence to echo far across the Pennine hills. This lone male is searching the Yorkshire moors for a potential mate. He will ride hundreds of miles of public rights of way to show off his flamboyant courtship display to any female he comes across in his lonely quest for a potential partner.

Around the corner the less common over revving screech of an urban quad bike can be heard. Complete with tracksuited male rider and  terrified but giggling female pillion. This is a typical  but rarely observed courtship routine. The quads intricate movements around the abandoned quarries rocks and murky pools are the males way of both impressing the hapless female passenger and showing her his suitability as a mate.

These unique natural phenomenon are now protected in perpetuity by Kirklees Councils complete inability to put a Traffic Regulation Order on the rare habitat of Ramsden Road.

More Damage From January 2020 Storms Holmfirth 57 Washed Away…

Holmfirth 57 water damage 13_4_20-4
Holmfirth 57 April 2020

The 2020 January weather wasn’t kind to Holmfirth paths. Although a little late to the party another casualty of  the unusually wet winter storms is Holmfirth Footpath 57 at Netherthong.

Holmfirth 57 water damage 13_4_20-2
Holmfirth 57 April 2020

After many years of hassling Kirklees they resurfaced this path in June 2019. It has now all been washed away. At some point PathWatch will pull together a piece on recent Kirklees works to stone up out of repair paths in the Holme Valley and what has subsequently happened to them. It’s not pretty.

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Holmfirth 57 June 2019

Hands Free Option Not Available

Covid Sign

Along with all the other dodgy signs on local paths some rather swish looking Kirklees signs have appeared locally just in time for Easter. The signs are headlined “Covid 19 Advice For Your Safety” but bullet points 3 and 4 simply refer to the countryside code which has been around for many years and is unconnected to the current pandemic. Point 1 is a handy reminder of social distancing but it is point 3 advising the public to wash/sanitise hands after touching stiles & gates which is interesting.

For the past 3 years this blog has been highlighting the excessive number of poor stiles/gates on the path network which have no legal authority to be there. These structures,mostly stiles, are not recorded on the Definitive Map & Statement and Kirklees,as highway authority, should be removing them when they are made aware. They know from a 2007 network survey that there are in excess of 4,000 such structures on their paths.

The implication in advising the public to wash/sanitise hands after touching stiles & gates is that there is a risk of picking up Covid 19 from these structures. There’s a clamour amongst the “rural community” to have all paths closed so that they can be protected from virus ridden ramblers covering stiles & gates with the disease.

Why then isn’t the Council contacting landowners who they know have unauthorised structures on public paths and requesting prompt removal of these structures to mitigate the risk to public health?

Ironically PathWatch has noted a number of these Advice For Your Safety Signs attached to various unauthorised structures. See the photo below which shows such a sign attached to an unauthorised structure on Holmfirth Bridleway 68. This is an extremely well used gate which has no legal reason to be there. Why aren’t Kirklees removing such structures rather than posting signs on them? If landowners are so concerned about the risk to themselves why not simply remove the gate? No risk to public or landowner if that is done.

Holmfirth BW 68
Kirklees sign advising hand washing after touching gates due to Covid 19. Gate in photo is an unauthorised limitation and should not be there for people to touch.
Holmfirth BW 68-2
Advice for your safety sign

There are two further gates on this bridleway and neither has any legal authority to be on the path.

A little way past the gates in these photos a public footpath (also Holmfirth 68) branches off the bridleway up to Acres Lane. There are two unauthorised stiles on this section of path. One is difficult to climb and requires the use of both hands. Again a completely unnecessary risk for both the public and landowner.

Ironically the only path furniture that the public do not have to touch, the Public Footpath sign on Acres lane, has been pulled out and dropped behind a wall in the field! It was there a couple of weeks ago pre lockdown. There’s a long history of this sign “disappearing” but this one had stayed put for 2 years.

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Holmfirth Footpath 68 Acres Lane minus it Public Footpath sign which resides behind the wall on left.
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Public Footpath sign dumped over wall on Acres Lane

One thing to remember about all these unauthorised structures and the negative effect they have on the network is that senior people at Kirklees know all about it but really don’t care. Regular readers might recall that in Kirklees Launches New Standard For Structures On Paths ! “Not To Standard But Acceptable” 🙂 we told the very dodgy tale of  Kirklees Strategic Director Karl Battersby “authorising” non standard gates on a Holmfirth path, 3 in fact. None of these 3 gates are properly authorised or to any recognised standard. They have turned an 80 metre section of path which could be walked down without having to touch anything into something of a hotspot now Covid 18 has arrived.

Of course the risk is relatively low (unless you fall for the hysteria around this subject) but with over 4,000 such structures on paths in Kirklees and the phenomenal popularity in walking at present should Kirklees be doing something other than sticking laminated signs to the problem?

A few more unauthorised Frankensteins. Over 4,000 in stock. Terms & conditions apply. Hands free option not available.

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HOL 116 Structure (1 of 1)

stile12 (1 of 1)

HOL 73 Fence obs

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Police Name Cleckheaton Man Charged With Excessive Rambling In Covid Crackdown

DixonofDockGreen

West Yorkshire Police have named a Kirklees resident, Arthur Suggit of Cleckheaton, as the first man to be  charged with the new offence of “Excessive Rambling”. This serious offence was brought in recently under measures to fight the spread of Covid 19.

Sgt. Dixon of Dock Green from Heckmondwike station told the blog  “There’s a worrying trend in West Yorkshire of people leaving their cars at home because of the lockdown restrictions and…er …walking instead. We’ve seen a huge spike in this antisocial and criminal rambling craze, particularly amongst older residents who should know better. Mr Suggit’s behaviour in walking two and a half miles and staying out one hour and ten minutes exemplifies the widespread disregard for the law. When my officers arrested Mr Suggit he was also found to have a round of cheese and pickle sandwiches and a flask of tea in his possession. He has asked for these further offences to be taken into consideration. Mr Suggit can expect a long custodial sentence and the key may well be thrown away.”

PathWatch spoke exclusively to Arthur via a video link from his cell in Guantanamo Bay. Arthur, a retired geography teacher originally from Batley,  told us he was unable to get his daily copy of the Guardian  or his usual gluten free porridge at the US base but otherwise seemed in good spirits. We asked Arthur where it had all gone wrong and how had a morning ramble in Cleckheaton led to his arrest and detention in Guantanamo. “Unfortunately I have discovered a problem with Naismith’s Rule. Having carefully planned my route using Naismith’s long established formula for distance covered and time taken I have found it does not work in Kirklees. The formula does not take account of the number of path obstructions and unauthorised structures on Kirklees paths that the rambler must either evade or climb over. This omission in Naismith’s otherwise dependable calculations added exactly ten minutes to my route and landed me here in an orange boiler suit  in the clink.” 

Back in the real world Northamptonshire Police could soon be checking your shopping 

 and Police in Rotherham suggest that you can’t let your kids play in your own garden. The government manage to evade any accountability of course. It’s  ramblers, day trippers to Skegness and a lack of clapping. This reuters piece is worth a read and much closer to the truth of how we have got here. The Byline Times reports on the government’s plans for us all to get Covid 19 in as orderly fashion as possible.