I’ll happily admit to being one of those people who lumps most politicians a few thousand places beneath contempt. However every now and then I lose control of my cynicism and think “I’ll write to my MP/Councillor” only to be disappointed by the inevitable patronising response. I lost control of my dim view recently after reading in Kirklees Together of the Councils success in prosecuting a dodgy wind turbine operator which I highlighted in Enforcement Success In Kirklees
So I wrote to Cllr Mather the Cabinet Member for enforcement amongst other things to congratulate the Council on its success with this case and of course to draw her attention to the obvious lack of any enforcement successes or prosecutions relating to the 1064 recorded obstructions on the Kirklees rights of way network. That was some 3 weeks ago and since then I’ve heard nothing. Maybe emails can’t get past the The Chief Exec’s Leaves by the door outside Civic Centre 3?
Another copy of the letter has been emailed today and one has gone in the snail mail which can’t be much slower. Meanwhile my chronic cynicism levels are back to a healthily high level.
Interesting example in the correspondence between Kirklees Highways/Planning departments and the developer involved with a planning application at Berry Greave,Marsden of public paths being ignored in the planning process. Colne Valley Footpath 192 is directly affected by the proposal here as it provides the only access to the site. It would seem reasonable therefore that highways development control would be looking at the effects of the intensification of use by residential traffic likely to be caused by these proposals and where possible asking for steps to mitigate this.
From reading the correspondence it appears that Kirklees have started out by asking for passing places to be constructed on the access (Colne Valley Footpath 192) which given the lane is not wide enough for cars to pass and also carries pedestrians would seem reasonable. Unfortunately the developer thinks this is “overkill” says “Boo!” and this request is dropped with rather undue haste.
At no time is Colne Valley Public Footpath 192 mentioned other than when it is incorrectly called a road. This is despite the fact that Planning have received public comments about Footpath 192 and the development.
A second planning application which directly affects Colne Valley Footpath 192 has now been received by Kirklees. The only access to the Hey Cottages site is via the public footpath. Of course Kirklees could have already secured improvements to protect footpath users and accommodate an increase in residential traffic via the previous planning application had it not been so timid. As it stands I’ve no doubt both proposals will be waived through to the detriment of public access.
And so it goes across the entire 700 odd miles of public rights of way in Kirklees. A slow attrition of the quality of paths and the walking experience in favour of the car and making a quick buck.
It looks like the developers have added an altogether slicker operator to present the second attempt to develop Washpit Mills. Bit of a shame as I rather liked the hapless “I don’t know what you’ve got to do” honesty of the last one !
In the new application for some 51 houses we are spoilt for choice with information running to some 40 plans and 8 supporting documents including a 187 page transport assessment!
Oddly there is only a cryptic mention of the public right of way which runs through the site. This has been used by vehicles,horses,cyclists and walkers for as long as the mill has been there. It was of course blocked off immediately the developer took over the site which is what you’d expect. As the route is not recorded on Kirklees weird and wonderful Definitive Map it is open to abuse on two counts 1) Closure by the landowner (tick) and 2) Any claim made to add the path to the Definitive Map being parked up at Her Majesty’s pleasure on the Councils rather badly named “Priority List” (oh another tick there too).
So the access road within the development will be built over a longstanding public right of way. This is described in the transport assessment as “The new access roads and all communal areas within the site are to remain privately maintained will be covered by an appropriate legal agreement. Current lawful rights of access through the complex are respected and will be retained. ” Not so clear if this means public or private rights of access?
In the old proposal I’m sure there was an undertaking to fund improvement work to Holmfirth Footpath 195 which runs from opposite the site through to Dunford Road and the bus stop but this seems to have been dropped. Whilst the new transport assessment waxes lyrically about “Walking stimulates both personal health and the health of communities and local economies. Government health improvement advice states that just 30 minutes brisk walking 5 times a week can bring about significant reductions in the risk of coronary heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes” and “the site can be accessed via the public rights of way network which provides an alternative part segregated pedestrian route that are available to Holmfirth”
Whilst I wouldn’t want reality to get in the way I think it’s fair to say Holmfirth Footpath 195 is unusable by future residents living the green dream and wishing to head off to work in their office clothes via the path and onwards from the bus stop. It’s a quagmire to be avoided between the end of August and mid July. Neglected by the council and suffering from a year round land drainage problem unless you’ve a good pair of wellies and a change of clothes I’d give it a miss.
This Piece of “investigative journalism” from our local paper rather neatly illustrates real life being stranger than fiction. In my little attempt to poke fun at IPROW the other day I invented a pile of leaves, a chief executive and a council officer who made the seemingly simple task of clearing up a bin bags worth of leaves into a complex legal issue.
Here in Kirklees such a pile of leaves actually exists by the entrance to Civic Centre 3 in Huddersfield. Local tory councillor John Taylor (pictured standing by a skip and looking unkempt in the article) is quoted as saying he has complained about the leaves 3 times! Firstly to Naz Parker ,Director of Place then Jackie Gedman,Chief Executive and finally to Cllr Pandor,Deputy Leader of the council no less.
It seems the combined talents of these three high fliers has resulted in …well nothing happening. This will come as no surprise to readers of this blog but perhaps illustrates the chronic ineffectiveness of Kirklees even on it’s own doorstep so to speak. What chance a public footpath a few miles out of Huddersfield?
Not wanting to be completely negative there is an obvious solution to this leafy problem. The chief Exec can hold the bin bag, Director of Place can sweep and Cllr Pandor can shovel up the leaves. Perhaps not the cheapest way to clear a pile of leaves but it would make a great publicity shot for The Examiner?
The end of the month and here’s January’s edition of Things on Footpaths…some pics of the many things the walker has to climb over, go round or turn back from in Kirklees. Keeps you fit if nothing else.
The relentless,ruthless and very hungry planning free for all in Kirklees continues munching it’s way through every unguarded green space in the district. A plague of sharp suits, hard hats,indifference and dodgy money from the dark side devours all before it. Only terrified councillors and planning officials stripped naked of conviction and caught in the headlights of the monster are there to protect what’s left….Ok a bit OTT but it’s not good.
Here’s the latest batch of precious paths up for the chop. None of them mentioned in any of the applications despite being clearly advertised as affecting a right of way.
How hard can it be for Kirklees officials to secure a thorough consideration by developers of public paths affected by their proposals? It may be that if they did this work to mitigate some of the negative impacts of development on paths could be secured, funds to improve the path network nearby by could be banked and even new paths squeezed out of them where possible.
Delighted to host the first in a series of guest blogs from IPROWE .
Had a particularly complex prow problem to deal with recently which illustrates neatly just how hard this job can be! Fortunately it came in on a Wednesday and so met my priority criteria of wearing matching red underwear and socks on a day with a W in it. The only higher criteria would be reports received on one of the 3 Friday afternoons a year when I go commando and have not flexed off.
My tricky little prow issue came in via our Chief Executive who was showing a previously unseen interest in a public footpath report. Always a bit of a googly when the big cheese lobs one in like that isn’t it? I decided to drop everything I was doing to visit the site. Unfortunately this meant delaying serving notice on a number of obstructions for Peak & Southern Ramblers Society. Well they’ve been waiting 30 years for the priority matrix to churn them out so what’s another decade?
On the face of it the Chief Exec’s little problem seemed incredibly straight forward. Leaves on a public footpath making it look a bit untidy according to the Chair of Lower Dumpdale Parish Council who incidentally happens to be the Chief Execs brother in law. Funny coincidence that.
However when I visited the site that same day I realised the scale of the problem to hand. Despite a nagging little voice in my head saying “Just get the brush and shovel and a bin bag from the van and clear them away” I couldn’t help but think there was more to it than that. Clearly other matters would have to be set aside as I looked into the legal intricacies of this issue further.
We can’t do everything at once and if I’m tied up on a complex matter like the Chief Exec’s leaves then that’s time I cannot spend doing real work like moving obstructions,putting up sign posts or on definitive map work. Whilst this may be the public’s expectation I’m afraid It’s just not as simple as that . Austerity has led to huge budget cuts and now the Chief Exec only has one rights of way officer to run around after him instead of the ten he was used too. This is bound to have an effect on levels of service we can provide to the public…..
To Be Continued
The real blog which is a good read but perhaps does give some indication as to why things take soooo looong to get sorted in the world of rights of way.