Updates

cropped-holmevalley-1-of-1

I’ve had confirmation this week that Friday the 13th October 2017 is the date for the Bartin & Greaves Planning Applications to go before the Peak Park Planning Committee in Bakewell. Also received a request from the peak park planners to use some of my photographs in their presentation to the committee which illustrate the unspoilt isolation of Bartin & Greave.

As mentioned previously if you have commented on the applications you can speak at the meeting. Details of what to do here

On another planning issue the application mentioned here to replace a set of illegal gates on a Huddersfield path with some big shiny new illegal gates has been withdrawn. A step in the right direction.

On the issue of gates on public footpaths the law is very clear. Any gate can only be authorised under Section 147 of the Highways Act 1980  for agricultural purposes or some other identified statute. Mr Justice Cranston further clarified the law in this judgement Yet from my discussions with Kirklees this week it seems this isn’t clear enough.

Meltham Bridleway 68 & other hard to see rights of way.

CastleHill (1 of 1)

Another example of rights of way being invisible by applicants in the planning process. Application number 2017/92986 is for a farm workers dwelling, access for which is along Meltham Bridleway 68.

Public rights of way are a material consideration in the planning process yet the professional agents who have drawn up this application state that access is “Private”. Odd that as it takes all of 30 seconds on the internet to find that the status of Deer Hill End Lane is in fact a public bridleway. The agents ought to have had a bit more work to do in considering how to deal with the bridleway in the context of the planning application. Instead it’s just not mentioned.

There’s an opportunity here for our cash strapped council to think creatively and secure some “planning gain” in terms of new and better signage of the bridleway and also some signage to make drivers aware of the bridleway and horses crossing on both Blackmoorfoot Road and Slaithwaite Road. These sort of improvements are perfectly reasonable but difficult to achieve when applicants “ignore” rights of way and planners have a tendency to overlook such detail as it’s all too much trouble.

This rights of way invisibility is a common occurrence in the planning process and has been evident in several applications recently in the Colne Valley and Huddersfield. One particularly amusing  application  is to replace some (illegal) gates on a public footpath with wrought iron electric gates. Again an application drawn up by a professional company but no mention what so ever that the gates would obstruct Huddersfield Footpath 433. To add further irony Kirklees Highways (the highway authority  for Footpath 433) consider the proposal “acceptable from a highways point of view”. Comedy gold unless of course you want to walk the footpath or begin to untangle the mess created.

An application affecting over half a mile of Colne Valley Footpath 188 (called an “access track” by the applicant’s professional) receives a cursory standard footnote from Kirklees despite the application stating the track (Footpath 188) will be improved. A missed opportunity in these austere times to improve things for the public or at least to make sure things are not made worse!

Carr Farm Gates Holmfirth 71 (1 of 1)
Acceptable from a Highways point of view.

 

 

 

 

The Cost of doing nothing 4

Incoming4 (1 of 1)
The beautiful Kirklees countryside which is accessed mostly via public rights of way

Something seems to be rustling in the long grass where Kirklees Council lost the issue of Huddersfield Byway 231.

A rather cryptic email from Kirklees arrived this week –

I am contacting you as a person who has expressed an interest in route Hud/231.

I expect a  report on proposed status will be going to committee in late November. The report will be a public document at the point it is published prior to the meeting.

The council will not be releasing any information on this prior to that point as is the normal practice.

Well I’ve expressed an interest in Huddersfield Byway 231 and in particular the shoddy way Kirklees has dealt with its obstruction,  wasted scarce public resources, acted outside its own policies and legal obligations, ignored the public, told planners one thing and the public another etc etc. But no I’ve never heard of route Hud/231.

I can’t think why the email refers to route Hud/231 when what it is referring to is of course Huddersfield Byway 231. It seems that this byway is the Voldermort of Kirklees rights of way.

The late November committee referred to is the Planning Sub Committee (Huddersfield) to be held on 23rd November 2015.

The most interesting part of the email is the final statement that –

The council will not be releasing any information on this prior to that point as is the normal practice 

Could this information include the work Leeds City Council have done for Kirklees on a consultancy basis at a cost of £5,000? I suspect it may. I’d like to know  what this £5,000 of taxpayers money has uncovered,if anything and whether it has been an appropriate use of public money. £5,000 on public footpaths would replace a footbridge or a good few kissing gates, stiles ,signs etc. but instead the public are getting nothing here.

Hiring Leeds City Council to undertake this work was an unprecedented step for Kirklees. Taking this application out of the Council’s own Priority List and treating it differently was also unprecedented. This application scored low on the Council’s priority matrix  coming 90 on a list of 125 cases. It’s interesting to speculate if the other 124 applicants on the list will also have the opportunity to have their applications looked at by a consultant ? If not, why not ? Do the other 124 applicants even know that the Council has disregarded the procedure that keeps their applications waiting indefinitely? In setting this precedent have Kirklees created a financial liability which previously did not exist? 124 applications at £5,000 a go is £620,000.

The number 1 application on the Council’s list was received in 1993! I think the applicants (if still alive!) would be rightly cheesed off that the Byway 231 application scoring 8 points less and being received by the Council in 2014 is off to committee in November ahead of theirs. I hope the Council has contacted the 89 applicants ahead of the Huddersfield Byway 231 application to fully explain what is happening.

The Council has been less than transparent with the public over Huddersfield Byway 231 and appears to be treating the 124 applicants on its priority list less favourably than this one application.

At the Council’s  Asset Board meeting of 7th December 2015 it was agreed that Kirklees “categorically stick to process” as regards Huddersfield Byway 231. That process being “The DMMO policy – which sets out a priority matrix in which the applications will be addressed.” This was confirmed to me as a result of a FOI request 15534. It demonstrates again that Kirklees Council is being less than transparent in its dealing with the public.  Here is the action point and attendees at that meeting.

Action Point of Asset Board 7-12-2015

And here is an extract from an email clarifying precisely what “categorically stick to process” refers to. (The Section 130a notices mentioned were withdrawn.)

Please would you be able to clarify which process is being referred to in the action point “categorically stick to process” 

“Stick to process” means that we are guided by two principles:

  • The legal process that surrounds 130a notices that gives strict timescales;
  • The DMMO policy – which sets out a priority matrix in which the applications will be addressed.

Despite asking I’ve had no explanation as to the obvious contradiction between the agreed point of action and what has actually happened which is of course the opposite!

ramclough-1-of-1.jpg
If you’ve got this far – enjoy the view.

 

 

 

A modest success ;-)

GateGone (1 of 1)
That’s better!

Eleven weeks after I first brought the blatant obstruction of Holmfirth Footpath 188 to the attention of Yorkshire Water and subsequently Kirklees Council the issue has been resolved!

As suggested in my original post all that was needed was some new hinges and a sneck to get the old gate working again.  Incredible that someone would go to the lengths they did to block the path with boulders and drag their feet  when politely asked to put it right. Several Yorkshire Water staff were involved in requesting the removal of the obstruction on a number of occasions and I understand two members of staff attended a site visit with the tenant. I know at least one visit was made to the site by a member of staff from Kirklees Council. In addition time has been spent liaising with Yorkshire Water and directly with the tenant responsible for the illegal obstruction.

It’s worth pondering  –

  1. Obstructing a public footpath is illegal
  2. Yorkshire Water’s costs are paid for from everyone’s water rates
  3. Kirklees Council is in dire financial straights
  4. The taxpayer funds Kirklees Councils costs on this matter
  5. The tenant is subsidised via cap payments by the taxpayer
  6. The public are paying for everything here but have been denied access along the public path.

My initial reports to Kirklees Council were ignored so on 28th August 2017 I served a Section 130a notice and it was only after this that my reports were taken seriously and acted upon. From experience I find that if an obstruction makes it to 6 months it becomes part of the status quo and council managers will try to explain it away and justify it’s presence rather than get on and shift it. So maybe after receiving a few “unique” reference numbers but no action Section 130a is the answer?

The issue has also been passed onto the Rural Payments Agency and I’ve had a very encouraging response from their office.

It is Kirklees Council’s policy to refer incidents such as this to the RPA and it would be a powerful deterrent to landowners obstructing public rights of way if it was used. I don’t believe it ever has been in Kirklees despite many opportunities. The Council could save a lot of money if it took this option on reported obstructions. I’d suggest that noone in receipt of CAP payments would block a public right of way if they seriously thought Kirklees would inform the RPA and a full land inspection was on the cards.

Gate (1 of 1)

Holmfirth Cricket Club Right Of Way – Storm in a teacup?

 

HolmfirthinBloom
Holmfirth

Must have been a slow day for news in Huddersfield as the “story” of the Holmfirth Cricket Club public right of way hit the headlines in the local rag .

The cricket club’s “rights of way consultant”  is quoted by  the Examiner  saying “incidents of vandalism and risk of encampment by travellers had prompted the move” to close the footpath. Along with a perceived health & safety risk from the foundary.

There is no explanation as to how an inert public footpath is responsible for  acts of vandalism. I’d suggest people are by and large responsible for  such acts not public footpaths. The site can be accessed from a variety of  locations including Bridge Lane and Huddersfield Road so logic would suggest closing these public highways during the night too if they are similarly inclined to carry out random acts of tagging in the night.

Criminals of course will use any means of access to do their anti social activities. Whether the public right of way here is closed or open will make no difference and it is no justification for denying legitimate public access.

The “risk of encampment by travellers” seems a pretty desperate justification for closing the path. As someone who lived overlooking the cricket ground for nearly 20 years I can vouch for the fact that the area is a quiet backwater and not one regularly invaded by the travelling community who tend to favour council owned land.

Who knows what the motivation of the car driver taking a trip across the wicket was but such things are rare, isolated  incidents rather than the norm. That issue could easily be prevented from ever happening again by  putting up a short barrier between the pitch and carpark.

And the foundary? Well it seems odd to justify closing a public right of way on a night by using a business that is open in the daytime as a reason.

So it really is a storm in a teacup to some degree. But then again you have to wonder why the club would go to  the trouble of employing a “rights of way” consultant , causing  friction with locals and to a degree damaging the clubs standing in the community by it’s actions in attempting to close the path?

There is a lot of speculation locally about this site not least because the club were seemingly willing to sell up back in 2014

Now generally speaking a  site with a public right of way present can be problematic to a developer but a site with a permissive path is a pushover because that permission can be withdrawn at any time.

 

Holmfirth Cricket Club Public Right Of Way

sign (1 of 1)
The signs challenging the right of way had been removed along with the fencing when I visited. Only the challenge to the illegal sign remained.

This public right of way must be one of the most well used in the Holmfirth area. Generations of children and parents have used it to  access Sands Rec, Holmfirth Pool , the River Holme, Holmfirth High School or just cut through to Huddersfield Road.

Many of us use it early or late in the day for a quiet dog walk past the cricket field and down to the river. During some of the festivals and events which take place in Holmfirth such as the duck race,folk festival,bonfire etc many hundreds of people will walk this public right of way during the course of a day.

Everyone using this right of way does so as of right . No one asks permission or would even think permission was needed. No permission has ever been given by the owners who are fully aware of the popularity and extensive use of this public right of way over their property. I doubt you’d find many people in Holmfirth who are not aware of its existence or who have not walked it at some point in their lives.

Unfortunately the public use of the right of way is now being challenged and signs have gone up stating it is a not a right of way but a permissive path during daylight hours. This is news to most people I would think and has caused a lot of interest on the local Facebook Page

The right of way is not recorded on the council’s Definitive Map and Statement so it is vulnerable however there is a claim to add the right of way as a bridleway. A decision has to be made by the council in the coming weeks on this claim.

Claiming rights of way can  be a long winded process  but I’d urge anyone who has used this route regularly for 20 years to complete an evidence form this week and return it to Kirklees. Evidence forms can be downloaded here

The council has been aware of this right of way for many years and should have been more proactive in securing it’s future. The Holme Valley Riverside Way nearly came along this path and it was strongly suggested at the time of the routes creation that the Council make a legal order to formally create a right of way here as there is a proven need and long established and accepted public use.

Furthermore  such is the weight and regularity of use of the right of way that there is a case  that public rights have obviously been established at common law. You only need to look at the Facebook response to see how many people  regularly use it. So in addition to the current claim the council ought to be recognizing the long established use of the route both past and present, the need for the route as a safe off road path and the routes integral role in access to the River Holme and surrounding green spaces.

The council perhaps with an input from local Holme Valley South Councillors , Holmfirth Parish Council and groups such as River Holme Connections needs to come up with a plan beyond the claim which ensures this public right of way for the future.

When I wandered down to photograph the “No right of way” signs they had gone!! Along with the fencing which had narrowed the right of ways width. This would seem like an emphatic bit of people power or a tactical retreat by the landowner who may just have recognised that placing the signs has given the issue a much higher profile and will provoke much more evidence in support of the right of way.

 

Battle of the green fields – Scholes

sign (1 of 1)
Footpath off Cross Lane Scholes

Kirklees planners and councillors reached a new low at the Planning Sub Committee (Huddersfield Area) on 31st August 2017 approving a development of some 39 homes at a greenfield site at Scholes in the Holme Valley.

The attitude of councillors and planners towards local residents genuine concerns and their ignorance of the value of green public open spaces for public health and well being caught my eye.

This is another case of sharp suited wolves picking off green space aided and abetted not just by the council’s planning policy vacuum  but by turning a blind eye to a further nearby  greenfield site where some 140 houses could be built. Only a fool would consider the effects of the two sites separately.

The webcast of the meeting is revealing. Chair Cllr Terry Lyons is in a very grumpy mood and votes in support of the proposal. It will be interesting to see how Cllr Lyons votes when a similar proposal affecting a greenfield site and a public footpath in his own backyard comes up before the committee.

In contrast to the reasonable,articulate and well made arguments of  local residents members of the committee seemed slightly annoyed and disinterested, voting predictably along tribal party lines instead of the details and merits or otherwise of the application. Sadly this is how it works in Kirklees. Typical labour councillors from Batley or Dewsbury do not have a grasp on the public value of green spaces or rights of way.

Tellingly one Labour councillor dismisses the value of green space completely saying “I do think we’re getting to a stage where we’re paying more attention to public open space than we are to bigger issues such as highways issues.What I would say is put  money where it’s really needed in highways”  The highways referred to are of course the ones gridlocked with cars rather than the footways,cycle lanes ,footpaths and bridleways which the council is also responsible for but routinely ignores.This attitude infects the council,it’s management,officers and decision making processes.

It’s staggering that a councillor could be so dismissive of public open space where children,parents and grandparents can spend quality car free, healthy time together. Over half the population in Kirklees is obese yet the committee puts £140k of developers money into roads rather than green space or public rights of way which offer an alternative to the epidemic of inactivity costing the country so much.

The council should be looking to improve the green infrastructure and with it public health at every opportunity rather than continually pouring money into roads. £140k would enable a lot of basic maintenance works to be undertaken on the Council’s neglected public rights of way network. Such an idea seems beyond the imagination of planning officers or councillors. Instead this money will  fill in a few hundred potholes or a few nights winter gritting.

 

There’s an account of the meeting in the Examiner

The webcast of the meeting is here