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can be problematic to a developer but a site with a permissive path is a pushover because that permission can be withdrawn at any time.
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.
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.