Readers may recall the proposed diversion of Holmfirth Footpath 60 at Wolfstones here and here . The dreadful proposal was of course thrown out at Committee but what the public do not know is the degree of senior input behind the scenes on this proposal. It has come to light that one of Kirklees Council’s most senior members of staff, Strategic Director Karl Battersby, visited the site of the proposed diversion with the landowners agent in summer 2019. There’s nothing wrong with that per se but it seems questionable to send out a strategic director on around £130k when the staff employed to do this work are experts and much much cheaper. Surely Mr Battersby has far more pressing issues to deal with than the diversion of a rural footpath near Holmfirth?
PathWatch has been unable to establish the cost to Kirklees council tax payers of Mr Battersby’s visit and advice because,wait for it, there is no record of such senior officers logging time to recharge codes associated with such diversions. The council can legally recharge it’s reasonable costs involved in processing diversions. Why has it not done so in this case? If Mr Battersby is routinely involved in footpath diversion applications what is the cost of this work and is it ever recharged?
Here is one of Mr Battersby’s detailed (redacted) emails as an example of the degree of involvement and advice supplied. Clearly there has been time & effort & public resources spent on this but not recharged. It should be noted that the proposed footway section on the road was not actually part of the proposed diversion order that the Planning Sub Committee were voting on. Ironically at no point in this or any other of the emails PathWatch has seen does Mr Battersby actually refer to the Proposed Diversion Route. Arguably this shows the weakness of the proposal itself.
From: Karl Battersby <Karl.Battersby@kirklees.gov.uk>
Sent: 27 December 2019 12:07
Subject: RE: Wolfstone Heights Farm
Good afternoon morning xxx. I have now had chance to meet with xxx and xxx to
discuss your mail. Firstly, this is really simple in my view, and doesn’t need to tie up a
suggested agreement in conditions and demands.This is a finely balanced decision, and for me the thing which helps tip the balance is an improvement to the surface which we would be expecting the public to walk on between the current and proposed ends of footpath 60. The reality is that as it currently stands this is not a great link, given the gradient and nature of the road, and we would not really want people to walk on the road if possible ( which they would be encouraged to do when the grass verge is muddy and churned up). That is the reason for suggesting an improved surface. If you recall, this is something I suggested when we met in the summer on site.
The report will assess the benefits of the proposal, and will of course summarise and
comment on the comments received both for and against.The intention would be that the requirement to improve the verge would only bite once the order were made and was capable of being brought into force, which would limit abortive expense should the order not be confirmed (either by the Council or Secretary
I have now seen the images that xxxx has been produced, and am comfortable in
principle that this looks acceptable, and overcomes my concerns about the road section,
although the planter should be removed so the proposed footway links to the current
end of footpath 60. We would just need to agree the spec and provision of the work, and
have no issue with xxxxx commissioning the works, if that is more cost effective.
will liaise with colleagues in highways.
In terms of the order itself, the matter will be presented to the 30th January meeting
with a positive recommendation to make the order. Should members resolve to support
making of the order, and once publicised we receive objections ( which is highly likely),
then our recommendation would be to place it before the Secretary of State, with all the
necessary paperwork. It would then be a matter for yourselves to present the case in
support of confirmation. I am advised that this is appropriate and in accordance with
guidelines. Members could of course decide that they would wish us to defend the
matter should it proceed to the Secretary of State, which would also be an option
included in the report. Should members be supportive in principle, then I am sure this
issue will be discussed at the meeting.
Hopefully we can now place the matter before Committee and put it to bed.
Strategic Director, Economy and Infrastructure