The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 increased the penalty for obstruction of the highway to include a prison sentence not exceeding 51 weeks. The increase was the government’s response to obstruction of the highway by protesters, but insertion in Section 137 of the Highways Act 1980 extends the penalty to obstruction of any public right of way, which would seem to be an unintended consequence benefiting Ramblers 🙂
Local authorities have always been very reluctant to prosecute landowners who obstruct footpaths claiming there’s no point. Imagine the deterrent effect of a few developers or landowners being banged up for a few months? Tough on crime and all that….
Previously on PathWatch we featured the dreadful damage to Holmfirth Bridleway 94 at Windy Hill quarry (here and here )
The bridleway was shut in early August with an emergency closure order which was subsequently extended with a 6 months closure to allow for reinstatement works. The observant reader will notice that the closure doesn’t apply to cyclists!
Although the bridleway is still closed it is possible to see works to reinstate the route from the road below and it looks encouraging. Hopefully the bridleway will soon be reopened for public use.
This case has been dealt with by the council’s “Complex Enforcement Officer” who seems to have access to a wider range of council resources than either Prow or “normal” enforcement staff.
Whilst things do look encouraging it’s best not to count any eggs or even assume the hens are laying with Kirklees but PathWatch lives in hope.
The Kirklees Prow Forum has restarted after a long Covid break. The latest meeting was held on 25th July 2022. Here are the notes .
The problem with Public Rights of Way management in Kirklees is, and continues to be, a culture within management and councillors that Prows don’t matter. All prow problems highlighted on this blog and out there on the network stem from this notion. “It’s only a footpath” is repeated like a holy mantra any time some path problem comes to light.
The same errors are repeated over and over again. The costs involved dwarf the annual prow maintenance budget. That there is no coherent approach to enforcement, planning or cyclic maintenance of Prows speaks volumes. At the end of the day it’s only 700 miles of path network. How hard can it be?
Councillor Steve Hall got to be Chair of the Sub Committee for the day and brought his own no nonsense common sense approach to proceedings.
Councillors were falling over each other to approve the extinguishment of Denby Dale 82. Steve Hall led the way by saying “It looked pretty straight forward”.
Councillor Firth asked if the applicants had ever though of opening a cafe as they’d have a path straight to it. Comedy gold.
No reports were put before the sub committee from the Prow list of definitive map modification order applications There are 248 applications on the list. The number 1 priority case was received by Kirklees in 1993. There are also some 16 directions from the Secretary of State which set a deadline for determination. None of these were put before the committee.
Kirklees uses the well worn “lack of resources” excuse to both the public and Secretary of State for the lack of any meaningful progress on the 248 outstanding applications. Odd that it has resources for an extinguishment then?
Kirklees publish a weekly list of planning applications affecting public rights of way. They are required to do this under the Town & Country Planning (Development Control Procedure) (England) Order 2015 Notice Under Article 15. Often the effects of these applications on prows is fairly minor and at other times it can be the end of a lovely well used rural or semi rural path. This procedure is the public’s opportunity to comment. PathWatch will endeavour to share the list on a regular basis. Have a look, there may be a path you use on here. Commenting is free and who knows they might take it on board.
Previously on PathWatch we reported on a lone bull in a field crossed by Colne Valley Footpath 102. Having no female company the bulls presence was contrary to section 59 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
The issue has been dealt with swiftly and effectively by Kirklees and the bull moved to a field without public access. Thanks to the council for this 🙂
Currently Kirklees Council has 248 outstanding claims for modifications to the Definitive Map & Statement. Some 16 of these claims are subject to directions from the Secretary of State to get on with it (Kirklees largely ignore these directions). Kirklees has a legal duty to keep the Definitive Map up to date and is very much struggling to do so.
The number one case on the Priority List is a claim for a Footpath at Kilpin Hill, Heckmondwike. The claim was received in 1993! There are several claims from 1988! (The extinguishment order began life in 2021 for comparison)
Throughout 2021 and 2022 not one historical case from the Priority List has been put before either the Huddersfield Planning Sub Committee or the Heavy Woolen Planning Sub Committee.
How then does our beloved council have the officer time and resources to carry out a consultation and subsequently put a report to the Heavy Woolen Sub Committee (page 61) recommending making of an order to extinguish Denby Dale Footpath 82? Presumably the council also have resources available for a public inquiry too?
In the context of the amount of outstanding DMMO claims going back to the 1980’s, this report and recommendation is perverse and goes against the public interest. How can an extinguishment application take precedence over both the councils statutory duty to keep the definitive map up to date and the growing backlog of directions from the Secretary of State? I think we should be told.
Resources for definitive map work in Kirklees are not even the bare minimum to maintain the status quo let alone make headway on the 248 outstanding claims. Much of that resource appears to be tied up on diversions for developers with next to nothing going to committee which would reduce the outstanding claims.