In an unwelcome sequel the proposal to divert Holmfirth Public Footpath 60 Wolfstones has been resurrected and is now out for public consultation. The diversion is connected to planning applications here and here. The application is made under the Town & Country Planning Act and does meet the criteria as being necessary for the development to go ahead. However there is no obligation for Kirklees to make such an order and given the level and quality of public objection during the first (withdrawn) consultation in 2018 they should not be entertaining a second bite at the cherry.
For anyone walking from Holmfirth, Netherthong or the valley and heading for Wolfstone Heights the proposed diversion takes you away from your destination just as you are almost there. It would be a much less commodious path compared to the current long established direct route of Footpath 60.
Kirklees Council were unaware of the public status of the land at Wolfstone Heights trig point (which Footpath 60 links to directly) when the original application was accepted. For clarity the land belongs to Holme Valley Land Charity whose sole trustee is Holme Valley Parish Council. The purpose of the charity is “To promote such charitable purposes for the benefit of the inhabitants of the Holme Valley”. The land at Wolfstones (WYK821600) has been retained by the charity for the benefit of the community for informal recreation. The details can be viewed here .(There is a claim made in the diversion application that access to the charity owned land can be closed at anytime.This does not appear to be the case). Arguably Kirklees would not have accepted the original application had they known this as the proposal makes access to Wolfstone Heights more difficult. Public rights of way are a material consideration in the planning process but this obligation has not been discharged correctly in this case.
In response to consultations on the original planning applications which included moving the path Kirklees Prow unit responded saying –
” moving the terminus of path 60 to the north will take it away from the existing access to Wolfstones Height, by over 100 metres, however that access is not currently recognised as public and this rural road has a serviceable
verge for walking”
The premise that the access to Wolfstones Height is not public is incorrect. Wolfstones Heights is a place of public resort being reserved for public enjoyment by Holme Valley Land Charity. It is quite obviously very well used and known locally. Importantly Holmfirth Footpath 60 is the only public footpath (and off road route) which links directly to the Wolfstone Heights access. Unfortunately the whole diversion process has stemmed from this initial oversight in 2014.
Kirklees Council should have established the correct status of the access and land at Wolfstone Heights prior to accepting any diversion proposal to move the terminus of Footpath 60.
As previously mentioned there is no obligation on Kirklees Council to make an order to divert Footpath 60. Their initial decision to accept such an application was flawed because it was based on incomplete and incorrect information regarding the link between Footpath 60 and direct access to Wolfstone Heights. The Council now have good reason not to make an order in light of this information but sadly they are taking a “neutral” position and sitting on the fence.
The consultation is open until 9th July 2019 and you can see the proposal and comment here