The West Riding Memo is the Original Sin of public rights of way management in this area. You can trace this early fitties fiddle through a long lineage of dodgy deals, nods & winks and theft of public access rights through to the 2020’s comedy calamities often featured on PathWatch. The laws and regulations surrounding public rights of way are only as good as those that administer them.
One of the effects of this swindle is the chronic lack of bridleways in the area. Rye Close Lane is recorded on the current Definitive Map and Statement as a 4 foot wide public footpath. Yet the original surveys record a RUPP (road used as public path) up to 12 feet wide. The surveys also record that part of the route was awarded in the Holme Inclosure Award as a road. The surveys were carried out by Holmfirth Urban District Council and are shown below.
That the route ended up on the Definitive Map and Statement as a 4 foot wide footpath would be something of a mystery but for the existence of a number of memos, including the West Riding Memo. It’s clear that the highway authority at the time was concerned at the potential maintenance liability of 12 foot wide bridleways and footpaths. It clearly bent the law to avoid this liability.
The document below shows an objection from Holmfirth Urban District Council to the inclusion of the route as a bridleway on the Definitive Map And Statement. It’s objecting to what it’s own surveyors have discovered! Without any explanatory remarks or evidence the route is downgraded to footpath and the width from 12 feet to 4 feet.