Environment Bill & 4×4’s.

An interesting amendment from the pressure group Gleam to the Environment Bill.

Proposed amendment Section 7, Environmental Improvement Plan.
To assist in informing the Environmental Improvement Plan, the Secretary of State will carry out a public consultation on whether driving a motor vehicle for recreational purposes on unsealed tracks in the countryside, in particular in protected landscapes, should continue to be permitted.

Explanation of amendment.

The Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 protected footpaths and bridleways from use and damage by recreational motor vehicles but it left unprotected a further 3000 miles of countryside tracks. These are the nation’s green lanes. They are being used and damaged by 4x4s, motor bikes and quad bikes being driven for recreational purposes. This amendment is the first step in closing the loophole in the NERC Act which is permitting environmental damage being done to green lanes. The amendment does not
bring into question the rights of landowners or residents, the drivers of essential motor vehicles or people with disabilities who use mobility scooters.

The amendment was introduced by Lord Bradshaw.

My Lords, the stated purpose of the Environment Bill is to improve the natural environment and the 2019 Glover review of the national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty that called for radical change in the way we protect our landscape. The review stressed the need for us to take urgent steps to recover and enhance nature. One thing that is causing damage to the natural environment and to our fragile and precious landscapes is that 4×4 vehicles, motorbikes and quad bikes are allowed to be driven for purely recreational purposes on unsealed tracks all over the countryside, including in national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty. The only reason this is allowed to happen is because the law as it stands states that a countryside track, whatever it may be, which has been used in the past by horsedrawn carts, carries a right of way for any kind of modern motor vehicle.

Parliament attempted to deal with this problem in 2006 in the passage of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act. It put a stop to the historic use of horsedrawn carts, giving rise to the use of cars and motorbikes on footpaths and bridleways, but it left unprotected over 3,000 miles of other tracks in the countryside that have no right of way classification. These are the country’s green lanes. They are all open to use and abuse by recreational motor vehicles, and as a result, great damage is being done, even on the high fells. The amendment I will seek to table does not ask for an immediate change in the law, and if passed, it would require the Secretary of State to return to the business that was left unfinished by the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act and to carry out a public consultation on whether the loophole left behind by that Act should be closed.

Good luck!

Planning Inspectorate Direct Kirklees To Determine 2 Bridleway Claims.

Buttercup,the PathWatch Cow. Trigger was unavailable.

The Planning Inspectorate has recently intervened in its official Alan “Fluff” Freeman Pick of the Paths role to instruct Kirklees to determine 2 outstanding bridleway claims.

One of the claims has been in the Kirklees charts for over 25 years. It currently sits at no.3 in the Pick of the Paths Priority matrix just ahead of Paul McCartney’s dirge “Mull of Kintyre”. Rather generously, Fluff has given Kirklees a further 18 months to determine this application. So that’ll be 26 and a half years in the hit parade of inaction. This direction is for a bridleway at Moor Lane .

The second pick of the paths lies outside the Top Hundred in the miss parade at number 116. Only charting in 2017 this hit has been picked from obscurity by Fluff who has given a mere 12 months for the council to sort it out. Bit of inconsistency here from Fluff the Inspectorates top Picker of Paths or maybe the Hairy Cornflake was standing in ?

Tune in next week to see if Heckmondwike’s finest Robyn Lane can be knocked off the top spot after charting for an incredible 28 years 🙂

Extreme Rambling.

Holmfirth Public Footpath 45.

There are only 3 field paths in the Holme Valley which are across arable land. One at Netherthong which gets reinstated by sheer volume of public use, Holmfirth 135 (which Kirklees Officers have visited many times over the past 5 years without securing full reinstatement) and the Oilseed Rape Extreme Rambling Experience that is Holmfirth Footpath 45.

This is really basic public rights of way work and the fact that Kirklees cannot reach such a minimum requirement in the area speaks for itself. There seems to be a culture of the same requests from members of the public being passed to the same frontline staff on an annual basis without any effective action. The same sites and problems are visited over and over again but nothing happens.

This is not down to a lack of resources but an absence of training and proper oversight from managers. How can staff go out again and again to the same things without doing anything?

Answers on a postcard.

Holmfirth Moors Go Into Lockdown.

Full Lockdown For Ramblers.

The 17th of May 2021 saw the lifting of many lockdown restrictions. Bars, restaurants and hotels flung open their doors to weary members of the public who could now get a pint indoors and hug each other when tipsy enough.

On the same date a large swath of moorland above Holmfirth was placed into full lockdown with all public access closed for the rest of May and a chunk of June. The irony is wonderful and there really should be an award for this kind of thing.

The closure is perfectly legitimate as landowners can close access land for 28 days a year. It neatly demonstrates the short comings of the CROW access rights which fall way short of the Scottish system where this would never happen. Cheesed off ramblers can view the paper work at Natural England

So forget a bracing walk on the moors and go to the pub for a pint or three with shots of Kent,Brazilian or Indian chasers to make life both more interesting and possibly shorter.

Path Politics.

Holmfirth Footpath 105 has pinned it’s political colours to it’s roadside signpost ahead of Thursday’s local elections.

For decades the Holme Valley has had 3 tory councillors. Two years ago we elected a labour councillor who was actually in the same century as the rest of us rather than a couple behind. Councillor Davies has undoubtedly had a positive effect on improving rights of way in the valley and getting the subject on the agenda in a way that hasn’t happened here for donkey’s years.

Maybe Footpath 105 has a point?

Cost Of Castle Hill Gate.

The most expensive structure on public rights of way

The Experimental Traffic Order on Hudddersfield Byway 170/10 is now live and the swanky new yellow gate is being closed overnight, supposedly to stop anti social behaviour.

This gate must easily be the most expensive thing on hinges on any Kirklees public right of way. It cost an eye watering £21,407 ! The costs can be found on the council’s contracts register .

In addition the costs involved with the Traffic Regulation Order are some £5,472. The council is being coy about the costs of employing the security firm Admiral to open and close the gate saying these have been “absorbed” into an existing contract.

There’s a couple of footbridges, many miles of strimming or signposts or path improvements for this kind of money. The council continually pleads a lack of resources for positive public rights of way work but happily visits the magic money tree to close a route to the most popular and widely enjoyed land mark in Kirklees. Surely there’s a better way?

Ramsden Road/Yateholme PSPO Full Info Available

Some 5 days after the consultation closed on this proposal all the information is finally available on the Kirklees website . There’s been no fanfare of publicity around this and the fact that the deadline has been quietly extended until 24th May 2021 may have gone unnoticed.

The whole process to date has been an amateurish omni-cockup worthy of a prize if there was one going for this kind of thing.

However, whilst this is far from the solution to the 4×4 and motorbike problem in the area it does contain some good things. For instance there is no access for vehicles between 1st November to 31st March without the council’s approval. No more than 32 vehicle movements a week. No access in snow or heavy rain.

The available access will be via Glass outside of winter and if the restrictions do come into force reporting of any misbehaviour with evidence will be vital in getting restrictions tightened.

Council officers claim the PSPO is a delegated Officer decision yet there is no record of any such decision being made on the council’s register of delegated decisions . Under its own constitution the authority is obliged to keep such a record and it is a criminal offence under the openness in local government regulations not to do so. We’ve been here before of course. There’s no record of the officer decision to rescind the 2018 Traffic Regulation Order on Ramsden Road either.

Kirklees To Make Modification Order Increasing Width of Holmfirth 60 from 1.2m to 4m

Slimline version of Holmfirth 60

At the Huddersfield Planning Sub Committee on 21 April 2021 councillors voted in favour of making a modification order to the Definitive Map & Statement. The effect of the order, if confirmed, will change the width of Footpath 60 from 1.2m to between 3m and 4m.

The application came about as a result of Footpath 60 being significantly narrowed from the historical (but unrecorded) used width of 3m to 4m down to the 1.2m recorded in the current Statement. The image above illustrates the situation.

The officer report contains a useful summary and explanation of the evidence. In short there is much contemporary user evidence for the greater width which is supported by historical documents from the Inclosure Awards of 1829, successive Ordnance Survey editions, aerial photographs and today’s Google maps. The decision can be viewed here

This case is also the first public appearance of the West Riding Memo which was used to demonstrate the deliberate under recording of path widths by the local authority 70 years ago.

As so often happens with Kirklees a cock up was waiting around the corner to make things a little more interesting. As one of the links to the live streamed committee meeting didn’t work the matter will return to a future committee for reaffirmation.

Cleckheaton Path Proposals

Stopping Up & Creation Proposals, kenmore View, Cleckheaton.

The above plan shows a development site off Kenmore View, Cleckheaton. For the development to go ahead the public paths shown by solid black lines will be closed and the rather less direct dashed lines will be newly created paths. The consultation plan looks something like an entry into the Turner prize in this context. The Google screenshot below gives a little more focus showing the green nature of the site deep in the urban jungle of Cleckheaton. The bulldozers have already been there by the look of it.

Last of the Cleckheaton rain forest

An area of green space containing informal paths is priceless in an area like this. The many local objections and claims to have these paths put on the Definitive Map give an indication of local feelings. Sadly, it looks like the direct original paths will be swept away before ever being recorded to be replaced by those meandering dashes going nowhere around buildings.

Links to the plan and reason statement are below. Details of the proposal should be on the council’s website here

     

The Great PROW Swindle

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.

Original Survey Sheet Holmfirth FP 66 records the route as a 12 foot wide RUPP
Second Survey Sheet for Holmfirth 66 records route as a Rupp up 9 feet wide.

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.