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 🙂
Back in 2014 half a dozen members of the public reported locked gate obstructions on Batley Footpath 5. Some 8 years later and these obstructions remain in place. This is despite Kirklees Council serving s143 notices on the landowners responsible for the obstructions in 2018! Yes, you read that right 2018. We’re all for giving people plenty of time to remove obstructions but four years and counting?
The notices were obtained via a freedom of information request which Kirklees refused to answer for some 6 months. Legally,they should respond within 20 working days! It was only after the Information Commissioners Office became involved that the full sad tale of Batley 5 became apparent.
For whatever reasons the internal mechanisms within Kirklees which should kick in when a member of the public reports an obstruction do not seem to work (really?Ed).
Issues of enforcement are dealt with by a separate department from Prow and work is duplicated. Prow officers visit the site several times and this is repeated by enforcement officers when the matter is passed over for “enforcement action”. Some 6 Kirklees officers, 2 landowners, 1 Leeds officer, 1 third party solicitor, and 1 Highways Agency officer have been involved in the case. Land searches have been carried out, research into past side road orders which affect the path has been undertaken and extensive liaison with the neighboring authority of Leeds. The public of course pick up the substantial tab for all this.
The 4 obstructions are still there.
There is no overall management of enforcement cases and it seems all to easy for cases like this to disappear .
The council will now have to start the process again and incur some of the same costs a second time over.
Back in 2020 PathWatch reported briefly on some dodgy doings to the surface of Meltham Bridleway 50. In short the lovely and rightly popular bridleway had been dug up and poorly reinstated with large sized aggregate. Lots of users from all groups reported the matter as it was happening.
The Peak Park who are the planning authority visited the site and concluded that planning permission was needed for the works. Nothing has been heard from them since. Kirklees visited and did manage to halt any further work. That was the peak of their activity and interest.
So almost 2 years later and nothing has been done to put this bridleway back into a usable condition for the public to enjoy . Regular readers will recognise the pattern here. It goes like this. Damage or obstruction to a public right of way. Flurry of complaints from the public. Visits from numerous council staff (and in this case the national park). Then nothing.
PathWatch will be back in 2 years with a further update. Probably a cut and paste job.
Previously on PathWatch we reported on the sad demise of Holmfirth Bridleway 94 which appears to have been subsumed into Windy Hill Quarry despite a lack of planning permission. Not to worry, the issue was reported as it was happening by many local users over a period from September 2021 onward. Oh hang on that’s wrong. Do worry, for neither Kirklees Planning or Rights of Way have taken any effective action on the ground over the intervening 8 months. This sort of situation always seems to blindside the bureaucrats. It’s not like problems of this nature haven’t happened before!
Kirklees Planning should have served a stop notice on the quarry last year as soon as they became aware of the works outside the quarry, on greenbelt land and on a public bridleway. This lack of action implies that planners aren’t that bothered and are happy to dump the issue on an overstretched Prow section. Meanwhile as can be seen above the bridleway is now unusable.
Ironically the Strategic Director who is responsible for Kirklees rights of way (Mr Parr) has recently been quoted in a propaganda article saying “We have nearly 1,900 PRoWs in the District, which our small team monitor. When residents tell us about the PRoWs being blocked or overgrown it is a great help.” Well lots of residents have contacted Kirklees about the loss of this bridleway and hardly anyone has heard a thing let alone get the bridleway back!
The article is here and of course it’s very good that a path has been cleared but the truth is this particular path was cleared fairly regularly prior to 2012 and there was never a problem with it until the council stopped doing it. Dealing with problems like Bridleway 94 and the many others featured on this blog requires a set of policies, procedures and resources to be directed promptly as issues arise. There is no good reason why Bridleway 94 should not have been reinstated within a 6 month timescale other than a complete lack of gumption and management at Kirklees which ultimately sits on Mr Parr’s doorstep.
Why not let Mr Parr know that Bridleway 94 is blocked – Colin.Parr@kirklees.gov.uk As he says “It’s a great help”
The elite SBS (like the SAS but for bridleways) have been in action in the Holmfirth area seizing an illegal 4×4 with only their bare hands and elderly pit ponies from Barnsley.
Sgnt. Harvey “Blunty” Smith who leads the crack squad told us “We were the only squad with the capability to operate in this weeks 300 mph winds. Equipped as we are in all weather leotards we sent out our heaviest officer PC Enormous Haystacks on his two pit ponies. PC Haystacks grappled the 4×4 onto our break down truck and it was job done. The two pit ponies did blow away but were found the next day in a shed near Marsden”.
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?
This must be one of the more obvious and seemingly straightforward path obstructions featured on PathWatch. A new 3 strand barbed wire fence strung across the old stone stile on Holmfirth 73. Real bread & butter work for any half competent highway authority. Whilst it’s great that it has now been removed it should never have taken 20 months to do it!
A little waymarking, vegetation clearance and general TLC to get the path back into a more user friendly condition overall is still needed.
PathWatch has monitored this route for 4 years and once again there has been no reinstatement of the path following ploughing and cropping within the 14 days required by law. Or at all in fact.
Interestingly Kirklees have owned up to having visited the path but have proffered no further information. Perhaps it was for a ramble, picnic or to enjoy the view? It certainly does not appear to have been to discharge the authorities duties under section 134 of the Highways Act.
The only difference on the ground is a crop of obstructing oats instead of barely and a wooden post at either end of the field marking the start/finish of Footpath 135 through the crop. This has had the effect of concentrating walkers onto a line and partly trampling the crop. It falls well short of full reinstatement within the legal definition. There should be a 1.2m clear width for Footpath 135 through this crop.
Public access to the English countryside by right is very limited. Most of it is on the country’s public rights of way network. A network that is legally recorded and protected to some extent by law. However,those laws are only as strong as the local authority enforcing them.We’re practically flatlining here in Kirklees as far as protecting public access rights to any consistent or reliable degree.
The law for cropping as laid out in section 134 could hardly be clearer to understand or enforce. Why is it so hard for Kirklees Council to apply?
In answer to a public question to Kirklees Cabinet on 2nd June Councillor Robert Walker revealed that Kirklees has successfully removed 104 obstructions from a reported 114 during the 2017/18 period. That is an astonishing success rate of over 91%. All the more surprising because Councillor Walker also said that Kirklees has no procedure or timescale for removing obstructions. This procedure is currently under development but to be honest with a success rate of 91% I don’t think they need one! This incredible performance has been achieved, as Councillor Walker points out, whilst being under staffed over a number of years due to government cuts. Arguably no extra staff or money are required as this level of performance must rate as one of the UK’s highest. Or perhaps it just isn’t true?
Back in the real world and having walked every single path in the Holme Valley I can be absolutely certain that there are at least 40 path obstructions in the area reported to Kirklees and not removed. Of course Kirklees have some 4,000 plus outstanding issues on the rights of way network ,mostly obstructions by nature, which Councillor Walker didn’t mention. So what’s really going on? And why have those Holme Valley obstructions not been included in the council’s figures? Obviously I think we should be told!