Batley Footpath 49

The long saga of Batley Footpath 49 has at last come to a satisfactory end with the path staying where it  has always been despite the best efforts of various landowners, solicitors and expert representatives.  Kirklees have been vindicated in their past enforcement action and in the accuracy of their Definitive Map.

Following an appeal by the landowner against Kirklees decision not to make an order the Inspector found no evidence that Batley Footpath 49 was incorrectly recorded on the Definitive Map. The decision can be viewed here  fps_z4718_14a_1_decision

Amusingly the inspector required Kirklees to make an order to add a footpath on land behind Hey Beck but this order has not been confirmed. See here row_3188272_od

Challenging the Definitive Map is a common tactic used by those wishing to deny legitimate public rights. It is particularly pleasing to note the final outcome on Batley Footpath 49.

 

Holmfirth Footpath 150 is open -ish

HF150 B (1 of 1)

150 (1 of 1)

The half dozen obstructions  on Holmfirth Footpath 150 have now been removed! The path does still have some problems of a boggy nature and the very top section which Kirklees signed as their path is now in Barnsley apparently. There is still work to be done here to get out onto the road.

It’s mildly amusing that Kirklees taxpayers have funded a public footpath sign in Barnsley and that Kirklees can conjure up these fun facts to avoid having to do anything on this short section. One might expect some cross authority liaison on such issues from our local highway authority to ensure  a proper job is done and perhaps to  avoid looking daft. In practice this doesn’t seem to be the case.

Greater Python Council

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This is a funny one. If you look at the image above you can see an ordinary farm gate behind the new security gate. The farm gate is on Holmfirth Footpath 131 and when Kirklees discovered the farm gate was being chained and locked rather than deal with the issue head on as per their statutory obligations to “assert and protect” public rights they decided to allow the gate to remain locked. This is pretty normal practice here.

There is a third gate in the photograph which was put in off the line of the public footpath to supposedly allow public access. Can you see it? No,most people don’t.

Not content with one locked gate denying public access a second locked security gate has been erected to further deny public access. Who can blame the landowner? Having established the precedent of it being ok to put a locked gate on a public path what could possibly be the problem with a second one?

Now this is the funny bit. Both gates have been reported to Kirklees and I have been advised that only one of them is actually on the public footpath – the farm gate. The new security gate is in fact in the highway verge, owned by Kirklees of course but dealt with by a different department containing exactly the same staff!!

Things began to feel a little surreal and I felt I’d slipped into a Monty Python sketch…..

Good Morning Sir! I’m Barry Bureaucrat  Department of Dodgy Gates, Greater Python Council. How can I be of assistance?

Well I’d like to report a locked gate on local footpath please Barry.

Oh yes very good sir. Now what kinda gate we talking about here? Field Gate? Pedestrian Gate? Kissing Gate,nudge nudge wink wink know what I mean sir? Or maybe a fabled Norwegian Blue Gate sir? Got a load of  Spanish Inquisition gates out the back. Nobody wants them! We cover most requirements here!

Well Barry it’s just a normal farm gate with a padlock here on Holmfirth Footpath 131.

Oohh dear I can’t help you with that one sir. Blimey no way! There’d be a Spanish Inquisition.Nooobody wants that!

Sorry to hear that Barry. What’s the problem?

Ah well you see sir we kinda said it was, well you know, ok to put a lock and chain on there and that we’d turn a blind eye to it. If you know what I mean. Nudge nudge wink wink eh? Know what I mean?

Oh not sure I do Barry .What about public access ?

Thought of that one sir and we put a narrow little gate in that you can hardly see just down one side. Was left over from another bodged job somewhere. Once you find it just squeeze through there and your on your way,if you know what I mean. Streets ahead aren’t we? It’s a proper little free range gate that one. Don’t belong to us ‘cos it’s not on the path see? Clever init? Know what I mean?

Oh that’s a shame. Perhaps I can report another gate then?

Of course sir! Be only to delighted to help you with your little problem. Nudge nudge wink wink eh?

Well Barry it’s this big fuck off security gate immediately in front of the locked farmers gate you say you can’t do anything about. Can you help remove this one?

Oooh no way sir. Absolute no no that one!!! Completely outside of my remit that! Different department altogether.If you know what I mean.

You mean there’s more than one Dodgy Gate Department at Greater Pyton Council?

Of course sir! It’s a very complex technical area these gates are! The Council’s taken a view to invest heavily in Dodgy Gate Departments because of all the …er …well dodgy locked gates we lets anybody put up on public footpaths. Nudge nudge eh? Know what I mean?

I see. So which department do I need to visit.

Oh I can help you there sir! Soon sort your little problem out! Nudge nudge eh? Know what I mean? You need the Department of Dodgy Gates in the Highways Verge sir! Specialists they are! Go up to floor x and it’s the last office on the right.

Oh ok. Thanks for your “help” Barry.

After a long haul up the stairs I arrived at floor x and the last office on the right “Department of Dodgy Gates.Highways verges. I rang the bell.

Good morning sir!Barry Bureaucrat Department of Dodgy Gates Highways verges Greater Python Council. How can I help you ? Know what I mean? Eh?

Based on a true story as they say.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“We do not appear to prosecute as many people as we could” say Kirklees Council

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So back on 19th January after reading of an Enforcement Success In Kirklees I wrote directly to Councillor Mather,the Cabinet member with responsibility for enforcement .  After a bit of chasing I got one of those “Friday Afternoon” replies the Council excel at from one of Cllr Mather’s Little Helpers. Cllr Mather’s response to my question ” In the full survey of the rights of way network carried out by Kirklees in 2007 some 1064 illegal obstructions were recorded (that’s 1.5 obstructions per mile). I wonder if you could let me know if any prosecutions were undertaken by the Council as a result of these findings”. contains the admission that the council “does not appear to prosecute as many people as we could” and “There have been no prosecutions taken by the council as a result of the PROW survey back in 2007″ 

Sadly the reasons for this depressingly poor performance are then justified by the the usual faded and jaded excuses.The  odd claim that “this is in the main because they are not as straight forward as you think.” is used. This contradicts Cllr Mather’s and the Council’s account of the wind turbine  case which paints a very efficient and professional picture of Council enforcement action. It’s very hard not to come to the obvious conclusion that there are no prosecutions in Kirklees for offences on rights of way because the Council just don’t give a toss.

This is further demonstrated by the conveniently vague claim that  “The council has taken the view to try and resolve as many issues as it can without the need to pursue a prosecution”  If this approach  exists I think Cllr Mather has missed an opportunity to share information on how many issues of obstruction have been resolved through these means since 2007. Has the number of recorded obstructions reduced from 1064 by using this mysterious approach?

The trump card for Kirklees as ever is “We’re skint.Go away” and Cllr Mather’s response pulls that one out right at the end  with  “Government funding dictates where the council’s priorities lie.” Funny that because I don’t recall a land of milk and honey pre 2007 on the rights of way network here. Let’s face it those 1064 obstructions were built up in the halcyon pre austerity days. A rather damning indictment of the Council’s performance when well funded rather than how it is performing now.

I don’t recall any prosecutions in the past 23 years either. Austerity is not the problem here it is the prevailing culture of indifference by the mostly labour controlled council, poor management by officials and senior executives  so out of touch with the people they serve they may as well not be here.

Austerity is the Councils get out of jail free card regarding it’s responsibilities for public rights of way. It will come and go like these things do but the culture surrounding Kirklees Council’s poor treatment of rights of way will be harder to change.

Of course Cllr Mather was full of enthusiasm earlier this week when arguing and voting in favour of the proposal to raise council tax by some 6% for the coming year. For this kind of money I would like some more intelligent answers and less fobbing off.

If you’ve read this far,watched all your paint dry and grass grow here are the two letters referred to.

 

 Enforcement Kirklees Public Rights of Way.

I read with interest an article in the Examiner detailing the Councils successful prosecution of a wind turbine company at Hade Edge and the fines and costs associated with this action. Congratulations to the Council for taking this stance and protecting the public in this way.

This has prompted me to contact you in your role as the cabinet member for enforcement.

I’m sure you are aware that Kirklees Council also has a statutory duty to protect over 700 miles of public rights of way in the district and can similarly prosecute or take enforcement action against those who wilfully obstruct these public highways. Unfortunately prosecutions in this area (which are arguably more straightforward) are practically unheard of and I thought it may be worth bringing this to your attention in the hope that you may be able to look into this and let me know why this is so?

In the full survey of the rights of way network carried out by Kirklees in 2007 some 1064 illegal obstructions were recorded (that’s 1.5 obstructions per mile). I wonder if you could let me know if any prosecutions were undertaken by the Council as a result of these findings. Also I’d be interested to know what action the Council has undertaken in the last 10 years to address the high number of obstructions on public rights of way in Kirklees.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Kirklees Response

Cllr Mather, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Enforcement Management, has asked that I respond to your letter.

 Please accept my apologies for not replying sooner but we do have an extremely heavy workload at this time of the year. 

In answer to your question yes, we do not appear to prosecute as many people as we could and this is in the main because they are not as straight forward as you think. 

The council has taken the view to try and resolve as many issues as it can without the need to pursue a prosecution which can be time consuming, lengthy, expensive and not always the best use of council resources. 

There have been no prosecutions taken by the council as a result of the PROW survey back in 2007 as the council’s priorities have changed significantly since that time. 

The council has suffered a significant reduction in Government funding in the last decade of £197 million which is 60% of its budget. 

Government funding dictates where the council’s priorities lie. 

The council is currently reviewing the Environmental Enforcement Policy which will be considered by the council’ cabinet for approval.

 

 

 

Enforcement Success In Kirklees

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This case demonstrates the enforcement capabilities of Kirklees Council. It must have been a difficult and complex case to prove before a court and prosecute successfully. The fine and costs come to £50 odd grand according to the paper which sends out an incredibly strong signal to anyone else thinking of operating in this manner. Of course this is what councils should be doing to protect the environment and public from harm and nuisance where they have the duty and powers to do so.

One of the other  areas of responsibility Kirklees Council has is the  duty to protect over 700 miles of public rights of way in the district. Compared to proving before a court the harm done to residents by noise from a nearby wind turbine I would argue that prosecuting and proving one of the many examples of wilful obstruction to a public right of way is much more straightforward. Clearly Kirklees has the expertise and resources to prosecute such a straightforward matter. A number of successful and well publicised prosecutions for obstructing public rights of way would send out an equally strong message and,I would argue, deter others from obstructing public paths making management and use of the network easier in the long run.

I can’t recall  any recent examples of Kirklees prosecuting for wilful obstruction of a public path despite the many examples they have to choose from but perhaps they don’t publicise this aspect of thier work?