The secretary of state has declined to make the order diverting Holmfirth Footpath 60 at Wolfstones. In the words of the decision –
The Secretary of State notes the Inspector’s observations and his particular conclusions at IR7.43 – 7.49 that the benefits of the scheme and of stopping up and diverting the highway, as conferred by the Order, would not outweigh the disadvantages put forward in the objections. He considers that the inconvenience that would be caused to highway users to be of a significance where he cannot support the implementation of the Order.
An occasional PathWatch column from our special political correspondent Doris Kunsberg-Bottom of the Heckmondwike Courier.
A fairly quiet Huddersfield Planning Sub Committee this month with only one minor rights of way issue. Item no.7 was introduced by the Chair and ex coal carrying champion Cllr Terry Lyons with a rather tart ” I think we’ve discussed this more than enough”. The item relates to Holmfirth 60 at Wolfstones and the proposed verge improvements which were always the reddest of red herrings in the diversion proposal. Kirklees won’t be taking up the applicants offer to tart up the verge after all. Incredibly this was an “emergency decision” taken by the council’s Strategic Director, Colin Parr. The Courier were hoping to do a “day in the life of a Kirklees Strategic Director” but there wasn’t enough material.
The main item on the agenda were the “improvements” to Holmfirth town centre which involve the demolition of Holmfirth Market Hall and construction of a car park and small public area in it’s place. A fair swap?
The original proposals would have turned the whole of Holmfirth into an inner ring road for Plevin wagons but such was the level of objection these were shelved. Relieved at saving the town centre the public have perhaps taken their eye off the ball and accepted a shoddy proposal without too much scrutiny.
Local shopper Shirley Spendthrift who loves a bargain told the Courier “The market hall has been deliberately run down by Kirklees who’ve been happy to see a once thriving building die. All the easier to get rid of it when the time came. That time is now. As a sop they’ve granted a market licence to a third party, surely knowing an outdoor market here will never succeed, and have agreed to modify the plans so that volunteers can fish shopping trolleys from the river more easily and …er …yes that’s it!”
The courier also spoke to Kevin McCloud a well respected architect who told us. “There’s no need for more parking or cars in Holmfirth. The market hall could have been replaced with something smaller and designed as an attraction like the crook barn at Penistone market. Along with complimentary public space and real riverside access this could have formed an attractive and lively public area. The lack of imagination and aspiration here speaks for itself.”
The real highlight of the sub committee meeting was local ward councillor Donald Firth who rang in from the middle ages to object to the proposal, talk about rats, ducks, people he didn’t know and insult several members of the public who had spoken very eloquently in favour of the proposal. In one of the wonders of the modern world 7,000 people voted to re elect him to Kirklees Council last year. You might well say Holmfirth only has itself to blame.
Councillor Nigel Patrick played a minor cameo. As ever typecast as a sinister Victorian mill owner he warned of economic catastrophe and large scale unemployment should the supply of baps to the bakers and Daily Mails to the newsagents be disrupted by having to cross the road.
One thing that really struck me is that if Kirklees can’t run a market in Holmfirth at a cost of £15k a year how is it going to manage a hotel in Huddersfield where the bill is already at £11 million? Doris Kunsberg-Bottom, Political Correspondent, Heckmondwike Courier.
The public inquiry into diversion of Holmfirth Footpath 60 at Wolfstones reopens on 28th January 2022. At some point thereafter a decision will be made by the Inspector. Hopefully the order will not be confirmed and direct access to Wolfstone Heights will be maintained for the public benefit.
The final day of the inquiry is to hear closing submissions. The councils advocate’s statement can be read here . It’s a balanced and accurate case which reflects what was said at the inquiry.
The public Inquiry into the proposed stopping up and diversion of Holmfirth 60 takes place on 23rd of August. The Department of Transport publish documents relating to the inquiry here and it is regularly updated.
This process is funded by the taxpayer. So if you want to see what your money is spent on, are interested in the path or just can’t sleep, it’s worth a read.
Kirklees Council have made an order to modify the Definitive Map & Statement in respect of Holmfirth Footpath 60. The order if, confirmed, would increase the width of the path to between 3 and 4 metres along the enclosed section of path off Wolfstones Road. This would reflect historical and contemporary use of the path by public users.
The order and associated documents can be viewed here
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.
The vote is in line with the council’s previous decision refusing the S257 application in January 2020. Last week Holme Valley parish Council also voted to object to the current diversion order.
The Secretary of State will either have to decide the matter at a public inquiry or use his discretion and abandon the process. Given the level, consistency and quality of objections the latter would seem a more appropriate course of action and would have the added benefit of protecting valuable public funds.
Meanwhile on the ground a new fence has sprung up. Members of the public who pay taxes to fund department of transport diversion orders and public inquiries are now confined to a 1.2 metre width (all the definitive map & statement currently record). What a wonderful irony that in the midst of a global pandemic a public way which has been physically about 4 meters wide since the 1826 Netherthong Enclosure Awards is now reduced to a fraction of its former self in 2020 when we need it most. The commoners of 1826 were in a much better position to socially distance than the long suffering ramblers of 2020 as far as Holmfirth Footpath 60 is concerned.
The committee papers for Holmfirth 60 are now available here . Sadly the officer recommendation to the planning committee is that a diversion order should be made. As committee members usually vote in line with officers advice this is both a worrying and baffling recommendation. It represents a new nadir for rights of way management in Kirklees and a shining example of the value placed on our wonderful paths (not much?Ed) by our council.
Local walking and running groups and many individuals from the community oppose the diversion of Footpath 60. These are the same groups and individuals who contribute much to keeping the rights of way network and much other local green infrastructure open and serviceable because the council cannot or will not do so.
It is clear that Kirklees has reservations about the diversion of Footpath 60. Although the recommendation is to make an order to divert the path, at the same time the recommendation states that if objections to the order are made (which they will be) the council will not actively seek confirmation of the diversion order.
In effect this recommendation (if approved) passes the decision to a future public inquiry where Kirklees will sit on the sidelines and saving the path will be left to volunteers. Public Inquiries are expensive and funded entirely by the public. So not only are the public at risk of losing a long established and much valued footpath, they will also pay handsomely for the privilege. Kirklees has badly lost its way here.
Kirklees officers have more than enough information to recommend to committee that an order should not be made. The original mistake in not identifying Footpath 60 as a direct off road link to Wolfstones , an area of public resort, was made by Kirklees officers and has never been acknowledged or addressed. That information in itself is significant enough to recommend an order is not made yet it has been gaslighted out of existence.
As guardian of our public rights of way network Kirklees is not fit for purpose by any measure. Will Holmfirth Footpath 60 become the latest victim next Thursday?
The application to divert this popular path which gives direct access to public land at Wolfstones will be heard at the Huddersfield Planning Sub Committee next week. Details of the meeting are here .
It is highly unlikely that any of the councillors on the committee have heard of this path ,let alone use it. Most of them probably won’t read the papers that accompany the committee report and none have any training in public rights of way matters. However it is their decision whether to authorise a legal order to divert this path away from it’s destination and onto a road. If you use and value the path and have the time please consider attending the meeting to put your view to the committee members. It is at 13:00 hrs at the Town Hall in Huddersfield on January 30th.
Some points to consider
There is no obligation at all for the committee to give authority for the making of a diversion order. Just because the application is related to a planning permission it does not follow that an order has to be made.
The planning permission is for a car parking area and a link between 2 buildings. There is no planning gain for the public here ie houses to live in, improved highway network etc. However there is a the significant loss of a very popular long standing public path. The loss of the public amenity and enjoyment is very significant and and is not outweighed by any public benefit from the development.
As previously reported here Kirklees planners and Rights of Way accepted this application without the full knowledge that the path is the only direct (off road) public access to the area of public land at Wolfstones. This was a serious error.
The proposed new path is substantially less convenient for walkers heading to Wolfstones. It turns at 90 degrees off the current direct route and ends up on a road some distance away. Walkers then have to back track to reach the access to Wolfstones. Currently the path goes straight there. Most of us walk to get away from cars and roads and to enjoy the quiet countryside.
Kirklees have recently declared a climate emergency and developed an action plan. The plan aims to increase walking in the district by 20% it also states “The Council will continue to develop and promote sustainable and active travel and ensure that Kirklees is recognised as a great place to walk and cycle, inspiring more people to walk and cycle more often as a mode of transport, for work, leisure or for sport”. This proposal makes a popular circular route harder and less attractive to the public and will lead to less public use.This conflicts with the councils stated aims outlined in the climate emergency plan.
The proposal is also at odds with the Councils Rights of Way Improvement Plan which aims to boost green tourism, short circular walks,local culture and heritage and access for those with disabilities. Effectively diverting a public path onto a road goes against these aims.
Should the committee be minded to grant authority for a diversion order they should instruct officers to abandon the current “neutral” stance which they are taking and take a stance against the order in the future and at any subsequent public inquiry.