Holmfirth Footpath 31 Robinson Lane – Planning Appeal

Robinson Lane (1 of 1)
Holmfirth Footpath 31 Robinson Lane

The lovely Holmfirth Footpath 31 which is so characteristic of an unspoilt public path in the valley has found itself in the last chance saloon as Miller Homes  appeal the refusal of this planning application. The informal hearing is to be held on 20th March 2018 at the Town Hall Huddersfield.

 Town and Country Planning Act 1990 – Section 78
Appeal by Tim Williams, Miller Homes Limited
Site at Land off Woodhead Road, Brockholes, Holmfirth
Planning Reference: 2017/93326
Appeal Reference: APP/Z4718/W/17/3191803

The Hearing into this matter has now been arranged and will be held on
Tuesday, 20 March 2018 at Huddersfield Town Hall, Corporation Street,
Huddersfield, HD1 2TU commencing at 10.00am

 

Whitby Fishermen found trapped in large inland sea on a Kirklees public right of way.

 

Whitby (1 of 1)

A small whitby trawler and it’s 3 crew have been found safe and well in a newly formed inland lake  miles from the sea on Ramsden Road above Holmfirth in West Yorkshire. The trawlers captain, Bram Garbutt from Sandsend described how a navigational error on a misty morning on the Esk in Whitby led the crew to set a course inland and they now find themselves trapped in a previously undiscovered inland sea on a Kirklees public right of way.

“It’s not so bad up here” said Bram. “We trawl for land rover brake lights and in our spare time rescue ramblers who get into trouble in these treacherous waters.The sea’s no place for walkers”.  Bram told the blog that the crew can get down the river as far as the Picturedrome in Holmfirth to see the occasional tribute act and enjoy some cheesy chips from Atlantis. “But there’s no way past The Old Bridge and we are resigned to spending our days marooned on this public right of way far from the North Sea” he said.

When asked if any rescue attempts had been made by the local authority Bram told us “We put out a Mayday call but unfortunately the council have told us that due to government cuts the Kirklees Navy has been reduced to one scale model frigate which is currently in dry dock in Batley. The council air force has been cut back to those two blokes and a dog who fly little gliders off Holme Moss and we are out of their range. I suppose they could always send up a digger from Honley to drain the sea and put us on a train back to Whitby but we’re not holding our breath”

LakeR (1 of 1)
The previously undiscovered inland sea on Ramsden Road,Holmfirth. Thought to be the size of Wales scientists are amazed  that it has remained undiscovered for so long in this popular walking area. Bram and his crew can be seen landing a fresh catch of 4×4 brake lights on the small quay they’ve built themselves. 

 

Red Thelma V Battlestar Kirklees

Spaceship

Sad to read today that our erstwhile head teacher and popular tory slayer Red Thelma MP has been reduced to a mere mortal. Stripped of her magic powers the only weapon left is the questionable and antiquated “writing to the Chief Exec” pen and paper approach.

The pressing matter at hand is the long saga of the iconic Mount Pleasant School Clock Tower and it’s imminent demolition. It would seem there is a suspicion of a bit of sleight of hand in how Kirklees has dealt with the issue which will of course surprise no one who reads this blog.

Will Red Thelma’s finely tuned missive get through to the elusive Captain of Battlestar Kirklees, Ginger Spice, who was last seen dealing with an ongoing natural disaster with Private Pandor outside the SS Civic 3 some weeks ago. Darth Sheard is also copied into the missive but his force is weakening and he seems to be exiled in Heckmondwike 6, a small band of book like planets beyond the Batley Belt. He wouldn’t answer anyway.

Many of us lesser mortals often try to breach the stark defences of the SS Civic 3 with primitive weapons such as letters to the “Chief Exec” but they never breach the indifference field which protects those inside from the great unwashed.

Red Thelma is probably unaware that such letters are hived off to middle ranking officials on small asteroids where they are incubated for 12 to 18 months in dusty folders while the council “takes a view” or awaits the growth of a suitably condescending tone at which point a reply can be safely released.

Be interesting to see if MP after Red Thelma makes a difference.

Greater Python Council

IMG_20171101_152608 (640x360)

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

stile10 (1 of 1)

 

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.

 

 

 

Divine intervention on Staffordshire Footpath.

God

Is this a sign? Is there a God? The divine intervention on a Staffordshire footpath has raised all sorts of deep philosophical questions. Not least can we have a visit from Reverend Oliver Harrison and his Godly bolt cutters here in Kirklees? Let us pray.

Reverend Harrison has taken direct action to reopen a public footpath and is quoted as saying “I dare them to take me to court. They are obstructing a public right of way for the pursuit of private profit.“For several years I have been campaigning to get this footpath reopened. My pleas to the council and to the owners and operators of the quarry seem to have stalled, so I have now taken direct action. I am not taking the law into my own hands, this is a legal right of way, a public access, a footpath. We deserve and we demand to have our rights respected and the footpath open and accessible.”

Amen to that!

 

 

 

A Baker’s Dozen.

HOL-131 double fence and stiles repairs (1 of 1)

Many people are unaware that stiles on public footpaths are illegal obstructions unless they are recorded on the Definitive Map and statement or have been properly authorised by the local highway authority. A highway authority is required to keep records of all such authorisations and ought to make such records publicly available. The stiles themselves are maintainable by the landowner who is legally obliged to keep them in good order. Highway authorities have powers to carry out enforcement works should they fail to do so and recover costs incurred. Highway authorities also have a duty to consider the needs of people with mobility problems  when authorising structures such as stiles on public footpaths.

So much for the law and government advice. In reality none of this is done and that was plain to see on a recent walk of less than 3 miles when I crossed 17 stiles and  collected a baker’s dozen of dodgy ones.

See for yourself.

stile13 (1 of 1)
Stile no. 1 A bit of an afterthought?
stile1 (1 of 1)
Stile no.2 More hurdle than stile
stile2 (1 of 1)
Stile no.3 The earth moves on this one!
stile3 (1 of 1)
Stile no.4 Crumbling away
stile4 (1 of 1)
Stile no.5 This is basically a see saw
stile5 (1 of 1)
Stile no.6 Going,going,gone
stile8 (1 of 1)
Stile no.7 WTF?
stile6 (1 of 1)
Stile no.8 More earth moving here
stile7 (1 of 1)
Stile no.9 Even though the stone stile is walled up Farmer Brown just had to nail something across,just in case.
stile9 (1 of 1)
Stile no.10 Rotten
stile10 (1 of 1)
Stile no.11 Lonely?
stile11 (1 of 1)
Stile no.12 One for the tidy farmers awards
stile12 (1 of 1)
Unlucky for some Stile no.13 WTF2?

 

Washpit Mills

washpit (1 of 1) (800x533)

It looks like the developers have added an altogether slicker operator to present the second attempt to develop Washpit Mills. Bit of a shame as I rather liked the hapless “I don’t know what you’ve got to do” honesty of the last one  !

In the   new  application for some 51 houses we are spoilt for choice with information running to some 40 plans and 8 supporting documents including a 187 page transport assessment!

Oddly there is only a cryptic mention of the public right of way which runs through the site. This has been used by vehicles,horses,cyclists and walkers for as long as the mill has been there. It was of course blocked off immediately the developer took over the site which is what you’d expect. As the route is not recorded on Kirklees weird and wonderful Definitive Map it is open to abuse on two counts 1) Closure by the landowner (tick) and 2) Any claim made to add the path to the Definitive Map being parked up at Her Majesty’s pleasure on the Councils rather badly named “Priority List” (oh another tick there too).

So the access road within the development will be built over a longstanding public right of way. This is described in the transport assessment as  “The new access roads and all communal areas within the site are to remain privately maintained will be covered by an appropriate legal agreement. Current lawful rights of access through the complex are respected and will be retained. ” Not so clear if this means public or private rights of access?

In the old proposal I’m sure there was an undertaking to fund  improvement work to Holmfirth Footpath 195 which runs from opposite the site through to Dunford Road and the bus stop but this seems to have been dropped. Whilst the new transport assessment waxes lyrically about  “Walking stimulates both personal health and the health of communities and local
economies. Government health improvement advice states that just 30 minutes brisk
walking 5 times a week can bring about significant reductions in the risk of coronary
heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes” and “the site can be accessed via the public rights of way network which provides an alternative part segregated pedestrian route that are available to Holmfirth”  

Whilst I wouldn’t want reality to get in the way  I think it’s fair to say Holmfirth Footpath 195  is unusable by  future residents living the green dream and wishing to head off to work in their office clothes via the path and onwards from the bus stop. It’s a quagmire to be avoided between the end of August and mid July. Neglected by the council and suffering from a year round land drainage problem unless you’ve a good pair of wellies and a change of clothes I’d give it a miss.

Holmfirth 195 Drainage (1 of 1)
“The site can be accessed via the public rights of way network which provides an alternative part segregated pedestrian route that are available to Holmfirth.” Photo shows the rather soggy reality.

The Chief Exec’s Leaves

DSCF0938

This  Piece of “investigative journalism” from our local paper rather neatly illustrates real life being stranger than fiction. In my little attempt to poke fun at IPROW the other day I invented a pile of leaves, a chief executive and a council officer who made the seemingly simple task of clearing up a bin bags worth of leaves into a complex legal issue.

Here in Kirklees such a pile of leaves actually exists by the entrance to Civic Centre 3 in Huddersfield. Local tory councillor John Taylor (pictured standing by a skip and looking unkempt in the article) is quoted as saying he has complained about the leaves 3 times! Firstly to Naz Parker ,Director of Place then Jackie Gedman,Chief Executive and finally to Cllr Pandor,Deputy Leader of the council no less.

It seems the combined talents of these three high fliers has resulted in …well nothing happening. This will come as no surprise to readers of this blog but perhaps illustrates the chronic ineffectiveness of Kirklees even on it’s own doorstep so to speak. What chance a public footpath a few miles out of Huddersfield?

Not wanting to be completely negative there is an obvious solution to this leafy problem. The chief Exec can hold the bin bag, Director of Place can sweep and Cllr Pandor can shovel up the leaves. Perhaps not the cheapest way to clear a pile of leaves but it would make a great publicity shot for The Examiner?

Things on Footpaths that probably shouldn’t be there…

The end of the month and here’s January’s edition of Things on Footpaths…some pics of the many things the walker has to climb over, go round or turn back from in Kirklees. Keeps you fit if nothing else.

Fence HOL-134-10 (1 of 1)
When is a stile not a stile? When it’s just a poorly disguised fence.
HOL 144-20 drainage (1 of 1)
So wet even the mole has come up for air.
 HOL-131 double fence and stiles repairs (1 of 1).jpg
Being attached to planet earth is a basic requirement for stile steps.
Xmas Tree (1 of 1)
Xmas over for another year.
HOL 145-60 sign (1 of 1)
Er…no. It’s a public footpath
HOL 145-10 padlock (1 of 1)
Keeping things under lock & key shouldn’t really include public paths.
HOL 152-10 obstruction2 (1 of 1)
Fence,bales & a barn!
Wall&gateobs.jpg
Someone’s playing jenga with the wall stile.
Holmfirth 195 Drainage (1 of 1)
Another storage site for the EU mud mountain. At least brexit will sort this out.
Holmfirth 154-10 surface wks 30 Dec 2017 (1 of 1).jpg
One for the horses – a bridleway.
Fence HOL-134-10 b stone stile (1 of 1)
Lets make this really hard. Knock two big chunks of wood on  and a tricky strand of barbed wire. That’ll put ’em off.
Holmfirth 65 fence obstruction (1 of 1)
It moves!
HOL 152-10 obstructio (1 of 1).jpg
This missing stile step is the least of this paths problems,believe me!