Holmfirth Bridleway 68 & 169 – “Nothing to see here now run along” response from Kirklees

BWWorks (1 of 1)
The grey concrete style stone blending in nicely.

If like me you contacted Kirklees Council this week about the resurfacing of these bridleways with a “sandstone” that has the appearance of concrete you’ll have received a classic fob off email this afternoon. It’s taken from the Kirklees Infinite Book of Excuses “Easy ways to avoid answering tricky questions” chapter. Basically select one thing you are right about and ignore everything else.

In my case I had checked with the Council about the surfacing material which looked like a dry concrete mix. The appearance is so convincing the Council had to take a sample and get reassurances from Kelder Group which included a receipt from the quarry. I never mentioned the bridleway being concreted in my email. And had clarified that point on here.

I still got this email answering a question I hadn’t asked

This email is blind copied to recipients. Thank you for contacting Kirklees council.

The Council received reports earlier in the year from the public, regarding works to the above bridleways, undertaken on behalf of the landowner. Council officers concluded that the works were inappropriate and that further work would be required. The contractor had permission from Kirklees PROW to carry out more recent works, laying a top dressing over parts of the bridleway. The specification for the recent surfacing material was 20mm to dust sandstone aggregate. Council officers have confirmation from the quarry that this is what was delivered. The specification agreed with the landowner did not include agreement to add cement, and the contractor undertaking the works for the landowner states that none has been added during the surfacing works. We have samples of the surfacing material from the site, both before and after the works.

This email is copied to officials at Peak District NPA, who have been contacted by some of you.

The “jog on pal” response ignores the questions I asked…

  1. As kelder Group have not used a local stone can the council ask them to remove all the limestone and grey stone from the bridleways?
  2. Can the Council advise Kelder Group that no further works are to be carried out on the bridleways without a full consultation with the peak park and user groups?
  3. I also highlighted the poor standard of work, the leaching of the grey stone onto adjacent land and the fact that the bridleways were not out of repair.

There’s a quarry about a mile away which could have  supplied a local stone which when weathered would match what is on the bridleway. Tingley quarry is 20 miles away and obviously produces a different quality of stone in terms of colour and texture. It simply does not fit the sensitive environment it has been placed in.

Kirklees were on the ball with their robust response to the planning applications but have  managed to snatch  defeat from the jaws of victory with the attitude taken towards these awful resurfacing works.

BWWorks2 (1 of 1)
The bridleways original condition

Kirklees seem to think Kelder Group are an altruistic organisation who completely out of the blue wish to resurface a public bridleway at their own expense. Meanwhile back in the real world most of us can put two and two together and see the works for what they really are. An attempt to improve vehicular access to Bartin & Greaves Farms in connection with two recently refused planning applications which may yet go to appeal.

It’s no surprise that Kirklees sides with those wishing to take advantage of public property for  private gain. It’s much easier than doing things properly  and I suspect far less scary for them to send out a “Round Robin” email to concerned members of the public telling them to get lost rather than challenge a private company.

 

Denby Dale Bridleway 102 – Langley Lane Update.

20171020_135104 (974x1024)

Denby Dale Parish Council are discussing the planning application affecting this bridleway on Tuesday 31st October 2017 at their Plans Scrutiny Meeting 7pm at the Council Offices in Skelmanthorpe. There is a 15 minute slot at the start of the meeting for members of the public to raise any issues.

Now might be a good time to email the clerk of the council to raise any concerns about this application clerk@denbydale.com or indeed contact your Parish Councillors whose contact details are here 

I’ve had a great response to this issue with lots of people getting in touch and also commenting on the application. Clearly the bridleway is a much valued local amenity and people are more than willing to do something in an effort to keep it that way.

Denby Dale Bridleway 102 Langley Lane

 

20171020_135104 (974x1024)
Denby Dale Bridleway 102 Langley Lane

Here we go again! This planning application at Emley Lodge Farm is for the first of an anticipated 4 dwellings. The site is accessed along over 900m of public rights of way. Nearly all of that is on the narrow unmade bridleway Denby Dale 102,Langley Lane and then a short section of Denby Dale Footpath 102. Four new properties equates to the best part of 4,000 new vehicular journeys per year on this unmade bridleway according to the government’s National Travel Survey

That’s quite significant by anyone’s standards and is bound to have a negative effect on the public bridleways surface condition, which is already suffering, and of course it will inevitably lead to conflict with public users of the bridleway. As you can see from the photo above the bridleway is essentially an unmade lane giving access to agricultural land. It is narrow and bounded by hedges making it impossible for two vehicles to pass let alone a vehicle and horse to pass each other. Clearly it was never built to carry modern motor vehicles.

Regular readers will not be surprised to learn that the application drawn up by a professional firm makes no mention of the fact that the site is accessed by Denby Dale Bridleway 102 which is described only as an “unmade access”. Because this essential fact is ignored the application is defective as public rights of way are a material consideration in the planning process. The Council cannot therefore properly consider the application, if it does it’s job properly.(I know big IF that one).

I believe there are good grounds to object to this proposal because the applicant has completely overlooked the access problems and not properly considered the effects on Denby Dale Bridleway 102. Furthermore the Council should refuse the application because the intensification of motor traffic is incompatible with the lanes bridleway status,there is nowhere for riders to pass a vehicle,the surface will be damaged by vehicles and of course the lane is used by many walkers and cyclists who’s enjoyment of the  amenity would be negatively impacted by the development.

The bigger picture of course is one of intense pressure on the Kirklees rights of way network from development and in particular the effects on bridleways which are a very scarce resource to start with. I don’t think we can afford to damage or lose anymore.

Comments are open until 2nd November 2017

                                               Here is Langley Lane

Holmfirth Bridleways 68 &189. More info.

WessWesVan (1 of 1)
A van on the new road… opps,sorry bridleway to Greaves & Bartin.

Having made some enquiries it seems the resurfacing of these bridleways is more cock up than conspiracy. Yorkshire Water have confirmed that they have carried out the works with…wait for it….permission from Kirklees Council. Yes that’s the same Kirklees Council who have a legal duty to assert and protect the rights  of users of public rights of way. In this case that’s walkers, riders & cyclists. These groups are well represented in Kirklees and it’s interesting to ponder why none of their representative groups were consulted on the works to these popular but vulnerable bridleways?

It seems the Council received complaints back in the winter when Yorkshire Water made a ham fisted attempt to cover sections of the bridleways with limestone. Subsequently the Council agreed that Yorkshire Water could carry out resurfacing works but with a local sandstone sized 20mm to dust. It doesn’t appear that the Council asked any questions as to why an organisation like Yorkshire Water which is part of the bigger Kelder Group who also own Bartin & Greaves Farmsteads would suddenly wish to resurface a public bridleway at its own expense. Someone doing something for nothing? Surely not?

At the same time as these discussions were going on between Kirklees and Yorkshire Water Kirklees were objecting very strongly to the planning applications at Bartin & Greaves. It seems odd to me that the Council didn’t put 2 + 2 together and realise that Yorkshire Water’s sudden rush of altruism in wishing to resurface the bridleways must surely be linked to the companies planning applications who’s access is entirely along these bridleways. I’ll quote directly from the Council’s written submission which was excellent by the way!

KC PROW objects to the application in its role on behalf of the council as highway authority for public rights of way in Kirklees. The application submissions are silent and inadequate in terms of public rights of way. The submissions make no mention that the access to the property from the public vehicular highway network at Acres lane is entirely along public bridleways Holmfirth 68 & 189.
No submission is made on the impact of the development, both construction and use, on users of the public bridleways. The lack of information in submissions is of concern. The application refers to the “adequate width and construction” of Nether Lane (public bridleway 189), however recent works to the public bridleway have been undertaken without authority of this council as the highway authority for the public bridleways; those works have included the importation and use of unauthorised non-vernacular surfacing materials.
Public bridleways are relatively scarce in Kirklees and the network north of Digley reservoir is one of our area’s main resources for riders and merits adequate protection. The site is remote from the public vehicular highway network, over 2200m away along the public bridleway, and a significant distance from any public transport service or even small centre of population. Sustainability is an evident question for the planning authority to consider, particularly in this isolated important landscape which forms part of the very popular Digley area, important for local recreation and public access to the countryside,including in-bye land and moorland.
The red line boundary shown in submissions does not include all land necessary to develop the site, unless development is proposed to take place on foot, cycle and horseback. The submissions do not include any blue line boundary for further ownership outside the red line. The submissions appear inadequate for members of the public to fairly and easily identify and consider the merits and effect of the application proposals. KC PROW would ask the PDNPA to consider the benefits of requiring further information in additional or amended submissions and then re-advertising the applications. The lack of public rights of way information in submissions may give the impression that the applicant is avoiding this
material topic, which may mislead the public.
Much of the access from Acres Lane is narrow, with insufficient space for the passing of two vehicles, and insufficient for passing of even vehicle and rider over a number of lengths (e.g.White Walls Lane over a length of 180m+, and the corners and straight approaching Bartin). Intensification of use of this access by motor vehicles would have a negative effect on public bridleway use and peaceful enjoyment of this special part of the PDNP within Kirklees.
KC PROW does not agree with claims made in the application that the application
submissions address all relevant points for consideration. Public rights of way are a material consideration in the planning process and have been largely, if not entirely, ignored, despite the applicant’s knowledge of their existence and location and despite the inclusion in submissions of “access” and “planning” statements.

To add a rich layer of irony to the situation Yorkshire Water’s contractors arrived on site on the very day that the Peak Park Planning Committee were discussing the planning applications. As park officers were advising the committee of the special qualities of the landscape and the recreational value of the rights of way here and in particular the bridleways, Yorkshire Water’s men in hi viz were tipping large amounts of a concrete like aggregate on the bridleways surface,blinding it in with rollers and in effect making a nice smooth road to Bartin & Greaves farmsteads.

Joined up thinking between our public bodies? The peak park, Kirklees Council and even various sections within the Council would appear to not so much know what the left hand is doing but are completely unaware they have a left hand or even an arm with it on. The only people who are on the ball here are Yorkshire Water/Kelder Group.

Moving on to to the material used to resurface the bridleway. It does look and have the consistency of a dry concrete mix but I am assured by Kirklees who are assured by Yorkshire Water that there is no cement in with the aggregate. The stone used although grey and very sticky is, I’m assured by Kirklees who are assured by Yorkshire Water, sandstone from a quarry at Tingley. Very reassuring.

This stone is inappropriate for surfacing a sandstone bridleway. It looks like concrete and has ruined the aesthetics of these historic bridleways which have been largely untouched since the time of the enclosures when they were built.  The bridleways did not require any resurfacing and were more than adequate for their normal traffic of agricultural vehicles and recreational use by the public. They were not however in a fit state to provide vehicular access to any future residents of Bartin & Greaves Farms nor would they look very good to any planning inspector involved in a planning appeal.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing but isn’t required here as what’s going on is so blindingly obvious. If the public reported illegal surfacing works on a bridleway which gives the only access to 2 properties subject to 2 very contentious planning applications it’s pretty plain what is going on. All Kirklees had to do was stop the works and advise that no further works were to be undertaken. How hard can it be?

Regular readers might be noticing a pattern by now in how Kirklees behaves in regard to its responsibilities on public rights of way. Uppermost in the Council’s corporate mind should be its duty to assert and protect public rights but in the short time I’ve been writing this blog this has been largely absent. The Council are only to willing to consult the Kirklees Infinite Book of Excuses when a member of the public reports a problem on a right of way, and austerity has been a godsend for them in this respect, whilst at the same time they cannot bend over far enough for anyone sailing close to the wind or acting illegally on those very same public rights of way.

 

 

 

 

Holmfirth Bridleways 68 & 189

20171018_180021
Roadway built over Holmfirth Bridleways 68 & 169

Last Friday 13th October 2017 the planning applications for Bartin and Greave farmsteads were refused by the peak park planning committee at Bakewell. One of the concerns discussed by the committee was the access which is entirely along Holmfirth bridleways 68 & 169 and the negative effects the increased traffic would have on the recreational users of the bridleways. The committee were also very concerned about the potential negative effects of the developments on the wider unspoilt surrounding landscape.

This week the bridleways have been regraded and resurfaced with what appears to be a dry concrete mix(update from Kirklees who took a sample of the material – it isn’t concrete although it has that colour/appearance) over large areas of the 2km length. This work has ruined what was an unspoilt and unchanged sandstone surfaced bridleway. It has created a visible scar in the landscape which the planning committee were so conscious to protect last Friday. Clearly the intention is to create a roadway into Bartin & Greave but who would do such a thing?

I have asked Yorkshire Water Estates if they have any information as to who has carried out the works,whether it has planning permission or permission from the highway authority, Kirklees Council and await their reply.

In the meantime enjoy some more images of this wonderful piece of work in our oldest national park.

20171018_180318

20171018_180447

Bartin Greave 3 (1 of 1)
How it looked

Here are the bridleways

Holmfirth Footpath 31 Robinson Lane & Miller Homes

Robinson Lane (1 of 1)
Holmfirth Footpath 31 Robinson Lane. Proposal for road to 134 houses to be built over the lane.

Planning application 2017/60/93326/W is the twin of this brute which proposes to confine the lovely cross field path  of Holmfirth 31 between gardens retaining walls and beneath a tunnel to allow the construction of 72 houses.

The second application is for a further 62 houses on two further fields adjacent to the walled lane section of Holmfirth 31(Robinson Lane). The application proposes to build the adopted estate road for these 134 houses across Holmfirth Footpath 31(Robinson Lane). So what is now an historic,characterful,peaceful and traffic free lane will be crossed by a road carrying every car,delivery and service vehicle etc into an estate of 134 houses.

The application lacks any detail as to how this crossing point will be constructed and how Footpath 31(Robinson Lane) will be accommodated at this point. Nor is there any detail as to how both legs of footpath 31 will be treated during the construction phase. In fact there is very little said in the application beyond –

“A public right of way (footpath) runs through the Western field diagonally to link
Woodhead Road with Robinson Lane, this route along with Robinson Lane is to be
accommodated and retained as part of the proposals (Kirklees ref Hol131/40).”

“Accommodated” simply means both legs of Footpath 31 will be changed to fit the development and whilst the public will still be able to pass from A to B when the development is complete all the rural character and amenity value will disappear. Gone will be the green cross field footpath where you might walk a dog or have a picnic. Gone will be the historic and characterful  Robinson Lane. Both replaced by something much less appealing and user friendly.

The application proposes that the estate road joins Woodhead Road close to where Holmfirth Footpath 31 (Robinson Lane) also joins Woodhead Road. There is no consideration in the application as to how this additional hazard in terms of increased traffic and turning/exiting vehicles is to be mitigated for pedestrians exiting Footpath 31 and crossing Woodhead Road at this point. It is simply ignored.

I believe there are grounds for a reasonable objection to the application in relation to a lack of detail in considering  how Holmfirth Footpath 31(Robinson Lane) is treated, both in regards to the estate road being built over it and  in terms of an increased hazard to pedestrians caused by the new junction on Woodhead Road .

There is no need to cut Holmfirth Footpath 31(Robinson Lane) in two with an estate road. This roadway should be put beneath the public footpath to retain the path’s it traffic free condition and save some of the it’s rural and historic character.

A pedestrian crossing is required where the path joins Woodhead Road to allow safe passage for pedestrians over this busy road and new hazardous junction.

Comments are open on the application until 25th October 2017.

 

 

Updates

cropped-holmevalley-1-of-1

I’ve had confirmation this week that Friday the 13th October 2017 is the date for the Bartin & Greaves Planning Applications to go before the Peak Park Planning Committee in Bakewell. Also received a request from the peak park planners to use some of my photographs in their presentation to the committee which illustrate the unspoilt isolation of Bartin & Greave.

As mentioned previously if you have commented on the applications you can speak at the meeting. Details of what to do here

On another planning issue the application mentioned here to replace a set of illegal gates on a Huddersfield path with some big shiny new illegal gates has been withdrawn. A step in the right direction.

On the issue of gates on public footpaths the law is very clear. Any gate can only be authorised under Section 147 of the Highways Act 1980  for agricultural purposes or some other identified statute. Mr Justice Cranston further clarified the law in this judgement Yet from my discussions with Kirklees this week it seems this isn’t clear enough.

Meltham Bridleway 68 & other hard to see rights of way.

CastleHill (1 of 1)

Another example of rights of way being invisible by applicants in the planning process. Application number 2017/92986 is for a farm workers dwelling, access for which is along Meltham Bridleway 68.

Public rights of way are a material consideration in the planning process yet the professional agents who have drawn up this application state that access is “Private”. Odd that as it takes all of 30 seconds on the internet to find that the status of Deer Hill End Lane is in fact a public bridleway. The agents ought to have had a bit more work to do in considering how to deal with the bridleway in the context of the planning application. Instead it’s just not mentioned.

There’s an opportunity here for our cash strapped council to think creatively and secure some “planning gain” in terms of new and better signage of the bridleway and also some signage to make drivers aware of the bridleway and horses crossing on both Blackmoorfoot Road and Slaithwaite Road. These sort of improvements are perfectly reasonable but difficult to achieve when applicants “ignore” rights of way and planners have a tendency to overlook such detail as it’s all too much trouble.

This rights of way invisibility is a common occurrence in the planning process and has been evident in several applications recently in the Colne Valley and Huddersfield. One particularly amusing  application  is to replace some (illegal) gates on a public footpath with wrought iron electric gates. Again an application drawn up by a professional company but no mention what so ever that the gates would obstruct Huddersfield Footpath 433. To add further irony Kirklees Highways (the highway authority  for Footpath 433) consider the proposal “acceptable from a highways point of view”. Comedy gold unless of course you want to walk the footpath or begin to untangle the mess created.

An application affecting over half a mile of Colne Valley Footpath 188 (called an “access track” by the applicant’s professional) receives a cursory standard footnote from Kirklees despite the application stating the track (Footpath 188) will be improved. A missed opportunity in these austere times to improve things for the public or at least to make sure things are not made worse!

Carr Farm Gates Holmfirth 71 (1 of 1)
Acceptable from a Highways point of view.

 

 

 

 

A modest success ;-)

GateGone (1 of 1)
That’s better!

Eleven weeks after I first brought the blatant obstruction of Holmfirth Footpath 188 to the attention of Yorkshire Water and subsequently Kirklees Council the issue has been resolved!

As suggested in my original post all that was needed was some new hinges and a sneck to get the old gate working again.  Incredible that someone would go to the lengths they did to block the path with boulders and drag their feet  when politely asked to put it right. Several Yorkshire Water staff were involved in requesting the removal of the obstruction on a number of occasions and I understand two members of staff attended a site visit with the tenant. I know at least one visit was made to the site by a member of staff from Kirklees Council. In addition time has been spent liaising with Yorkshire Water and directly with the tenant responsible for the illegal obstruction.

It’s worth pondering  –

  1. Obstructing a public footpath is illegal
  2. Yorkshire Water’s costs are paid for from everyone’s water rates
  3. Kirklees Council is in dire financial straights
  4. The taxpayer funds Kirklees Councils costs on this matter
  5. The tenant is subsidised via cap payments by the taxpayer
  6. The public are paying for everything here but have been denied access along the public path.

My initial reports to Kirklees Council were ignored so on 28th August 2017 I served a Section 130a notice and it was only after this that my reports were taken seriously and acted upon. From experience I find that if an obstruction makes it to 6 months it becomes part of the status quo and council managers will try to explain it away and justify it’s presence rather than get on and shift it. So maybe after receiving a few “unique” reference numbers but no action Section 130a is the answer?

The issue has also been passed onto the Rural Payments Agency and I’ve had a very encouraging response from their office.

It is Kirklees Council’s policy to refer incidents such as this to the RPA and it would be a powerful deterrent to landowners obstructing public rights of way if it was used. I don’t believe it ever has been in Kirklees despite many opportunities. The Council could save a lot of money if it took this option on reported obstructions. I’d suggest that noone in receipt of CAP payments would block a public right of way if they seriously thought Kirklees would inform the RPA and a full land inspection was on the cards.

Gate (1 of 1)

Holmfirth Cricket Club Public Right Of Way

sign (1 of 1)
The signs challenging the right of way had been removed along with the fencing when I visited. Only the challenge to the illegal sign remained.

This public right of way must be one of the most well used in the Holmfirth area. Generations of children and parents have used it to  access Sands Rec, Holmfirth Pool , the River Holme, Holmfirth High School or just cut through to Huddersfield Road.

Many of us use it early or late in the day for a quiet dog walk past the cricket field and down to the river. During some of the festivals and events which take place in Holmfirth such as the duck race,folk festival,bonfire etc many hundreds of people will walk this public right of way during the course of a day.

Everyone using this right of way does so as of right . No one asks permission or would even think permission was needed. No permission has ever been given by the owners who are fully aware of the popularity and extensive use of this public right of way over their property. I doubt you’d find many people in Holmfirth who are not aware of its existence or who have not walked it at some point in their lives.

Unfortunately the public use of the right of way is now being challenged and signs have gone up stating it is a not a right of way but a permissive path during daylight hours. This is news to most people I would think and has caused a lot of interest on the local Facebook Page

The right of way is not recorded on the council’s Definitive Map and Statement so it is vulnerable however there is a claim to add the right of way as a bridleway. A decision has to be made by the council in the coming weeks on this claim.

Claiming rights of way can  be a long winded process  but I’d urge anyone who has used this route regularly for 20 years to complete an evidence form this week and return it to Kirklees. Evidence forms can be downloaded here

The council has been aware of this right of way for many years and should have been more proactive in securing it’s future. The Holme Valley Riverside Way nearly came along this path and it was strongly suggested at the time of the routes creation that the Council make a legal order to formally create a right of way here as there is a proven need and long established and accepted public use.

Furthermore  such is the weight and regularity of use of the right of way that there is a case  that public rights have obviously been established at common law. You only need to look at the Facebook response to see how many people  regularly use it. So in addition to the current claim the council ought to be recognizing the long established use of the route both past and present, the need for the route as a safe off road path and the routes integral role in access to the River Holme and surrounding green spaces.

The council perhaps with an input from local Holme Valley South Councillors , Holmfirth Parish Council and groups such as River Holme Connections needs to come up with a plan beyond the claim which ensures this public right of way for the future.

When I wandered down to photograph the “No right of way” signs they had gone!! Along with the fencing which had narrowed the right of ways width. This would seem like an emphatic bit of people power or a tactical retreat by the landowner who may just have recognised that placing the signs has given the issue a much higher profile and will provoke much more evidence in support of the right of way.