Meltham Bridleway 50 Update.

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.

Marsden Moor – Peak Park Advises National Trust To Close Moors.

Marsden Moor is the tinder box of the South Pennines and regularly goes up in flames for a whole host of reasons. Many of these are historical – woodland clearance, pollution from the industrial revolution and over grazing. Add in a bit of global warming and we’ve the perfect storm of neglect just waiting for a disposable barbie, tab end or some fool from Huddersfield with a firework.

As a result of these regular moorland fires the whole area is covered by Public Space Protection Orders banning campfires, barbies etc. A very sensible move which should be strictly enforced at all times. Ongoing education of the public is arguably more important for the long term future of the moor.

This week has seen an unprecedented fire risk in the Peak District and the National Park Authority have closed all Crow Act access land. They have reportedly advised the National Trust Marsden Moor estate to close all access land on Trust property and this was announced yesterday on social media.

The Fake closure announcement which is still in place at time of writing.

There is a but coming and it’s an important one because it shows a lack of understanding of the basis for public access to Marsden Moor from both the Peak Park and National Trust. The implication of this is that both these organisations are relying on closure of the moor in extreme conditions when they cannot in fact do this. How then are they managing the fire risks ?

Marsden Moor is what is known as section 15 land and it cannot be closed under the mechanisms of the Crow Act which is what the Peak Park have advised! Section 15 land predates the crow act and recognises long standing public rights. Marsden Moor is an urban common and cannot be closed. How can the Peak Park and National Trust not know or choose to ignore this?

From Foot & Mouth through to Covid the knee jerk reaction of authority is to close the countryside to walkers. No one having a quiet walk on Marsden Moor is a fire risk but the public must be stopped!

Section 15 land. National Trust,Marsden.

Much of what organisations like the Peak Park, Nationl Trust or Kirklees put out for public consumption via social media is not based in reality. The sweeping closure of Marsden Moor yesterday was fake. It distracted from the real fire risks that do exist and sought to ban putting one foot in front of the other on the moor without any basis in either law or evidence.

Breaking – Peak District Close Access Land Due To Fire Risk.

High Fire Risk Ramblers Turned Back.

The Peak District National Park has announced the closure of public access land in the park due to the high fire risk. This follows the regular extensive closures on mostly grouse shooting estates in the spring. The average rambler may be beginning to wonder just what the value of the so called right to roam is.

Most of the Peak District is covered by Public Space Protection Orders which ban barbecues, stoves,fires and any naked flames. It’s worth noting that public access land does not permit these activities anyway. Walking would appear to be a zero risk activity in comparison.

There is no explanation from the Park of the fire risks created by walkers. Perhaps they think ramblers still wear hob nailed boots and that there’s a risk of sparks on speeds over 3 mph or on rocky ground?

One of the most characteristic features of the Peak District moorlands is that…er…well…it’s all been burnt already! These moors are euphemistically called “managed” and are used for grouse shooting. The moorland arsonists will tell you that one of the benefits of a “managed” moor (which is deliberately and extensively burnt) is a reduced fire risk! I kid you not.

Look it’s all been burnt already!

Ruts R Us.

Fuel spill on Ramsden road.

The decades long mismanagement of Ramsden Road continues apace into 2022. Kirklees committed to close the road to damaging 4×4 vehicles and to repair it in 2018. It cocked up the legal order (after spending £10 grand on it) and ran away. A year ago it came up with a quick and cheap fix in the form of a public space protection order to be implemented in Spring 2021. This order has not yet come into force, largely because Kirklees don’t know what they are doing and seemingly have no mechanism for making such orders .

Had the order now been in place no vehicles would be permitted at all on Ramsden Road throughout the winter months. As it is so called “responsible” laners continue to use the road in all weathers and seasons. Lets be honest here, anyone driving a vehicle or motorbike on Ramsden Road in it’s current condition is irresponsible and is actively contributing to the continued destruction of the road to the detriment of non motorised users, residents and the environment. Predictably, the damage continues at an alarming pace and the road is now beyond any simple cost effective repair.

Fun fact, byways were originally recorded on Definitive Maps as routes mostly used by the public for the purposes of footpaths and bridleways ie walking and riding. Although the status acknowledged historical vehicular rights this was not the main public usage and of course the convoys of modern 4×4 vehicles now afflicting such lanes was unforeseeable in 1949.

A safe prediction for 2022 is that Ramsden Road will be worse by the end of it. The year has already started off badly with the Ruts R Us brigade extending their off piste activities into a new area on Footpath 175 just above Tinker Well – a private water supply. Another safe bet is that Kirklees Council, the Highway Authority with a statutory duty to maintain the Road, will do nothing. Having more or less exchanged bodily fluids with Ruts R Us over the past 3 years their position is more knackered than Ramsden Road itself.

Responsible use?

In addition to the new Ruts R Us off piste facility a fuel or oil leak has left a rainbow of filth washing down Ramsden Road. Attentive readers may recall that in addition to private water supplies in the area there are 2 public reservoirs below Ramsden Road into which run off from the road inevitably ends up. Quiet rightly, Yorkshire Water are requiring any repairs to the road include a sealed drainage system to ensure run off from the road cannot enter the public water supply as it can do now. That will be an incredible cost to the public to construct and maintain.

The only reason any of this happening is because Kirklees failed to follow the correct procedure when making an Experimental Traffic Regulation Order in 2018 which would have taken all public motor vehicles off Ramsden Road. This mistake has spawned a cock up pandemic without end.

Swellands & Black Moss Road Proposal Refused By Peak Park

Swellands Reservoir

Previously on PathWatch we highlighted an environmentally damaging proposal to construct a permanent vehicular access track to Black Moss & Swellands Reservoirs in the Kirklees bit of the Peak Park.

The proposal was turned down at the Peak Park Planning Committee on 6th August 2021 on the following grounds.

  1. The public safety issue does not create an Imperative Reason of Over-riding Public Interest justifying a permanent track through the Natural Zone;
  2. Alternative solutions have not been explored thoroughly enough given what is understood to be required (in terms of building work and regular maintenance) such that  the requirement to demonstrate that there are no alternative solutions has not been fully made out to the satisfaction of members, in particular by use of a temporary track; and
  3. Insufficient satisfaction that the proposals would result in acceptable impacts on this peatland habitat and in particular on nesting birds.

The committee item can be viewed here . Well done to the Peak District National Park!

4 Foot Wide Footpath Or 30 Feet Wide Bridleway?

Inclosure of Lands Graveship of Holme

Clues to the widths and status to some local public rights of way can be found (if you are lucky) in the in the Graveship of Holme Inclosure Awards. These awards came about as a result of the Graveship of Holme Inclosure Act of 1828. The Act is available online here but the awards are only available at the archives in Huddersfield Library.

Among the awards of land are awards of many local public highways, including some footpaths and bridleways. It’s clear from even a casual peek that there can be a glaring difference between what is awarded by act of parliament back in 1828 and what was subsequently recorded on the local Definitive Map & Statement as a result of the 1949 National Parks & Access to the Countryside Act. These differences can be significant. A bridleway some 30 feet in width recorded in the Inclosures of 1828 can be shown as a public footpath 4 feet wide on the Kirklees Definitive Map & Statement.

Every day local government shadiness , incompetence and disinterest probably explain the discrepancies. It is clear from The West Riding Memo and The Great Prow Swindle that West Riding Council actively set out to limit the widths of public rights of way to the bare minimum whilst happily recording footpaths rather than bridleways.

There’s certainly a case for Kirklees and the other ex West Riding authorities to completely review every right of way which was historically enclosed between walls for accuracy of both width and status at the very least. Of course this will not be done. They are busy looking the other way until the 2026 deadline for historical evidence imposed by the CROW Act gets them off the hook. As ever this work is left to volunteers.

As examples part of Holmfirth Footpath 64, Issues Road is recorded as a 4 foot wide public footpath on the current Definitive Map. The 1828 Inclosures award this as a 30 foot wide bridleway (known as Meal Hill Road at that time). Bilberry Mill Road is awarded as a 20 foot wide bridleway. It is not currently shown on the Definitive Map & Statement.

Not the best photo. See Meal Hill & Bilberry Mill Roads.

Ramsden Road/Yateholme PSPO Full Info Available

Some 5 days after the consultation closed on this proposal all the information is finally available on the Kirklees website . There’s been no fanfare of publicity around this and the fact that the deadline has been quietly extended until 24th May 2021 may have gone unnoticed.

The whole process to date has been an amateurish omni-cockup worthy of a prize if there was one going for this kind of thing.

However, whilst this is far from the solution to the 4×4 and motorbike problem in the area it does contain some good things. For instance there is no access for vehicles between 1st November to 31st March without the council’s approval. No more than 32 vehicle movements a week. No access in snow or heavy rain.

The available access will be via Glass outside of winter and if the restrictions do come into force reporting of any misbehaviour with evidence will be vital in getting restrictions tightened.

Council officers claim the PSPO is a delegated Officer decision yet there is no record of any such decision being made on the council’s register of delegated decisions . Under its own constitution the authority is obliged to keep such a record and it is a criminal offence under the openness in local government regulations not to do so. We’ve been here before of course. There’s no record of the officer decision to rescind the 2018 Traffic Regulation Order on Ramsden Road either.

The Great PROW Swindle

The West Riding Memo is the Original Sin of public rights of way management in this area. You can trace this early fitties fiddle through a long lineage of dodgy deals, nods & winks and theft of public access rights through to the 2020’s comedy calamities often featured on PathWatch. The laws and regulations surrounding public rights of way are only as good as those that administer them.

One of the effects of this swindle is the chronic lack of bridleways in the area. Rye Close Lane is recorded on the current Definitive Map and Statement as a 4 foot wide public footpath. Yet the original surveys record a RUPP (road used as public path) up to 12 feet wide. The surveys also record that part of the route was awarded in the Holme Inclosure Award as a road. The surveys were carried out by Holmfirth Urban District Council and are shown below.

Original Survey Sheet Holmfirth FP 66 records the route as a 12 foot wide RUPP
Second Survey Sheet for Holmfirth 66 records route as a Rupp up 9 feet wide.

That the route ended up on the Definitive Map and Statement as a 4 foot wide footpath would be something of a mystery but for the existence of a number of memos, including the West Riding Memo. It’s clear that the highway authority at the time was concerned at the potential maintenance liability of 12 foot wide bridleways and footpaths. It clearly bent the law to avoid this liability.

The document below shows an objection from Holmfirth Urban District Council to the inclusion of the route as a bridleway on the Definitive Map And Statement. It’s objecting to what it’s own surveyors have discovered! Without any explanatory remarks or evidence the route is downgraded to footpath and the width from 12 feet to 4 feet.

Ramsden Road/Yateholme Public Space Protection Order Consultation.

The closure plan for Yateholme/Ramsden Road. Only available on PathWatch.

Some 2 weeks into a controversial consultation for a public space protection order banning some vehicles from the Yateholme and Ramsden Road areas the Kirklees website still does not show either the draft order or plan which is being consulted on.

PathWatch made some enquiries and obtained the DRAFT PUBLISHED ORDER but no plan. It seemed no one at Kirklees knew where the plan was or that the order and plan were not available to public inspection on the website. However, it has turned up and PathWatch is more than happy to help out the hapless bureaucrats. Download the plan here TF.18.200.287 Ramsden Road, Holmbridge-Plan  You’re welcome.

Ramsden Road/Yateholme Public Space Protection Order Advertised On 1st April

From the local press

In a pleasing hint that perhaps our local bureaucrats do have a cheeky sense of humour the public space protection order for Ramsden Road and the Yateholme Lanes was appropriately advertised in the local press on April Fools Day . Having spent the past 2 years telling us Ramsden Road must be open for all users all the time our hapless council have now double crossed all those who believed they actually meant that. A large swath of off roaders will be labeled anti social and banned from the lanes if they do not join the Green Lane Association for a ticket. All those locked out will no doubt be happy to oblige the trashing of vulnerable countryside elsewhere in the Holme Valley.

The answer to the green laning problem in the Holme Valley area is to put Traffic Regulation Orders prohibiting motor vehicles on all the lanes.

PathWatch will come back to the order in a future post. For now savour the extra half mile of hole the council has just dug itself into and the rich display of contempt council officers have heaped on residents and walkers in the area by completely ignoring their reasonable requests for engagement in favour of some 4×4 drivers. They must be an award for this kind of thing.

The newspaper advert provides a link to the order and plans on the council website. In true Kirklees form there’s nothing there! Perhaps it is an April Fool after all? (Probably the best hope for our local environment with these jokers.Ed.)