Previously on PathWatch we reported on the sad demise of Holmfirth Bridleway 94 which appears to have been subsumed into Windy Hill Quarry despite a lack of planning permission. Not to worry, the issue was reported as it was happening by many local users over a period from September 2021 onward. Oh hang on that’s wrong. Do worry, for neither Kirklees Planning or Rights of Way have taken any effective action on the ground over the intervening 8 months. This sort of situation always seems to blindside the bureaucrats. It’s not like problems of this nature haven’t happened before!
Kirklees Planning should have served a stop notice on the quarry last year as soon as they became aware of the works outside the quarry, on greenbelt land and on a public bridleway. This lack of action implies that planners aren’t that bothered and are happy to dump the issue on an overstretched Prow section. Meanwhile as can be seen above the bridleway is now unusable.
Ironically the Strategic Director who is responsible for Kirklees rights of way (Mr Parr) has recently been quoted in a propaganda article saying “We have nearly 1,900 PRoWs in the District, which our small team monitor. When residents tell us about the PRoWs being blocked or overgrown it is a great help.” Well lots of residents have contacted Kirklees about the loss of this bridleway and hardly anyone has heard a thing let alone get the bridleway back!
The article is here and of course it’s very good that a path has been cleared but the truth is this particular path was cleared fairly regularly prior to 2012 and there was never a problem with it until the council stopped doing it. Dealing with problems like Bridleway 94 and the many others featured on this blog requires a set of policies, procedures and resources to be directed promptly as issues arise. There is no good reason why Bridleway 94 should not have been reinstated within a 6 month timescale other than a complete lack of gumption and management at Kirklees which ultimately sits on Mr Parr’s doorstep.
Why not let Mr Parr know that Bridleway 94 is blocked – Colin.Parr@kirklees.gov.uk As he says “It’s a great help”
There have been increasing problems of obstruction and surface damage to Holmfirth Bridleway 94 since Kirklees granted planning permission to permit more quarry HGV access to the site. User groups made some reasonable comments on this application at the time, suggesting a speed limit, signage and a priority system putting non motorised users at the top. All ignored,of course.
Although the bridleway forms access to the quarry it is outside the red line boundary of the planning applications. There has been no planning application as far as PathWatch can see for any works to Bridleway 94. Although the quarry sites are industrial, Bridleway 94 remains in the greenbelt.
It is something of a surprise then to see that the bridleway is being subject to some civil engineering works to both widen it and lower the level by up to 3 metres in places. Ironically in the supporting information for the planning application the applicant states “the HGV access route (bridleway 94) contains grass verges on both sides providing step off areas for pedestrians and cyclists should a HGV be travelling along the track.” These verges are now either 2 metres or more in the air or gone. The bridleway sign has also disappeared.
There’s some rather large plant operating on the bridleway at present with no consideration at all for the safety of public users.
Yet another example, if one were needed, of Kirklees not properly considering public rights of way in the planning process. The bridleway is barely mentioned and clearly not seen as a valuable public amenity. There’s nothing put in place to protect the route and as everyone knows Kirklees are useless at enforcement be it in planning or public rights of way.
PathWath will report further on this issue but suspect Kirklees will deal with genuine public concerns via the usual evasion, incompetence and platitudes.
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.
The public safety issue does not create an Imperative Reason of Over-riding Public Interest justifying a permanent track through the Natural Zone;
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
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!
Holmfirth 146 a few days after planning permission was granted.
Don’t panic. This is definitely a case of ramblers living happily ever after. We have of course been put through the usual ordeal of trial by planning permissions, obstruction, excavation and comedy gates but FP 146 has survived!
In fact it has a new life as a field path away from the old farm and on a much more rambler friendly line with gates! Think of these diversions as a witness protection scheme for footpaths and you get the gist.
Following the resolution of objections to the order and corrections to errors in the order the Planning Inspectorate has now confirmed the new route. All the details from our chap at the Ministry .
The above plan shows a development site off Kenmore View, Cleckheaton. For the development to go ahead the public paths shown by solid black lines will be closed and the rather less direct dashed lines will be newly created paths. The consultation plan looks something like an entry into the Turner prize in this context. The Google screenshot below gives a little more focus showing the green nature of the site deep in the urban jungle of Cleckheaton. The bulldozers have already been there by the look of it.
An area of green space containing informal paths is priceless in an area like this. The many local objections and claims to have these paths put on the Definitive Map give an indication of local feelings. Sadly, it looks like the direct original paths will be swept away before ever being recorded to be replaced by those meandering dashes going nowhere around buildings.
Links to the plan and reason statement are below. Details of the proposal should be on the council’s website here
Regular readers may recall my previous blog highlighting the making & advertising of a diversion order on Spen 110 back in March. In that article a bucket full of scorn was poured over Kirklees for making such an order during the Covid 19 travel restrictions on public movement. In effect the council were asking the public for comment on a proposal when it was illegal to go and visit the site in question. Requests to re advertise the order when restrictions were lifted fell on deaf ears.
PathWatch has subsequently discovered that Kirklees had a temporary closure order on Spen 110 (the section subject to the diversion application) to facilitate safe demolition of the leisure centre buildings. This temporary closure order ran out on 31st January 2020. At that point Spen 110 should have been reopened to public use. It’s worth noting that the granting of any planning permission affecting a public right of way does not in itself permit the movement of, damage to, or construction of anything on the path until a lengthy legal diversion process has been completed successfully. One outcome of that process is that the path may not be diverted and the development, as proposed, cannot not go ahead. See Holmfirth Footpath 60 which fell at an early hurdle in the Grand National diversion race. There are problems with the council’s diversion proposals for Spen 110 which need properly addressing through this process.
I am sure by now you have guessed where all this is leading. Spen Footpath 110 has of course been completely obstructed by site fencing at the council owned development. The public footpath sign off Bradford Road points straight at an unscalable fence whilst at the other end a view of the path apparently being dug up can be had through the more open fencing. The council have confirmed that the path was not reopened on expiry of the temporary closure on 31st January but remained illegally closed for some three and a half months until 14th May.
PathWatch asked Kirklees on 12th May to confirm that Spen 110 had reopened as legally required on 31st January . On the 19th May Kirklees sent a copy of an “emergency” closure notice they had placed on the path on 14th May . This closes the path legally until 3rd June at which point a further 6 month closure will come into force lasting into December . A cynic might suggest that it is no coincidence this emergency closure order appeared 2 days after my enquiry. The council say it is a “mix up”.
Clearly Kirklees have illegally obstructed their own footpath for three and a half months. Reputable authorities would normally only issue an emergency closure for…well… an emergency. Something like damage,danger,flooding etc. Cock ups aren’t really the intended purpose for this legislation. One of the reasons cited in the closure order is “demolition” despite all buildings on site having already been knocked down!Kirklees have now said that Spen 110 may remain closed with the use of temporary orders until 2022.
In closing, digging up and placing permanent fencing on Spen 110, whilst at the same time constructing and providing part of the proposed new route, Kirklees are arguably giving the impression that the diversion process is a forgone conclusion. The use of emergency and temporary closures to keep a path shut for the duration of a diversion process is very poor practice from a local authority. This sort of situation does tend to undermine the legal process and really should be avoided.
Kirklees are funding most of the high profile £15 million Spenborough pool development at this site. They are the planning applicant, landowner and applicant for the diversion order. They are also the Highway Authority for Spen 110 with a duty to ensure such paths are not obstructed or built on. It is therefore essential that they not just do things properly but are seen to do so. If a public body responsible for both planning and rights of way cannot manage the related legal processes correctly and maintain public confidence they could very well set an unhelpful precedent for private companies to follow.
The council could pull back the site boundary a few metres so that Spen 110 remains open and outside the site. This would protect the path from further “mix ups” and leave it intact until the diversion process is properly concluded.
There is currently a proposal to divert Holmfirth Public Footpath 60 at Wolfstone Heights Farm in connection with a planning permission granted in 2014. The case neatly highlights the endemic failings of Kirklees Planning not properly considering public rights of way.
The issue of Holmfirth Footpath 60 ought to have been looked at much more closely by planners. This seems to have been given the nod through despite Kirklees planners being blissfully unaware that Footpath 60 gives direct and traffic free access to the open access land at Wolfstone Height.
If the proposal succeeds 150 metres of lovely open and direct rural footpath will be turned into an enclosed,hard surfaced 130 metre footpath going in the wrong direction and dumping you on a road without a footway some 140 metres from where you were going.
There are 38 planning conditions in the decision notice granting planning permission for housing at Washpit Mills which was granted on 15th June 2018. Unfortunately none of them require the developer to improve the only traffic free pedestrian link from the site onto Dunford Road (and a bus stop). That link is Holmfirth Footpath 195.
An underwhelming performance not just from planners but local councillors and the parish council who should have surely secured improvements here at no cost to the taxpayer. The idea was in the original proposals but disappeared without explanation in the second application.
So although Kirklees are stuck on the “we’re skint” mantra even when there’s a freebie up for grabs they are clearly incapable of securing it. There are already reports locally of increased and speeding traffic heading to the mill site and it would seem the public must run that one sided gauntlet or the morass of Footpath 195 – although to be fair we are currently in the paths brief midsummer dry period. Oh wait a minute, it’s raining.
Planning permission for the development at Upper Millshaw was granted on 3rd May 2018. Today, 17 May, the public footpath through the site looked like this!
You’ve got to laugh at the officers report dated 3 May 2018 which, after considering rights of way at the site, rather naively concludes –
“The proposal is therefore considered to have an acceptable impact on highway and pedestrian safety and would accord with Policies R13, T10 and T19 of the UDP and Policies in the draft Local Plan.”
I’m not quite sure just how safe for pedestrians the deep and unguarded excavations which are close to or even on Footpath 146 really are (See below) but it’s nice to know it all accords with the local plan.
Kirklees have been aware of issues affecting Holmfirth Footpath 146 going back some 7 months. See here and here but have taken the usual laid back attitude to enforcement. A contributor to the blog helpfully reported the beginning of tipping on 30th April and rather forlornly suggested “prompt action” might avert a bigger problem.
At the point that Kirklees were made aware of the problem the site and footpath looked like this.
Clearly an intervention at this point could have stopped the further and more damaging works done to Holmfirth Footpath 146 but given the councils track record on these issues it was never going to happen.
Council Tax Farming has caught the eye of the UK’s favourite rural TV programme Countryfile and Matt Baker has been spotted on several building sites,sorry fields, in the Holme Valley filming a piece on this exciting new agricultural development.
Matt was also granted a rare interview with lord of the manor The Duke of Heckmondwike Councillor David She’ard, one of the leading lights in the Council Tax Farms movement.
The interview got off to a shaky start with the curmudgeonly Duke saying to Matt “You’re not John Craven! Where’s John? I’ve some photos for him for the calendar!” However despite the Duke’s misgivings and his difficulty with the geordie language he generously shared his philosophy on his expanding Council Tax Farm Empire.
“I build,sorry grow, them all on greenfields in the hills over there near someplace called Holmfirth. The land there is very fertile and once my noble men of the order of the Huddersfield Planning Sub Committee have sown the seeds the luxury 3 and 4 bedroom houses,sorry crops, spring up within a few weeks. My critics are wrong to say they are housing estates.This is agriculture and there will be many pot plants and herbaceous borders between the estate roads and Range Rovers”
“The land is enclosed in a beautiful mosaic of Heras fencing which becomes a landscape feature itself as it is often left leaning and abandoned all over the countryside.”
Matt asked how the innovative approach to Council Tax Farms came about. “Well I’m skint” said the Duke. I can’t squeeze enough cash from my existing serfs so I need to produce a quick growing cash crop like luxury houses to harvest the annual council tax”. My right hand man Councillor Baldrick Pandor, Marquis of Batley, helped me with this cunning plan.We’ve named it Ye Olde Big Build rather than the Local Plan to make it sound fun, friendly and positive even though all we’re really doing is handing over prime greenfield sites to developers to make a quick killing.You won’t put that bit on the telly will you?”
Matt probed the Duke further and seemed to hit something of a nerve when he mentioned the loss of valuable countryside, affordability of the homes for young people, social housing and the complete lack of new infrastructure. “Look your not John Craven” said the Duke. “I only agreed to this interview so I could give John a photo for next years calendar. Could you pass this on as Kirklees entry for 2019? I don’t mind what month we are”