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.

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Holmfirth Cricket Club Right Of Way – Storm in a teacup?

 

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Holmfirth

Must have been a slow day for news in Huddersfield as the “story” of the Holmfirth Cricket Club public right of way hit the headlines in the local rag .

The cricket club’s “rights of way consultant”  is quoted by  the Examiner  saying “incidents of vandalism and risk of encampment by travellers had prompted the move” to close the footpath. Along with a perceived health & safety risk from the foundary.

There is no explanation as to how an inert public footpath is responsible for  acts of vandalism. I’d suggest people are by and large responsible for  such acts not public footpaths. The site can be accessed from a variety of  locations including Bridge Lane and Huddersfield Road so logic would suggest closing these public highways during the night too if they are similarly inclined to carry out random acts of tagging in the night.

Criminals of course will use any means of access to do their anti social activities. Whether the public right of way here is closed or open will make no difference and it is no justification for denying legitimate public access.

The “risk of encampment by travellers” seems a pretty desperate justification for closing the path. As someone who lived overlooking the cricket ground for nearly 20 years I can vouch for the fact that the area is a quiet backwater and not one regularly invaded by the travelling community who tend to favour council owned land.

Who knows what the motivation of the car driver taking a trip across the wicket was but such things are rare, isolated  incidents rather than the norm. That issue could easily be prevented from ever happening again by  putting up a short barrier between the pitch and carpark.

And the foundary? Well it seems odd to justify closing a public right of way on a night by using a business that is open in the daytime as a reason.

So it really is a storm in a teacup to some degree. But then again you have to wonder why the club would go to  the trouble of employing a “rights of way” consultant , causing  friction with locals and to a degree damaging the clubs standing in the community by it’s actions in attempting to close the path?

There is a lot of speculation locally about this site not least because the club were seemingly willing to sell up back in 2014

Now generally speaking a  site with a public right of way present can be problematic to a developer but a site with a permissive path is a pushover because that permission can be withdrawn at any time.

 

Holmfirth Cricket Club Public Right Of Way

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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.

 

Battle of the green fields – Scholes

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Footpath off Cross Lane Scholes

Kirklees planners and councillors reached a new low at the Planning Sub Committee (Huddersfield Area) on 31st August 2017 approving a development of some 39 homes at a greenfield site at Scholes in the Holme Valley.

The attitude of councillors and planners towards local residents genuine concerns and their ignorance of the value of green public open spaces for public health and well being caught my eye.

This is another case of sharp suited wolves picking off green space aided and abetted not just by the council’s planning policy vacuum  but by turning a blind eye to a further nearby  greenfield site where some 140 houses could be built. Only a fool would consider the effects of the two sites separately.

The webcast of the meeting is revealing. Chair Cllr Terry Lyons is in a very grumpy mood and votes in support of the proposal. It will be interesting to see how Cllr Lyons votes when a similar proposal affecting a greenfield site and a public footpath in his own backyard comes up before the committee.

In contrast to the reasonable,articulate and well made arguments of  local residents members of the committee seemed slightly annoyed and disinterested, voting predictably along tribal party lines instead of the details and merits or otherwise of the application. Sadly this is how it works in Kirklees. Typical labour councillors from Batley or Dewsbury do not have a grasp on the public value of green spaces or rights of way.

Tellingly one Labour councillor dismisses the value of green space completely saying “I do think we’re getting to a stage where we’re paying more attention to public open space than we are to bigger issues such as highways issues.What I would say is put  money where it’s really needed in highways”  The highways referred to are of course the ones gridlocked with cars rather than the footways,cycle lanes ,footpaths and bridleways which the council is also responsible for but routinely ignores.This attitude infects the council,it’s management,officers and decision making processes.

It’s staggering that a councillor could be so dismissive of public open space where children,parents and grandparents can spend quality car free, healthy time together. Over half the population in Kirklees is obese yet the committee puts £140k of developers money into roads rather than green space or public rights of way which offer an alternative to the epidemic of inactivity costing the country so much.

The council should be looking to improve the green infrastructure and with it public health at every opportunity rather than continually pouring money into roads. £140k would enable a lot of basic maintenance works to be undertaken on the Council’s neglected public rights of way network. Such an idea seems beyond the imagination of planning officers or councillors. Instead this money will  fill in a few hundred potholes or a few nights winter gritting.

 

There’s an account of the meeting in the Examiner

The webcast of the meeting is here

 

Bartin & Greave Planning Update 2

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Bartin

These applications are not now to be considered by the Peak planning committee on 8th September.

There seems to be much going on behind the scenes. Keyland Developments Ltd (Yorkshire Water) have commissioned consultants to produce various reports on the structural,highway,archeological,heritage,birds and landscape effects of the proposals.

Credit to the Peak Park archeology, heritage and landscape sections  who argue against the proposals as they are going ahead. Kirklees Rights of Way Unit stand up for the bridleway very well making some good points and an objection. The reports from Keyland Developments and counterpoints from the peak park are worth a read (honestly). Find them here

The bird survey is fascinating and confirms what a rich environment this area is for the likes of Curlews,Lapwings, Woodcock,Snipe etc. Both Bartin and Greave have Little Owls nesting in them but there’s no sighting of either Ring Ouzel or Sandpiper which I’ve observed here each summer. The bird surveyor believes there will be little disturbance from vehicles associated with the developments as access is so bad residents would wish to avoid driving along the bridleway as much as possible! Ironic as the application states that access is fit for purpose!

There’s nothing in these reports about how the public value,connect and enjoy the landscape as it is now. And that’s the big question isn’t it? Just what is that worth?Not just to us now but to those future generations who may never get to experience the solitude and sense of history a walk up this valley offers.

The NHS is creaking with diseases caused by affluence and inactivity. Rather than trashing our countryside and national parks we should be helping people make a connection with the outdoors that takes them beyond the fridge and diabetes clinics.

There’s a groundswell of support locally against the proposals with many people hitting the keyboard and sending in objections. Good to see the landscape and bridleway is valued by those who live here and enjoy it.

Clearly the corporate wolves are circling and what seemed to be a poorly prepared attack on this beautiful valley is now becoming more organised. Perhaps if they can’t make a kill first time by gaining planning permission they will try and finish things off on appeal?

 

When is a gate not a gate? 4

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Negotiating the gate.

Who’d have thought this would have run to 4 blog posts? I’m beginning to think this could go to a second series.

Yorkshire Water have previously confirmed that the land belongs to them and that as long ago as 4th July 2017 they asked their tenant to remove the boulders.  That’s a full 8 weeks ago. I wonder why it is taking so long?

It’s interesting to compare this lack of activity on Yorkshire Water’s behalf with the situation at Bartin & Greaves Planning Applications which are a just a few hundred metres away . Having met a lot of well argued objections to these proposals Yorkshire Water (Keyland developments) have submitted some 6 reports/letters, compiled by consultants Wardell Armstrong to peak park planners in an attempt to justify the planning applications see here. One can only imagine the resources involved to produce these reports in such a small space of time. The planning consultations ended on 16th June and the reports arguing against the consultees are dated July. So it’s likely that a polite request to remove a simple obstruction from a public path on Yorkshire Water land has already taken up more time but produced no results. Why not put a kissing gate here ? Stock proof and pedestrian friendly. Kissing Gate Spec

Yorkshire Water has 2 tenants in this area and they are clearly capable people who run businesses and can meet deadlines. This is demonstrated by the fact that between them they claim over one hundred thousand pounds in public money via the CAP payments scheme. A condition of receiving such payments is that all rights of way on the land associated with the claim are open for public use. See here Cross Compliance

 

 

 

When is a gate not a gate 3

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The obstructed gate is top rightish in this photo where the wood is.
Following on from yesterday’s episode we contacted Yorkshire Water again to highlight the lack of progress.
I have walked this path again today and no attempt has been made to clear the boulders.
Could you please clarify if Yorkshire Water itself are responsible for the land and obstruction or whether it is entirely the Tennant’s responsibility?
I have also reported the issue to Kirklees Council but have heard nothing.
As such I believe I can myself serve a notice on the Council for removal of the obstructions and they are obliged to serve notice on the persons responsible hence my query above.
The issue would ultimately be resolved at Huddersfield Magistrate Court should the obstructions remain.
Regards
The following response was received this morning. As is the way with official bodies it doesn’t answer what was asked but seems slightly panicky and defensive.

Thank you for notifying this.

I have made numerous attempts to the tenant and still nothing has been
done.

Myself and another colleague are looking into this. As we will need to take
action on this matter.

So Yorkshire Water are “looking into this” and “will need to take action”. That’s a little disappointing considering the length of time this difficult obstruction has now been in place and the degree of inconvenience which is being caused to the public.
We contacted Yorkshire Water directly as the Highway Authority, Kirklees Council, seems to have disregarded its own legal obligations with regard to public rights of way  and enforcement. The hope was that Yorkshire Water would be able to sort out this relatively straightforward issue in a timely manner by speaking directly to its Tenant.
However Kirklees Council, who are responsible for the footpath and for keeping it open and available for public use were informed on 17th July 2017 of the obstruction. They very helpfully and gave us our own unique reference number.
Your unique reference number is: 3578243
Your request will be dealt with as soon as possible. Kind regards,
Kirklees Council
Since we’ve heard nothing further we contacted Kirklees Council again today and they very helpfully gave us another unique reference number!
Your unique reference number is: 3590269
Your request will be dealt with as soon as possible. Kind regards,
Kirklees Council
The point of all this is to demonstrate how under valued and increasingly forgotten our public rights of way network  is becoming. No one wants to know. There is no self remedy here. The boulders need a machine to move them and most walkers don’t carry that kind of kit!
Kirklees Council is super keen at the moment on people volunteering in its parks,open spaces and public rights of way Natural Kirklees. It seems to be a one way street with the council  happily taking  free labour and publicity but refusing to carry out the work which volunteers cannot do such as removal of illegal obstructions. You can of course have as many unique reference numbers as you wish!
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When is a gate not a gate? 2

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Holmfirth Footpath 188 on Yorkshire Water land in the Peak District National Park

This original approach to obstructing a public footpath,Holmfirth Footpath 188 on the Kirklees Way and in the Peak District National Park,was discovered and reported to the landowner Yorkshire Water on 4 July 2017. Yorkshire Water got back to us the same day with a straightforward and positive response.

This is YWS land and I have emailed the Tenant asking him to remove the obstruction.”

Job sorted then? You’d have thought it would only take a matter of minutes to drive down with the machine that placed the stones there and remove them?

Unfortunately not. It seems it is a relatively easy task to source large boulders from the old quarry nearby, to move them one by one down a rough track and place them neatly in order to completely block a public footpath. But not so easy to shove them aside.

As the path was still obstructed on 12th July despite Yorkshire Water’s positive response we contacted them again to be told.

“I have contacted the landowner today to ask him to remove the obstruction.
However this may take a few weeks.”
We walked the path again this afternoon (quite a few weeks later) to find the boulders still in place.
It does make Yorkshire Water’s invitation on their website  to “come and explore” ring a little hollow.

As one of Yorkshire’s biggest landowners, Yorkshire Water take care of 72,000 acres of stunning countryside and invite you to come and explore it.

Whether you fancy a gentle stroll around a reservoir, a bike ride with the family, a bit of pony trekking or an afternoon’s fishing or sailing, there’s plenty to choose from.

Opening up our land for you is part of our Blueprint for Yorkshire, our plan to take even better care of our little part of the world.

Bartin & Greave Planning Update 1

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Bartin

The heather’s in bloom on Goodbent Moor and the old farmstead of Bartin is part of this beautiful landscape.

We’re told by the Peak Park planners that the applications (Bartin & Greaves Planning Applications) to “develop” the sites at Bartin and Greave Farms will now be decided at the Planning Committee in Bakewell on 8th September 2017.

Useful information should you wish to attend.

If a planning application is going to be considered by our planning committee, the authority’s public participation scheme allows anyone who requests to speak at the meeting to make their points directly to the people who make the decision (called the members).

You can ask a question, make a statement or hand in a petition on any item on the committee agenda. You will be allocated a time slot of three minutes and you may be asked questions about what you say.

You need to make a request by 12 noon two working days before the meeting by contacting Democratic Services by telephone on 01629 816 362 or 01629 816 382 or email democratic.services@peakdistrict.gov.uk.”

When is a gate not a gate?

 

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Holmfirth 188 and the new rockery.

The old iron gate on Holmfirth 188 has long had a rather rustic arrangement for walkers to get through. For as long as I can remember the gate has been pegged ajar with a metal stake just wide enough for a walker to squeeze through but too narrow for a sheep or cattle. It seems to have worked pretty well for the past 30 years both for the farmer and walkers heading along this lovely part of the Kirklees Way.

Nothing lasts forever and we now have a very new gritstone obstacle course consisting of three hefty boulders placed in such a manner around the gate that it is actually impossible to squeeze through what was always a tight gap.

Now I’m not a huge advocate of british standard specifications for stiles and gates in locations such as this and enjoy the wide range of solutions farmers come up with to keep land stock proof whilst allowing walkers to pass. The new arrangement here fails that most basic standard of allowing free passage and amounts to an obstruction of the public footpath.It needs changing as soon as possible.

The most striking aspect of the work carried out here is the time and trouble gone to in sourcing the stones, getting them into this location and arranging them in such a way. It must of taken hours to do! I rather think it would have been more cost effective for the landowner to nip along to the gate with a drill, couple of new hinges and a latch to properly rehang the gate.

It’s worth pondering how anyone could have such disregard for public access along a public footpath in the Peak District National Park. The path is on the popular Kirklees Way and links the Holme Valley with the Pennine Way. I’m sure if whoever has built this obstruction had approached the Peak Park or the landowner,Yorkshire Water assistance or advice would have been given on the best course of action to maintain public access   and keep the land stock proof. A kissing gate for instance?