PathWatch can exclusively reveal the all new Kirklees standard for structures on public rights of way! The standard known as Not To Standard But Acceptable (this is not a joke.Ed) has recently been launched on a Holmfirth path.
Most Highway Authorities in the UK use BS5709 which is the British Standard drawn up and agreed by representatives of Natural England, CLA, NFU, OSS, BHS, Disabled Ramblers, IPROW, Highway Authority and a gate designer in a long process involving opportunity for public comment . It has been around for 40 years and was recently updated in 2018. BS5709 allows the widest range of users to access public paths and is compliant with the Disability Discrimination Act. The Kirklees Not To Standard But Acceptable standard appears to be based on…er…keeping certain councillors happy!
Councillor Nigel Patrick has previously expressed his opinion on BS5709 and his displeasure with officer decisions granting authority for structures (gates) on public paths to BS5709. As recently as 16th November 2019 Councillor Patrick wrote to Karl Battersby ( a strategic director at Kirklees) saying he thought BS5709 was “only advisory and not law” He also said to Mr Battersby on 18th November 2019 that “a complaint that it is not to British Standard is not a complaint that needs to be addressed if it is usable” The whole point of BS5709 is that these structures can be shown to be “usable” because they meet certain accessibility criteria laid out in the standard. The Kirklees Not To Standard But Acceptable standard amounts to nothing more than subjective opinion.
However Mr Battersby has recently agreed to authorise a number of Not To Standard But Acceptable structures on a Holmfirth path following Councillor Patrick’s intervention. In a 13th November 2019 email Mr Battersby advises Councillor Patrick that the council will be contacting a landowner to advise “their structures are not to standard but acceptable.”
This raises a number number of genuine concerns. Firstly this decision has been taken behind closed doors and out of public view. It shows Kirklees Council ditching a widely recognised British Standard on accessibility in favour of something completely unspecified and unauthorised on a public highway. Who decides what is an acceptable structure on a path? Is this a decision in the public interest? Will the Not To Standard But Acceptable standard be rolled out to all other landowners in Kirklees? Why is a Strategic Director on a £125,000 per annum salary making decisions about gates and water troughs on public footpaths? Is that the best use of public money? The decision would seem to undermine the work of front line council staff and their efforts to keep paths free of unauthorised structures and obstructions. How does this decision fit with the councils statutory obligations to assert and protect the public’s rights to use public paths and to keep them free of obstructions?
And finally how does the Not To Standard But Acceptable standard fit with Kirklees recently expressed aim to increase walking by 20% and its aspiration to “continue to develop and promote sustainable and active travel and ensure that Kirklees is recognised as a great place to walk and cycle, inspiring more people to walk and cycle more often as a mode of transport, for work, leisure or for sport expressed in its recently adopted climate emergency plan ?
PathWatch is pleased to report that Holmfirth Footpath 165 has had a significant short back and sides to the laurel hedges which just about met in the middle. A new footpath sign has been installed and surface vegetation cut back too.
Following on from the completion of Blackpool Bridge earlier this month a team of council staff have been in the valley carrying out a list of small maintenance jobs throughout this week. Here’s the list.
This work has been taken from footpath inspections carried out over the past 2 years on the local network by this blog. A few weeks ago Councillor Paul Davies contacted me to ask for any suggestions for path works as some resources were becoming available ie a team for a week. Paul also got 6 paths cleared of vegetation during the summer. This positive approach is unprecedented here in the Holme Valley and I hope it continues. It’s very useful to have a councillor who will listen and attempt to get something done. Light at the end of the tunnel?
It’s satisfying to see works being done which will benefit path users and to have resources directed at the network. There is agreement for some larger scale works in the next financial year with up to 4 schemes programmed and in addition the 3 footbridges in Morton Wood on the Kirklees Way are to be replaced (and temporarily repaired in the meantime). Remarkably this week the Biblical lake featured in Ramblers Must Walk On Water Say Council has been earmarked for repairs. The council has of course broken it’s vows before, most notably on Ramsden Road.
This is all very positive and although dealing with Kirklees has at times felt like being taken from your bed in the middle of the night to be waterboarded in a pool on Ramsden Road, left shivering and sobbing in your jim jams and having to beg a lift home from some passing land rover enthusiast who hates ramblers , it does seem worth it occasionally.
Clearly there are structural problems in just where Kirklees puts its rights of way responsibility and how much of a priority that work is given in comparison to the many other obligations and demands on the council. However these issues are not insurmountable.It would be good to see a move away from the dodgy deals which plague the councils approach to enforcement, a more positive attitude from managers and a much a more proactive maintenatnce regime alongside a Definitive Map and Statement fit for purpose. But let’s not get carried away.
Both these Byways are located within the Peak District National Park (in the case of Ramsden Road the section of byway most out of repair & problematic falls within the park boundary) . Both have very similar long standing issues relating to damage by vehicles, water damage and conflict between vehicles and other users. However both byways have different Highway Authorities responsible for them. Ramsden Road has Kirklees Metropolitan Council whilst Jacob’s Ladder has Derbyshire County Council.
The difference in the decision making processes regarding the future of each byway by its respective highway authority is striking.
Officers at Derbyshire County Council have compiled a 19 page report which will be presented to the County’s Highways Committee later this month. The report contains results of an extensive public consultation on the proposals for the byway which involved over 1000 responses. Various Defra policies on byways are referenced along with the councils policy on green lanes and a detailed officer analysis. Financial and legal considerations are explained in detail and there is a list of referenced background papers. There’s much in this report applicable to Kirklees and Ramsden Road and it is well worth a read. Most of what it covers has never been taken into account properly by Kirklees in respect of Ramsden Road.
In contrast there is no transparent decision making process here in Kirklees, no report on Ramsden Road, no traffic survey, no reference to Defra policy, no local policy, no site survey, no consultation and no record of any legitimate decision making process for the council’s current course of action. Kirklees Council as Highway Authority for Ramsden Road have said on record that its decision on Ramsden Road was “was based on a visual assessment of the road and discussion with colleagues and the Peak Park on the most equitable way forward”. No date of when this decision was taken, no details of who was involved, what information it was based on, absolutely no record of it whatsoever.
Again it is well worth reading the Jacob’s letter report as an example of how these matters should be properly dealt with.
This report concerns Jacob’s ladder which is a byway at Stoney Middleton rather than the bridleway in Edale of the same name.
A change is as good as a rest they say and the opportunity to look at a path obstruction in Calderdale turned into a bit of a treat. Erringden is the smallest parish in the great sweep of Calderdale and clings to the flanks of Stoodley Pike.
All I had to go on was an iffy grid reference and the words “South West of Cruttonstall”. I knew I was onto something good climbing through rustling,mossy woods in my pedestrian time machine. Clearly there’d never been car access to this place!
Reassuringly I came across the usual barbed wire encrusted waymarks and see saw stiles which are such a part of walking. Such features are so commonplace on public paths the average rambler would feel unsettled without them confirming the way ahead.
Cruttonstall is listed but the dry words offer no description of the real place which positively oozes the essence of Ted Hughes’ sideburns. On a raw afternoon with a biting East wind hurling Curlew babbles at Stoodley Pike it was a wonderful place to be.
Our new Council leader and slayer of the Red Lord of Heckmondwike, Comedy Councillor Pandor, is getting to grips with the pressing issues of leading Kirklees through troubled waters by …er…buggering off to china !
As the nights draw in and the long hot summer of 2018 fades away the comic genius is off on another all expenses paid jaunt to strengthen Huddersfield’s links with China (really? Ed.)
After the resounding success of our Batley comic’s all expenses paid trip to Cannes earlier this year the globe trotting funny man, who clearly fancies himself as a bit of a Michael Palin, is off to Hangzhou and is quoted as “looking forward to positioning our region with Chinese decision-makers as a source of high quality, innovative British-made products.” ( he’s well known for speaking in riddles – Ed)
The Councils Strategic Director of Jollies, Thomas Cook told us the distant Chinese City of Hangzhou has much in common with Huddersfield “It starts with an H doesn’t it? Although I know the H in Huddersfield is silent, that’s something. The weather’s really nice out there in September too and our leader likes to feel important, plus I get loads of points on my nectar card for booking the tickets! As a Labour Council it is an honour to visit a country where workers rights and freedom of speech are held in the highest regard by the government.”
Finally Mr Cook reassured Kirklees residents that our leader would return. “We have bought Cllr Pandor a return ticket and he will be back in Kirklees for the winter pantomime series of icy roads, missed bin collections and a hike in council tax for 2019. Residents have nothing to fear on this score”
It’s all very well going on holiday but it’s nice to return home to the comfort of walking on some of our wonderfully neglected local paths.
Holmfirth Footpath 134 (below) is approaching the 2nd birthday of this reported obstruction. Pretty much an early embryo in the life cycle of being ignored by our local highway authority. I wish I could say it was a pleasure to climb this narrow fence once again but it wasn’t really. Still the bramble briar scratches I picked up between here and the fly tipping took my mind off it. A bit of rural acupuncture?
At the top of the hill Holmfirth Footpath 146 at Upper Millshaw is passable but hairy going. See below.
That might just be the most underwhelming headline you ever read.
I can report that following reports from the public the offending pallet on Holmfirth Footpath 150 has indeed been removed by Kirklees.
Whilst other issues are still outstanding thanks are due to the Council for acting so swiftly and sending out the right message.
There’s no doubt this kind of thing can be a thankless task. Having served notice on the landowner after a long period of informal discussions failed it must be galling to see the path deliberately blocked again so soon.
Of course the actions of one person in blocking the path have cost the tax payer and wasted council staff time. In a world of diminishing public resources these costs should be fully recovered from those acting illegally. It might make them stop and think next time.
Pleased to report that Kirklees have begun to repair the worst of the large “potholes” up on Ramsden Road. This includes the infamous large inland lake where many a walker has come a cropper.
The works were agreed in April and have started on time. This is a really positive development. Along with the flurry of new footpath signs and a number of other resolved problems(which will be reported on the blog) it is very good news indeed.
Many thanks to the council staff and contractors involved in arranging and carrying out these works.