I’m not walking anywhere near a thousand miles on my little local journey but I am walking every path in the parish of Holmfirth over the coming year. There are over 200 individually numbered public footpaths,bridleways and byways in the Holme Valley which are available for public use and enjoyment. They form a wonderful public asset which ought to be properly valued,protected and maintained.
Legally each path should be signed where it leaves the public road, be free of obstruction and maintained to a level suitable for the expected traffic. Many will never need any maintenance or have any problems. Some paths will require an obstruction removing or some form of basic maintenance at some point but it is not rocket science as they say or a particularly expensive task. Structures such as stiles and gates are the liability of the landowner whereas the surface,signing and duty to remove obstructions rests with the local council.
It’s an interesting time to be walking the rights of way network in this way. At the moment there is huge pressure to build just about anything anywhere in the valley as our bankrupt council tries to stitch the hole in it’s corporate pockets with developments which will yield the council tax and business rates it needs to secure its fix of other people’s money. Secondly it is some five years now since the council slashed its maintenance budget for public rights of way in an early attempt to rid itself of a liability it never really liked anyway. It will be interesting to see how the lack of any planned works such as annual strimming and signposting have affected the network over this time.
When the council ditched public rights of way five years ago it had a backlog of some 4,220 known maintenance and enforcement issues recorded on its system. How has five years of “austerity” affected this number? It may be that the fabled “Friends of everything the council used to do” group has stepped up to the mark and things are hunky dory but I have to admit to never having any confidence in the councils only cunning plan for public rights of way.
In the past month I’ve walked about 20 paths some of which are completely problem free,some have minor problems and a significant proportion have serious issues making them difficult or impossible to walk. Overall there’s a sense of neglect with many of the relatively recent public footpath signs erected by the council in a poor state of repair or missing. A large number of stiles are unusable due to a lack of maintenance and as ever there are new problems as landowners start to take advantage of the powers that be not really giving a toss.
This is a great area for walking. It’s very accessible by the local kirklees population particularly via public transport and it seems a false economy to neglect such a valuable asset in this way. We all know that if the wind blows a slate off the roof you need to replace it without delay or run the risk of the roof coming off altogether. I think it’s fair to say that with a backlog of 4,220 known problems 5 years ago the roof could be described as coming off back then and it was perhaps a false economy to ignore this. The highways budget has been stable at around £16 million give or take over this period so it is not as if the council could honestly say it had no money for highways. They just don’t want to spend money on this type of highway. It’s going to be an interesting journey.
Both Denby Dale Parish Council and Kirklees Prow Unit have objected to the planning application at Emley Lodge Farm which is accessed by over 900m of bridleway. Kirklees Prow make excellent comments which I reproduce below. It’s to be hoped this strong defence of the bridleway by Team Prow is not blown away by a comedy back pass in the dying moments of the game as in the last outing at Bartin & Greaves. Let’s hope they’ve been working on that on the training pitch and any stray requests for resurfacing are despatched to row Z where they belong!
Many members of the public and user groups have been in touch with Patch Watch and have also objected in an effort to protect this quiet bridleway.
Kirklees Council have a disclaimer on the planning page which states
Since 1st August 2011 we haven’t informed interested parties, objectors or supporters of applications, in writing or by site notice, of the relevant planning committee date.
This of course is appalling but it is the sad reality of how a democratic process is being weakened by our caring sharing council. They are only too keen to build build build now but have no thoughts for the regrets which will surely come later.
What this means is that sad people like me with too much time on their hands have to check each dull agenda for the relevant planning sub committee and flag up what’s on the horizon. So do keep an eye out for future posts on this blog about Langley Lane.
Here’s that Kirklees Prow objection.
2017/62/93217/E Emley Lodge Farm, Off Langley Lane, Emley, Huddersfield, HD8 9QS Conversion of redundant former storage building to form one dwelling PROW objects to the application as made. Bridleways are a precious and scarce commodity in Kirklees, as identified in the council’s Rights of Way Improvement Plan. 1 The submissions refer to improvements to Langley Lane and footpaths being retained to encourage pedestrian journeys by residents, yet there don’t appear to be any proposals detailed anywhere in the application. Could we get some idea of what the proposals are from the applicant? PROW may expect that improvements would be necessary to the public bridleway and perhaps to local footpaths. The application form indicates “consolidated gravel” proposal for the “vehicle access”, and provision of passing places, but no details of what or where this applies. 2 It is not mentioned anywhere in the submission that Langley Lane is a public bridleway. It would be important for us to know the nature of any proposed works to this public way, whether they are proposals from the applicant or works that officers would suggest. The lack of information about the effect on the public bridleway and its users, on the route being proposed for access to the property, may be considered to be fatal to the planning application as made, as it largely ignores this material consideration. 3 PROW would not want to see the tarmacing of any of the public bridleway, as it is undesirable both in terms of surfacing and expected increased vehicle speeds. It would be helpful if this was noted in any consent to ease future management of the public bridleway. 4 There don’t appear to be any traffic assessment figures provided to clarify the claims in the submissions that traffic increase from the development will be offset by decrease in agricultural vehicle movements – particularly as the building is identified as “redundant” and “former”, so presumably its proposed change would not affect any current user. Intensification of use of the bridleway by motor vehicles would have a negative effect on the bridleway use and should be carefully assessed by the planning authority. A relevant PROW footnote regarding obstruction/interference of the public bridleway Denby Dale 102 should be included if any consent is given. A scheme for the protection of the bridleway and its users should be required by condition, including submission, agreement, implementation and retention, with appropriate staged triggers. Planning consent does not authorise any works in the public highway, including public rights of way. Separate consent should be sought from the local highway authority. 2 Temporary closure of public rights of way would require formal authority, usually with separate application, cos
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.
Turned out to be a Friday 13th horror show for the developers as both applications to reinstate the ruins of Bartin and Greaves farm houses were turned down at the Peak District National Park planning committee last Friday. This was a good decision made for the right reasons.
Path Watch has followed the Applications from the beginning and submitted detailed comments on the plans and encouraged others who use Holmfirth Bridleways 168 and 89 to comment too. In all there were some 31 public objections to the plans.
I attended the meeting on Friday 13th at the national parks Bakewell office and spoke for my allotted 3 minutes highlighting my concerns for the future of the bridleways and the wider effects on the landscape should these plans be approved. The national park planning officers had put a good case together for refusal which in a nutshell said that the benefits of saving these two listed buildings through the proposed plans would harm the nature of the buildings themselves and the wider landscape in which they sit.
There followed a long and, I felt intelligent and considered debate amongst the 12 members and I did feel the decision could go either way. There was a vote to defer the decision which was lost and finally the proposals were voted out with 6 members voting for refusal, 3 supporting the proposals and 3 abstentions.
I imagine an appeal will be likely but there is a consistent history over 20 years at these sites of planning applications of this nature being turned down because of the negative effects on the wider landscape, the poor access, negative effects on recreation, the bridleways and unsympathetic treatment of the buildings themselves in the scale of works proposed. Wouldn’t it be great if Kelder Group accepted this and spent some money repairing both buildings to a basic standard and allowing continued low level agricultural use?
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.
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!