Previously on PathWatch we have reported on the rat run style diversion of Batley 20. The diversion is sought under s257 of the Town & Country Planning Act 1990 in connection with this planning application .
Both the planning application and diversion application were at the Heavy Woollen Sub Committee on 17th March. Both items were deferred after a long discussion which largely missed the point of the awful, indirect, long and inconvenient proposed new path. Instead Councillors seemed happy to be getting a few crumbs from Westminster and were keen to find out if West Yorkshire Police or British Transport Police would be responsible for the anticipated rise in crime on the purpose built diversion for crime and anti social behaviour. No one knew!
Not to worry. Councillors were also keen to get clarity on provision of lighting and cctv so that crime could be recorded rather than prevented. There was also a helpful suggestion to install a few barriers to slow the baddies down.Though that particular Councillor hadn’t thought that one through.
Once again the aspirations for people that live in the area and actually walk were spectacularly low.
The secretary of state has declined to make the order diverting Holmfirth Footpath 60 at Wolfstones. In the words of the decision –
The Secretary of State notes the Inspector’s observations and his particular conclusions at IR7.43 – 7.49 that the benefits of the scheme and of stopping up and diverting the highway, as conferred by the Order, would not outweigh the disadvantages put forward in the objections. He considers that the inconvenience that would be caused to highway users to be of a significance where he cannot support the implementation of the Order.
Saturday morning saw a stolen and burnt out land rover left up on Ramsden Road. It was recovered quickly by the police and taken away. Credit to Kirklees for cleaning up the debris on the Monday morning.
Calderdale Council have received a no doubt unwanted post bag full of directions from the Secretary of State. The three directions affect 17 different public rights of way in the borough and relate to claims for higher bridleway rights.
When a member of the public makes a claim under the Wildlife & Countryside Act to modify the local Definitive Map & Statement a local authority has twelve months to determine the claim. Once the time is up the applicant can appeal to the Secretary of State for a direction.
In common with many authorities Calderdale cut its skilled rights of way staff and now uses the office junior and expensive consultants to do the work. Not the best approach or value for money.
The elite SBS (like the SAS but for bridleways) have been in action in the Holmfirth area seizing an illegal 4×4 with only their bare hands and elderly pit ponies from Barnsley.
Sgnt. Harvey “Blunty” Smith who leads the crack squad told us “We were the only squad with the capability to operate in this weeks 300 mph winds. Equipped as we are in all weather leotards we sent out our heaviest officer PC Enormous Haystacks on his two pit ponies. PC Haystacks grappled the 4×4 onto our break down truck and it was job done. The two pit ponies did blow away but were found the next day in a shed near Marsden”.
Defra has advised the stakeholder group on public rights of way that the controversial 2026 cut off date in the Crow Act will be dropped. This is very good news and more details to follow.
Sections 53 to 56 of the CRoW Act set out the process for claiming old, unclaimed historic rights of way—crucially, with a cut-off date of 1 January 2026. Any that have not been claimed by then will cease to exist for ever, although with the possibility under Section 56 of an extension by regulations to 2036
“We are writing to you today to inform you about important changes to the rights of way package of reforms. We have communicated these changes to the Stakeholder Working Group and will continue to work with them going forward.
The rights of way reforms package has been underway for many years and whilst much progress has been made for which we are grateful to the Stakeholder Working Group and others, the legislation required to implement these reform measures is not yet ready to be laid and considerable work remains to complete this work. Defra has therefore decided on a pragmatic approach to take the package forward. We have decided to progress the Right to Apply and Cost Recovery SIs only and to repeal the 2026 cut-off date. We feel that this strikes some balance across stakeholder concerns and interests, while recognising that it doesn’t deliver on all the benefits originally envisaged.
We remain committed to seeking to make improvements to rights of way processes and procedures where possible and appropriate to do so and would welcome your continued advice and support with this endeavour.”
An occasional PathWatch column from our special political correspondent Doris Kunsberg-Bottom of the Heckmondwike Courier.
A fairly quiet Huddersfield Planning Sub Committee this month with only one minor rights of way issue. Item no.7 was introduced by the Chair and ex coal carrying champion Cllr Terry Lyons with a rather tart ” I think we’ve discussed this more than enough”. The item relates to Holmfirth 60 at Wolfstones and the proposed verge improvements which were always the reddest of red herrings in the diversion proposal. Kirklees won’t be taking up the applicants offer to tart up the verge after all. Incredibly this was an “emergency decision” taken by the council’s Strategic Director, Colin Parr. The Courier were hoping to do a “day in the life of a Kirklees Strategic Director” but there wasn’t enough material.
The main item on the agenda were the “improvements” to Holmfirth town centre which involve the demolition of Holmfirth Market Hall and construction of a car park and small public area in it’s place. A fair swap?
The original proposals would have turned the whole of Holmfirth into an inner ring road for Plevin wagons but such was the level of objection these were shelved. Relieved at saving the town centre the public have perhaps taken their eye off the ball and accepted a shoddy proposal without too much scrutiny.
Local shopper Shirley Spendthrift who loves a bargain told the Courier “The market hall has been deliberately run down by Kirklees who’ve been happy to see a once thriving building die. All the easier to get rid of it when the time came. That time is now. As a sop they’ve granted a market licence to a third party, surely knowing an outdoor market here will never succeed, and have agreed to modify the plans so that volunteers can fish shopping trolleys from the river more easily and …er …yes that’s it!”
The courier also spoke to Kevin McCloud a well respected architect who told us. “There’s no need for more parking or cars in Holmfirth. The market hall could have been replaced with something smaller and designed as an attraction like the crook barn at Penistone market. Along with complimentary public space and real riverside access this could have formed an attractive and lively public area. The lack of imagination and aspiration here speaks for itself.”
The real highlight of the sub committee meeting was local ward councillor Donald Firth who rang in from the middle ages to object to the proposal, talk about rats, ducks, people he didn’t know and insult several members of the public who had spoken very eloquently in favour of the proposal. In one of the wonders of the modern world 7,000 people voted to re elect him to Kirklees Council last year. You might well say Holmfirth only has itself to blame.
Councillor Nigel Patrick played a minor cameo. As ever typecast as a sinister Victorian mill owner he warned of economic catastrophe and large scale unemployment should the supply of baps to the bakers and Daily Mails to the newsagents be disrupted by having to cross the road.
One thing that really struck me is that if Kirklees can’t run a market in Holmfirth at a cost of £15k a year how is it going to manage a hotel in Huddersfield where the bill is already at £11 million? Doris Kunsberg-Bottom, Political Correspondent, Heckmondwike Courier.
PathWatch has previously highlighted the review of the current Kirklees Rights of Way Improvement Plan. The contract for this work was issued last summer to a private company. Despite being publicly funded and a review of a public document and highway network there has been no publicity around the review on the councils website or social media.
Councils are legally obliged to review these plans every 10 years, so it is a box that has to be ticked. It’s an opportunity to engage with the public and path users, see how the previous plan worked out , get a wide range of views and genuinely look to improve things. Or it could be done with no publicity, genuine engagement or aspiration for improvement. Is this what is happening in Kirklees?
On 7th February a questionnaire was sent out by the contractor to a limited group of stakeholders. Some very active groups seem to have been left out and there appears to be no attempt at a wider engagement with the public. The deadline for completing the questionnaire is 18th February – 12 days!
In some very good news the Planning Inspectorate have confirmed Kirklees Council’s order to add a Restricted Byway to the Definitive Map between Bridge Lane and Sands Recreation Ground in Holmfirth. This is and has been one of the most popular public rights of way in the valley and everyone knew that.
The path wasn’t on the Kirklees records and has been on an 11 year journey of obstruction and bureaucracy to reach refuge on the Definitive Map. Huge credit to the applicant who doggedly pursed the matter and the hundred plus public witness statements which provided the overwhelming evidence of a public right of way! Good work everyone 🙂
Previous PathWatch post/rants on this issue here , here , and here
West Yorkshire Police have launched a new elite enforcement team. Known as the SBS (like the SAS but with horses) the team is mounted on ex pit ponies from Barnsley and led by Harvey “Blunty” Smith from Bradford. At 108 years old”Blunty” is the last remaining officer from the “charge of the light brigade” still with the West Yorkshire Force.
Harvey told the blog that the SBS had been formed to tackle the loss of quiet country bridleways, an often overlooked rural crime. “Our ex pit ponies can trot at almost 2 miles an hour and we can be on any crime scene in Yorkshire within a few weeks” said Harvey. Officers are fully equipped with leotards and knee pads and will grapple suspects to the ground without hesitation.
The unique combination of horsemanship and 1970’s wrestling skills was thought up by a local government think tank at a cost of only £80085.23 per hour.
Speaking from Council HQ at the George Hotel in Huddersfield Councillor NotSo Shabby Pandor told the blog “The SBS reflects the priorities of equestrians everywhere and as a Council we are determined to improve the lives of horses and even mountain bikers, if we have to. Many residents also face a cost-of-living crisis this year, so we will step in with financial support for those equestrians who really need it. Like hotels, funding of equestrian care doesn’t come cheap but I’m sure most residents won’t mind the inevitable rise in council tax. ”
“We’re a diverse borough and every community has its own unique challenges. We feel targeting equestrian help in this way will have a huge impact. It’s not true that we are cost cutting with the 50 year old pit ponies and elderly wrestlers. Personally, I can’t wait to see Harvey and his squad grapple these stolen bridleways back into the public domain.