Holmfirth Footpath 150 at Gate Head

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They’re under starters orders and about to set off on the Holmfirth Grand National Footpath!

It’s very rare I turn back on a footpath or even think of turning back but this Grand National style course really tested my jumping abilities. Stock proof fencing, electric fencing, post and rail fencing and a drystone wall all come at the walker thick and fast on a testing uphill course. There’s even a water jump!

These things might be hard to get over when walking but none of them are very difficult to remove as obstructions go and yet this path is another  gleaming example of the generosity shown to those acting illegally by our local council.

Now I’m not particularly impressed with our Councils template of volunteers compliantly supplying cheap labour to cover basic services yet I would happily volunteer to take my wire cutters and saw along this path to clear it. Could sort it in half an hour and I wouldn’t even want a condescending pat on the back.

However instead  of this  controversial but  arguably more effective use of volunteers Kirklees sent a member of staff up from Huddersfield over a year ago following reports from a reader of this blog of the path being obstructed. There was a half hearted assurance that something would be done but (surprise! surprise! as Cilla used to say) nothing was of course.

I’m aware my blog reader supplied Kirklees with excellent information including photographs and grid references of each obstruction. In fact the reader is a long standing inspector for Peak & Northern Footpaths Society and is as knowledgeable and skilled in the dark arts of public rights of way as anyone at Kirklees.

So an actionless year later and after  visiting the my path myself  I sent in a list of grid references,photographs and descriptions of obstructions on Footpath 150 identical to those of my blog reader the previous year. The cash strapped council took a break from closing children’s playgrounds and libraries to send a member of staff (the same one that visited a year ago) to the footpath to no doubt record the exact same situation as the previous year. I was then sent a similar response to my reader along the lines of “we’re asking nicely for the nice people to unblock the footpath” Hmmmm.

The point I am trying to make here is this. The Council, who are responsible for rights of way, are continually bleating about how they cannot do anything about anything because they are broke. Yet they continue to work in the most wasteful and inefficient manner as described above. How can they afford to send staff out on site to the same problems year after year,taking the same photographs,logging the same obstructions and fobbing off the public with the same cheap excuses? This case is not an isolated one. It seems to be standard practice when a member of the public reports any issue on a right of way in Kirklees requiring any degree of gumption or effort to resolve. If the council applied the law evenly,followed its own procedures and took timely and rechargeable enforcement action it would be far more efficient and cost effective.

The cost of its current modus operandi  must be a substantial loss both in terms of hard cash and a lack of any meaningful results for the public.

The Council should have accepted it cocked up a year ago but rather than send out a member of staff again it actually has all the information it needs to take effective enforcement action. There are two detailed reports from members of the public which corroborated each other and presumably that of its staff member the previous year. Google Earth is excellent for having a look at things without going outside too and the path obstructions are clearly visible in this case. The Council have access to Land Registry records to establish the owners.  No need at all to spend time on a 20 mile round trip to look at what you already know is there!

From the information at hand letters and notices could have been sent out and a site visit would only be required if the owners did not supply photographic evidence of an open and usable footpath within a specified timescale (lets say 6 weeks). At that point it is worth visiting the site to clear the obstructions but crucially these costs can be fully recharged to the owners. So by now everything would be sorted and at minimal or no cost to the taxpayer.

How hard can it be?

Instead some 15 months after my reader reported the path obstructed and nearly 8 weeks since I contacted Kirklees the path remains blocked.

There is a mechanism under the Highways Act s130A for members of the public to serve notice on local authorities asking for removal of obstructions and such a notice was served on Kirklees on 2nd November 2017.  This has resulted in one of the landowners removing some electric fencing but the more substantial obstructions remain.

Despite the complete lack of cooperation here from those acting illegally the Council has not yet served any legal notices on those responsible. Nor has it expressed any commitment to do so.

This leaves the Council open to being taken to a magistrates court under the s130A process. Of course if this happens it will cost officer time, a solicitor, possibly advice from a barrister etc and if it loses it may be liable to pay the costs of the other party. All these costs would be in addition to what has already been spent on officer time and use of Council resources to date. It’s no wonder they are skint is it?

Path runs approximately A,B,C to D

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The final furlong. Two big post & rail fences and a drystone wall just before the finish line.

 

 

 

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Holmfirth Bridleway 134 – Upper Mill Shaw

This  planning application at the old site of Upper Mill Shaw Farm is something of a first on the blog. An application that mentions the site is accessed by a public bridleway and crossed by a public footpath! Things go slightly downhill after this good start by the proposal that “improvements” will be made to the bridleway in the form of some surfacing with “road scalpings or sandstone” and also some widening and passing places to “improve access along the track (bridleway) for regular use by motor vehicles”  So the proposal is to build around 300m of road on the bridleway . No mention at all of how these improvements for motor vehicles will affect the public users of the bridleway on foot,cycle or horse.

This is a very unspoilt bridleway with a minimum amount of agricultural traffic. In fact I don’t think I’ve ever met a vehicle up there in the past 25 years so this proposal is a big deal. Both the properties will have double garages and the only access to the road network and the rest of the world  is along the bridleway.

Widening and surfacing the bridleway will ruin its current  rural character which is often what attracts many of us into the countryside in the first place. It will in effect become a driveway to a little gated community on the site of the old farm. Vehicle speeds will increase drastically and conflict between vehicles and public users of the bridleway will be unavoidable. Given the scarcity of safe off road routes for riders and cyclists  in Kirklees this is not a good thing and planners should avoid creating these situations.

Another worrying aspect of this proposal,if approved, is what the quality of the work on the bridleway will be like. The photograph below shows Holmfirth Footpath 146 which is at the other end of this site. As you can see the owner decided to dig up the footpath which is about 1200 feet above sea level in November to “drain” a wet area completely wrecking the path in the process. I’m told this has been put right but have not had the time to revisit. The point is the work is very unsympathetic,inappropriate for the site  and will likely take a very long time to recover leaving the path vulnerable to weather damage and erosion. What sort of mess would they make of the bridleway?

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Comments  are open until 19th December 2017

Huddersfield Bridleway 231 – Nether Moor Farm

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Well played to the Huddersfield Planning Sub Committee this afternoon who approved the report to recognise this route as a bridleway rather than a byway. At last some clarity on the matter. You can watch the item on the council’s webcast  here

The contrast between the public spirited supporters of the bridleway who wish to achieve something for everyone to enjoy and the speakers against the proposal says it all really.

A Journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

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Public Footpath Dean Wood,Hepworth.

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.

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More assault course than footpath. Two fences back to back with two broken stiles.

 

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.

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New security gate in front of farm gate. Feel welcome?

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.

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Squeezed between barbed wire fence & beck. Council have “no timescale” to put this right.

 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.

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Prickly path

 

Washpit Mills Holmfirth

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Almost choked on my fish fingers at tea time when I read in the local rag that this over the top planning application for Washpit Mills had been knocked back by the planning inspector.

The consultation process ended in April this year and the impatient developer chose, mistakenly, to go to appeal rather than wait for Kirklees to cogitate and come to a decision.  Rather amusingly the clearly peed off developer is quoted as saying “I have no idea what’s going on,I really don’t know what you have to do to get something approved by Kirklees Council” Might be time for a change of direction job wise mate!

There is a public right of way right through the site but not one recorded as yet on the Definitive Map. In typical developer’s style the route was blocked off as soon as the site was acquired so my sympathy for the hapless developer is …well..zero to be honest. But it’s a nice start to the weekend.

 

Langley Lane Denby Dale Bridleway 102 Update

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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.

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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

Ramsden Road

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More of a rock climb than a walk

Where to begin on this one? Let’s start with what it is. A byway open to all traffic (Holmfirth 180). This means walkers,riders,cyclists and motor vehicles have a right to pass along here. Might be worth mentioning who is responsible for the maintenance of Ramsden Road too. Well as it is recorded on the Definitive Map and Statement it is publicly maintainable by the local Highway Authority which is Kirklees Council. I can hear your groans and cries of despair dear reader but I’m just telling it like it is.

Clearly the surface of the byway is very much out of repair and hasn’t seen any maintenance of any kind for a long time,if ever. How has it got into this state? Well it would be very easy to blame 4×4 users who the byway is very popular with but I don’t think that would be fair. As a walker I’ve walked on many badly eroded footpaths where the damage has been caused by boots alone. So I’m not going to chuck the first stone of blame in the direction.

Many years ago before Ramsden Road was in this dire state but had the beginnings of these problems  there was a popular suggestion  to put a traffic regulation order on the byway which would have either stopped motor vehicle use or limited it at certain times of year. Sadly the idea was shot down in flames by local councillors who would hear none of it. The rest as they say is history and we are now left with this assault course of a byway.

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No not the famous Holmfirth Lido

It is still up to Kirklees to manage the traffic on Ramsden Road and keep the byway safe and in a condition suitable for it’s expected traffic which on the face of it doesn’t seem too challenging. However it is obvious from the neglected drains,culverts and extensive damage that the byway has been left to deteriorate and the public can take their chances when walking there.

What can be done? Path Watch has asked Kirklees to carry out some urgent emergency repairs to the worst affected sections of standing water and erosion. In the short term all that means is importing some local stone to put the surface back into a safe condition. They can then have a think about what to do in the longer term.

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Neglected cross drain

The byway has a good drainage system of ditches,culverts and cut offs which require reinstatement and of course the surface needs extensive repairs. This could be carried out over a period of time and need not break the bank.  What ever excuses come from Kirklees there is no getting away from 1. They are responsible and 2. lack of resources is no defense. Putting corporate fingers in their ears and singing LA LA LA loudly just won’t cut it.

Reports about  condition of Ramsden Road ,Holmfirth Byway 180 should be made to highways.ross@kirklees.gov.uk

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Kirklees most expensive Cd’s Huddersfield Byway 231 The Album

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Regular readers will recall the long saga of Huddersfield Byway 231. As a result of Kirklees engaging Leeds City Council to carry out historical research into the status of the Byway I now have the 2 most expensive CD’s in my collection. Five grand of council taxpayers hard earned money for these and obviously that didn’t include a decent album cover.

You might have thought our caring,sharing council would have let interested members of the public have this information as soon as it was available,given they paid for it but no a rather churlish email was sent out stating no information would be released prior to the committee report.

So I’ve dragged the hapless bureaucrats through the freedom of information process which is painful for both sides due to the prevailing culture of secrecy and disdain for the public which characterises Kirklees and today received my 2 CD’s worth of historical information.

I am aware that Leeds City Council have discovered “something” not previously found but there’s a lot of information here.

I’d like to share this information as widely as possible before the Committee date which may be as soon as 23rd November 2017 so that interested parties can form a view untainted by the powers that be as it were.

Please get in touch via the blog or Facebook if you’d like a bootleg copy. Might be worth something in the future, you never know.

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Who let the dogs out?

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Well I can’t say I wasn’t warned

The local rag and Facebook are carrying stories of a heavy handed  private company stalking the streets of Holmfirth on behalf of Kirklees and issuing fines to those who don’t have Rover on a lead or anyone with a dog lead over 2 metres long. Out on the public footpath network other dog owners go unpoliced placing signs on public footpaths in an apparent effort to deter legitimate access and warning of dogs “running free,” not on private property but the public highway.

A few yards beyond the gate above I heard a bleep and realised I’d set off some kind of warning alarm in the house this footpath passes. Fair enough wanting to know who’s about in such an out of the way place I suppose but a little further on as I neared the house a door clicked open and out ran two dogs barking and growling in the way they do when they’re revved up.

They weren’t on leads. They weren’t even with anybody who could hold the other end and they came charging full pelt towards me. Oh dear.

I was in no man’s land. To far from both the gate behind and the one in front. But I had my dog (on a lead) so spun around and shoved him between me and them ! This made my two pursers hesitate and back off enough for me to reach the exit gate by walking backwards on one side of a weird dog sandwich.

But who let the dogs out?