Institute of Public Rights of Way and Excuses Management

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Delighted to host the first in a series of  guest blogs from IPROWE .

Had a particularly complex prow problem to deal with recently which illustrates neatly just how hard this job can be! Fortunately it came in on a Wednesday and so met my priority criteria of  wearing matching red underwear and socks on a day with a W in it. The only higher criteria would be reports received on one of the 3 Friday afternoons a year when I go commando and have not flexed off.

My tricky little prow issue came in via our Chief Executive who was showing a previously unseen interest in a public footpath report. Always a bit of a googly when the big cheese lobs one in like that isn’t it? I decided to drop everything I was doing to visit the site. Unfortunately this meant delaying serving notice on a number of obstructions for Peak & Southern Ramblers Society. Well they’ve been waiting 30 years for the priority matrix to churn them out so what’s another decade?

On the face of it the Chief Exec’s little problem seemed incredibly straight forward. Leaves on a public footpath making it look a bit untidy according to the Chair of Lower Dumpdale Parish Council who incidentally happens to be the Chief Execs brother in law. Funny coincidence that.

However when I visited the site that same day I realised the scale of the  problem to hand. Despite a nagging little voice in my head saying “Just get the brush and shovel and a bin bag  from the van and clear them away” I couldn’t help but think there was more to it than that. Clearly other matters would have to be set aside as I looked into the legal intricacies of this issue further.

We can’t do everything at once and if I’m tied up on a complex matter like the Chief Exec’s leaves then that’s time I cannot spend doing real work like moving obstructions,putting up sign posts or on definitive map work. Whilst this may be the public’s expectation I’m afraid It’s just not as simple as that . Austerity has led to huge budget cuts and now the Chief Exec only has one rights of way officer to run around after him instead of  the ten he was used too. This is bound to have an effect on levels of service we can provide to the public…..

To Be Continued 

The real blog which is a good read but perhaps does give some indication as to why things take soooo looong to get sorted in the world of rights of way.





Kirklees Spends over £150,000 a year on meeting rooms.And £50k on paths.

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Interesting although not very detailed piece in the local rag today outlining what’s happening with Kirklees budgets for the next year. Rather revealingly the paper states Kirklees will be “Creating a venue for all council meetings, cutting external room hire, will save £150,000” 

I have to admit I thought Kirklees already had such  venues! The Town Halls of Huddersfield and Dewsbury along with many other office complexes across the district would seem to fit the bill.

The public rights of way budget is down to £50k. That is for a statutory function for maintaining 700 miles of paths. It was cut from about a £150K with unseemly haste in 2010. So in the past 8 years maintenance of Kirklees rights of way has been underfunded by some £800K . That lack of funding is beginning to show itself now in the form of some very expensive problems today.

Still it’s good to know our councillors and officers have had the best venues to hold meetings about meetings in and that no expense has been spared on this essential service.



Holmfirth Bridleways

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Ox Lee Lane

There are the sum total of 8 bridleways in the Parish of Holmfirth out of a total of around 200 public rights of way. In Kirklees only 8% of the 700 odd miles of public rights of way are bridleways. They are a rare and increasingly endangered thing. This is such a shame because their multi use status for walkers,riders and cyclists gives them added value to a wider range of users.

Unfortunately 4 out of the 8 Holmfirth bridleways have featured on this blog which as you know is the A&E of rights of way and for some paths being featured here is akin to having the last rites read to you a few puffs before you’re final breath.

Holmfirth Bridleways 68 & 189 are about to celebrate the first anniversary  of a botched attempt to turn them into a road by Yorkshire Water. This time last year a limestone surface was laid over the existing sandstone which led to numerous complaints from users. Kirklees failed miserably to cure the problem by allowing Yorkshire Water to bury the limestone under a second concrete like foreign substance. More Harold Shipman than Dr Kildare from our local Highway Authority.

Up on Cheesgate Nab Holmfirth Bridleway 134   is on the slab awaiting some unnecessary plastic surgery to remove it’s natural good looks in favour of a wrinkle free but car friendly finish.

Our most recent addition to the ward is Ox Lee Lane – Holmfirth Bridleway 154 now a Frankenstein creation of rocks & road planings resembling a badly put together jigsaw of left over materials. Our Dr Shipman highway authority is lurking at the end of the ward probably about to administer a final dose of indifference to finish it off.

White Roads

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Cartworth Moor Road

A characteristic of the Holme Valley is the extensive network of “white Roads”. Often if you’re not a local you might not know they exist and that there is public access along many of them. Although the OS are showing many more these days with little green blobs on their maps they do miss quite a few.

I always found the term “white Roads” rather poetic and mysterious but in fact the term is pretty mundane as it refers to how they are/were  depicted on OS maps. A white road between two boundaries or pecked lines but with no indication as to whether it is public or private and hence the sense of mystery.

Cartworth Moor Road is one such white road which pulls up out of Holmfirth to head straight for the moors. It’s much used by locals and has many public paths and several other white roads running off it to form a wonderful network of circular walks of varying lengths.

I walked it’s length today in driving snow showers all the way to the moorland edge before escaping the wind and dropping back into the valley by little used paths to follow the River Holme back to Holmfirth.

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Cartworth Moor

Enforcement Success In Kirklees

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This case demonstrates the enforcement capabilities of Kirklees Council. It must have been a difficult and complex case to prove before a court and prosecute successfully. The fine and costs come to £50 odd grand according to the paper which sends out an incredibly strong signal to anyone else thinking of operating in this manner. Of course this is what councils should be doing to protect the environment and public from harm and nuisance where they have the duty and powers to do so.

One of the other  areas of responsibility Kirklees Council has is the  duty to protect over 700 miles of public rights of way in the district. Compared to proving before a court the harm done to residents by noise from a nearby wind turbine I would argue that prosecuting and proving one of the many examples of wilful obstruction to a public right of way is much more straightforward. Clearly Kirklees has the expertise and resources to prosecute such a straightforward matter. A number of successful and well publicised prosecutions for obstructing public rights of way would send out an equally strong message and,I would argue, deter others from obstructing public paths making management and use of the network easier in the long run.

I can’t recall  any recent examples of Kirklees prosecuting for wilful obstruction of a public path despite the many examples they have to choose from but perhaps they don’t publicise this aspect of thier work?


Spendthrift West Yorkshire Authorities


Without exception each local authority in West Yorkshire has cut rights of way budgets and staffing levels. Most of these councils did this early on as rights of way are undervalued and seen as an easy target by dim witted councillors and careerist managers.

The excuse that “we’re skint” and therefore off the hook about maintaining rights of way properly is now the default position of the West Yorkshire councils. The second string to this bow is “don’t bother us and fix it yourself” by forming a “friends of everything the council used to do group.”

This position is of course complete twaddle and will inevitably end up costing councils much more in the long run as the rights of way asset deteriorates and inevitably becomes much more expensive to put right.

These same councils continue to work in the archaic fashion of some 1950’s corporation with outdated procedures, management structures and attitudes which waste millions. No one will make a decision about anything let alone take a proactive approach or god forbid do something differently  to how it’s been done for the past 60 years.

This revealing article in the Yorkshire Post shows how our glorious leaders really behave and how they spend our money. Whilst they may be no money for public rights of way there is no problem finding £750,000 for “networking events” in the South of France or a £100,000 for “executive coaching”.

But if you want a public footpath strimming, a sign fixing or an obstruction removing so that you and others can enjoy a public amenity you know what the answer is. “Feck off and do it yourself”.

Upper Millshaw

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Despite bringing the excavation of this path to the councils attention as it was happening some 9 weeks ago it remains as can be seen above a mud bath. We’ve had a fair bit of snow and frost over the past weeks at this altitude and as predicted it hasn’t done the path any good at all.

The padlock and chain remain on the new gate

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It’s incredible how high the bar is set in Kirklees before the council will take some prompt and appropriate enforcement action. I’m told you can get 3 London double decker buses placed directly on top of each other beneath it and still have room to stand on top giving the finger to members of the public.

Blackpool Bridge

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Blackpool Bridge has seen better days.

Rickety old Blackpool Bridge over Dean Clough is on its last legs. Walked up there on New Year’s day to find several bits of decking missing and more worryingly the cross beams on which the decking sits are rotten. The whole bridge needs replacing.

The bridge is on a very popular walking route within the peak park but Kirklees are the highway authority responsible. The issue was reported to them on 1st January 2018 as dangerous. No response to date.

Always found the name Blackpool Bridge intriguing. Talking to older residents it seems it may be a cartographers error. The pools below the bridge were known locally as black pools and I’ve spoken to many older people in the valley who were taught to swim here! The location was more properly known to them as Black Pools. Maybe the cartographer had been to see the illuminations and had another Blackpool on his mind?

Holmfirth 131 – What would Michael “Public Access Is A Public Good” Gove think of it all?

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The newly “repaired” stile on Holmfirth  131

Back in mid November 2017 this double fence and double double stile arrangement was brought to the attention of Kirklees Council for 2 reasons. Firstly the Krypton Factor stile arrangement was out of repair. One of the smaller steps was no longer attached to planet earth. Secondly and more importantly it is clear to even the most casual observer that the two fences and double double stiles have been erected across a gateway. The rather large stone gate posts are a bit of a giveaway. So in fact this double whammy of fences and stiles shouldn’t even be there. It should be a gate!

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The Krypton Factor double fence and double double stiles in a gateway!

It was politely mentioned to Kirklees that perhaps it would be better for path users if the stiles were removed in favour of a gate rather than repair them. In early December 2017 I received an update which ignored the gate aspect but advised that the stile had been repaired. Oh well perhaps I need to be more to the point in future?

The header photo  shows the reportedly “repaired stile” as observed today. I hope dear reader you appreciate what a difficult job this is? Not only do the Council have some kind of filter on the other end of my emails which blanks out anything they might have to do that’s a bit “tricky” but even when they say they’ve done something they haven’t! Below is a newly added obstruction on the path to add a bit of a spark for walkers in 2018.

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A brand new obstruction for 2018

The council would have us believe that they are strapped for cash, short staffed and rights of way are a low priority but I rather think they are beset by a plague of cock ups,indifference and ineptitude. Is there another plausible explanation? What would Michael “public access is a public good” Gove think about it all?