Council Tax Farming has caught the eye of the UK’s favourite rural TV programme Countryfile and Matt Baker has been spotted on several building sites,sorry fields, in the Holme Valley filming a piece on this exciting new agricultural development.
Matt was also granted a rare interview with lord of the manor The Duke of Heckmondwike Councillor David She’ard, one of the leading lights in the Council Tax Farms movement.
The interview got off to a shaky start with the curmudgeonly Duke saying to Matt “You’re not John Craven! Where’s John? I’ve some photos for him for the calendar!” However despite the Duke’s misgivings and his difficulty with the geordie language he generously shared his philosophy on his expanding Council Tax Farm Empire.
“I build,sorry grow, them all on greenfields in the hills over there near someplace called Holmfirth. The land there is very fertile and once my noble men of the order of the Huddersfield Planning Sub Committee have sown the seeds the luxury 3 and 4 bedroom houses,sorry crops, spring up within a few weeks. My critics are wrong to say they are housing estates.This is agriculture and there will be many pot plants and herbaceous borders between the estate roads and Range Rovers”
“The land is enclosed in a beautiful mosaic of Heras fencing which becomes a landscape feature itself as it is often left leaning and abandoned all over the countryside.”
Matt asked how the innovative approach to Council Tax Farms came about. “Well I’m skint” said the Duke. I can’t squeeze enough cash from my existing serfs so I need to produce a quick growing cash crop like luxury houses to harvest the annual council tax”. My right hand man Councillor Baldrick Pandor, Marquis of Batley, helped me with this cunning plan.We’ve named it Ye Olde Big Build rather than the Local Plan to make it sound fun, friendly and positive even though all we’re really doing is handing over prime greenfield sites to developers to make a quick killing.You won’t put that bit on the telly will you?”
Matt probed the Duke further and seemed to hit something of a nerve when he mentioned the loss of valuable countryside, affordability of the homes for young people, social housing and the complete lack of new infrastructure. “Look your not John Craven” said the Duke. “I only agreed to this interview so I could give John a photo for next years calendar. Could you pass this on as Kirklees entry for 2019? I don’t mind what month we are”
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!
Without any explanation the Peak District National Park has extended the consultation period for these planning applications to the 16th June 2017. The application numbers are NP/K/0317/ 0323 & 0324 & 0325 & 0326 and there is already a wealth of thoughtful comment which shows how this area and it’s public access is valued by walkers,cyclists,riders and conservationists. If you were going to comment but thought you’d missed the deadline do comment now via this link . Type in Bartin or Greave to get the applications.
Pathwatch will be contacting the Peak Park to find out what is going on but it would have been helpful if the Park had put a simple explanation up with the applications. Most of us are not experts and it’s hard enough to get to grips with the process and ensure that comments are made in good time and are appropriate to the applications. It’s easy to get the feeling the authorities would rather not know what the public thinks.
I took this photo of a popular bridleway in the valley above Digley on a recent evening walk. The bridleway used to serve a number of small holdings which were bought up by the water authority and closed before the construction of Digley dam. Consequently the valley and it’s network of footpaths & bridleways, along with the surrounding landscape, have remained largely untouched by modern development and are pretty much traffic free. A rare and valuable thing these days.
On my next walk here a series of planning notices had been posted advising of applications to develop the ruined farmsteads at Greave and Bartin. Now the only access to these properties (which have not been occupied for over 70 years) are Holmfirth Bridleways 68 and 189. Bartin is over 2,300 metres from the road network along these unmade and narrow bridleways.
I looked up the applications on the Peak Park Planning website and read through the forms and supporting documentation and could find no reference at all to the fact that Bartin & Greave are accessed via 2,300 metres of public bridleway. It seemed quiet an oversight to me. Public rights of way are a material consideration in the planning process. So I e mailed the planning officer to ask why the bridleways had not been mentioned either in the application or on the Peak Parks Planning website and was told-
In relation to the impact upon the access, it is for the applicant to include whatever information they consider appropriate for consideration, and so I cannot answer your question regarding why more information has not been submitted in relation to this.
Helpful? Not really is it?
Radicalised by this bureaucratic indifference I fired off my simple concerns ie that the bridleways could not withstand an intensification in vehicular traffic,that such an intensification would lead to conflict with other users and that in a traffic free valley the character of the bridleways and the publics enjoyment of them would be damaged by introducing the car.
I know this is all really dull stuff but what’s at stake here is a wonderful unspoilt area of traffic free countryside.