After our pre-Christmas encounters with Derbyshire County Council, we were all feeling a little cynical and despondent. When it came to consulting on Rushup Edge maintenance, DCC seemed frustrated at having to engage with mountain bikers and demonstrated no enthusiasm and precious little intent to stray from the plans they’d already laid out. They consistently deflected objections to their plans from multiple user groups and instead defended their intentions based on unsubstantiated claims dccrebuttalv9
It was therefore a huge opportunity when Peak District MTB were asked to attend a special meeting of the Peak District Local Access Forum Green Lanes sub-group to discuss one thing only: Chapelgate/Rushup Edge.
The LAF meeting took place Thursday morning 8th January and our very own Paul Richardson was in attendance along with representatives from Peak Horsepower, Peak District National Park Authority, Disabled Ramblers, the Ramblers Association, 4 x 4 groups, Ride Sheffield, Friends of the Peak, British Mountaineering Council and the National Trust. Whilst many of these groups have a seat on the LAF some – including PDMTB – were invited as guests.
Everyone except the Disabled Ramblers (DR) objected to the extensive repairs planned.
The objections were based around the key criteria of:
- Lack of any commitment or plan to maintain
- Over emphasis of the risk of section 56
- Financial cost
The Disabled Ramblers are looking for it to be flattened. With it emerging that no section 56 notice has been placed on Rushup Edge, disabled access seems to be DCC’s trump card to play in support of their plans. Since there are many requirements surrounding disabled access, it begs the question of when is it simply not feasible to provide access for all. Everyone at the LAF meeting was in support of Natural England’s stance on disabled access, yet felt that Rushup Edge simply did not fit the criteria of a high priority route for improving access. The Countryside Agency and English Nature’s definition of lower priority routes includes:
- Paths in sites where accessible facilities are not present, or where it is inappropriate and economically unviable to provide such facilities
- Isolated paths where few people are likely to use the route (those in areas of significant heritage value may be an exception to this rule)
- Paths where accessible public transport or parking places are unlikely to be provided
- Paths where the natural site constraints do not allow for fully accessible paths
- Paths in locations with high landscape value, where the visual impact of a fully accessible path cannot be overcome
- Paths in open countryside/wild land
- Paths where the cost of improving and maintaining to the highest access standards cannot be justified
Rushup certainly fits these criteria so should not be a priority for improving access. There’s more reading regarding the requirements for accessibility on the Natural England website (you can download the “By all reasonable means” PDF guide here, from which the above criteria are taken). We’d love to have your comments on this topic via email or on our Facebook page.
It was interesting to have DCC point out to PDMTB that the social media campaign had caused them significant disruption. Clearly they had not yet recognised that it was only necessary to undertake such an action because they had studiously refused to engage with us despite promises to the contrary.
With all the user groups present willing and keen to collaborate on this and other issues surrounding access elsewhere in the Peak District, this was a welcome show of endorsement of our ongoing efforts. Once again we should extend our thanks to our supporters. The fight is far from over but the alliance is strengthening.