The deadline for the latest Rushup Edge consultation (aka Chapel-en-le-Frith Byway Open to All Traffic 144) is coming up on November 28th, so we’ve pulled some info together to help you respond to the survey in an informed manner.
PDMTB wrote to Derbyshire Council Highways department on 25th September 2016 with questions about their proposed works for Rushup Edge. We received a reply on the 14th of October and have been dissecting it careful.
To summarise what we’ve learnt:
1) The cost is in the region of £70,000 and there is no plan or budget for maintenance.
2) DCC have no detailed plans for what they are actually going to do. This includes what drainage they are going to put in, how much of the track will be solid stone pitching and how much crushed gritstone. This might also explain why their budget is only approximate, as they haven’t really worked out what they will do.
3) Given they will be using a lot of crushed gritstone, which, we believe will quickly wash away, what they are proposing still does not appear to be sustainable or good value for money.
4) In response to our concerns that the path will erode away, DCC claim that if there are problems with rights of way, in particular with drains blocking, we can alert them to problems with maintenance and they might do something about it. We’ve been alerting them to these problems on Chapel Gate for two years, and they have ignored all our letters, emails and face to face meetings and done nothing about it.
5) This “consultation” has been poorly advertised. Despite improving access being an aim of the project, they have not bothered to invite local disability access groups to comment. We’ve been asking them to involve these groups for two years and they claim not to know about them.
6) We are disappointed with this consultation. The sparse level of information they have provided and seemingly lack of proper plan is not what we were led to believe we’d see after two years of waiting. We really hope DCC improve its relationships with the public they serve but so far, we’ve seen no improvement or lessons learnt.
Please read the information and go to the survey and complete it. Say what you think; after all, you, as tax payers are paying for this work. Could the money be better spent elsewhere? Is there a better approach to these problems? How will the changes proposed affect your enjoyment of the area and will it affect where you ride/spend your money etc? Do you think your views have been taken into account? Does the way in which DCC deal with the public need to change?
Please, please comment on the survey. We have strength in numbers to bring about change.
We’ve transcribed the October 14th response from Derbyshire County Council’s Highways agency below; their answers are in italics and our additional comments are included.
FAO Esther Hobson
Thank you for your letter of 25th September 2016. I’ve addressed your questions in the order they appear in your letter.
1) PDMTB asked details of the estimated cost of the work plus funds laid aside for maintenance in the short and longer term.
DCC replied: We are currently working to a budget of around £70,000. We do not ring fence monies for future maintenance because this would prevent a flexible and responsive management of a highway network where funding may have to be placed immediately.
PDMTB comment: we understand that the money for this work is sourced from a Highways capital budget (i.e. directly from the government) rather than a local council rights of way budget. The statement about maintenance agrees with what we were previously told: that DCC have no budget available from within this capital budget for maintenance. They told us they would have to find money from elsewhere within their ROW budget. This explains why, despite frequent alerts by PDMTB, no maintenance on the Chapel Gate byway into Edale has been conducted.
The £70,000 figure is an interesting one, because it was the initial figure suggested by Peter White when PDMTB called him up on the day we discovered the works had started. This figure was quickly revised to include figures between £30-40,000. PDMTB chatted to our friends Accessible Derbyshire on a trip up to Rushup Edge. They are a charity doing great work to improve access to the Peak District for people with disabilities. Gillian from Accessible Derbyshire said “Accessible Derbyshire could do a lot with £70,000.”
2) PDMTB asked for more detailed plans for drainage (improving drainage is a stated aim of the project. We asked how run off will be managed along the entire length of the track, how it will be removed given most of the track is in a ditch, and how the drains will be maintained to avoid them blocking up).
DCC replied: We do not have detailed drainage plans available at present as they are likely to be unnecessary.
PDMTB comment: This is somewhat strange given DCC suggested this was one of the reasons they are carrying out the work.
DCC went on further: We will aim to keep the drainage channels free running within the resources available. We have suggested to groups or individuals which may have a particular interest in a route, and use it regularly, to report issues to us immediately. This has proven very effective by preventing catastrophic failure. On completion of the work I would welcome reports from your supporters if there is damage occurring so that we can attend to the issue straight away. You have mentioned the management of water. We intend to divert as much water as possible off the track at a higher point and contain residual water within the conﬁnes of the track in an open drainage gulley.
PDMTB comment: It is indeed true that local groups have reported these drainage ditches being full. Peak District MTB has reported this to the department several times, in writing and in person, for two years. The local access forum has also raised the issue at its meetings. No action has taken. So it is likely that they will continue ignoring our warnings and the surface will quickly become damaged.
3) PDMTB asked: what extent of the bridleway will be covered with crushed gritstone vs. firm rock?
DCC replied: The precise extent of coverage with Type 1 is not available and will be judged on construction.
PDMTB comment: It’s regrettable that DCC will not be clearer about how much firm stone pitching which we all agree is superior to lose rock will actually be used at all. The lack of clarity regarding the finer details of the works seems a little odd given they’d had two years to develop a proposal and promised the council they would consult on this.
4) PDMTB asked: The justification for using type 1 gritstone (crushed) with regard to it’s resistance to erosion and cost effectiveness.
DCC replied: The gritstone material we intend to use will blend with the landscape and will be of a similar material to that used on Long Causeway. It is a harder gritstone and is standing up well since that project was completed.
PDMTB response: We believe the Long Causeway has had to be resurfaced in recent months and the fine gritstone is already eroding into the drainage ditches. It doesn’t appear that this approach represents a sustainable model, or good value for money.
5) PDMTB asked: Whether the works will meet the recommendations made in the Pennine Bridleway guidelines for bridleway construction. They recently posted this the consultation website after a PDMTB member asked them a question.
DCC replied: It is our intention to work as closely as possible to the BHS guidance but we obviously reserve the right to depart from that document if necessary.
PDMTB response: This is a shame that they aren’t able to commit to this given that the standards recommended in this document offer a surface far more likely to be sustainable and acceptable to all user groups.
6) PDMTB asked whether there will be a section of each drainage channel protected with a stone slab. We previously explained to DCC that this makes it safer for bicycles. This was previously promised during consultation on the works that occurred on Stanage Causeway in 2014 but no such safety measures were placed.
DCC response: I’ll take on board that recommendation and if our engineers advise that it can be done, then we’ll build that into the design.
PDMTB response: this solution was promised by DCC at site meetings on Stanage Causeway but sadly they never materialised. We don’t think this is an unreasonable request to promote safety. We will be writing again to reiterate our request.
7) PDMTB asked: Which stakeholders have been informed about the consultation? We pointed out that we only found out by chance.
DCC replied: You will have received the email that was sent out inviting comments. Other stakeholders include representative organisations that you would expect including the Ramblers Association, British Horse Society, CTC, Parish Councils and community groups groups and the Disabled Ramblers Association etc. You have referred to Experience Community or Accessible Derbyshire, please feel free to circulate the consultation to those groups as I do not have contact details.
PDMTB response: The consultation opened on the 5th of September. We wrote to Peter White on the 25th of September but the email inviting us to comment was only received a few days after our letter. It’s great news that he read our letter and realised he’d failed to bother letting any one know about the consultation but doesn’t bode well for other consultations if he doesn’t bother to tell us. It’s strange he thinks he doesn’t have contact details for the other accessible groups (he has got this wrong: there are two local groups Accessible Derbyshire AND Experience Community). Both have been involved with the local access forums, and we’ve be telling him about these groups for two years now. They are easy to be found on the internet and are have a lot of experience in outdoor activities in and around the Peak District. Why DCC Highways don’t want to actively engage with them in unclear and somewhat concerning.
8) PDMTB complained that the consultation was poorly advertised and lacked they kind of detail required for members to understand what is being proposed. We felt this made the consultation pointless.
DCC replied: Your comments about the consultation process are noted. We have put in place this type of consultation precisely to address the concerns and observations of a wide variety of users. The consultation process does flush out good ideas and we will incorporate any suggestions than can improve the quality of a route where they do not compromise the Council’s duty to maintain the route in a reasonable condition.
PDMTB: As we’ve outlined above, we feel our complaints still stand: the information provided is poor and the consultation has not been publicized. A poor consultation is ineffective and is a waste of DCC’s time and resources (a bit like the proposed work!). Furthermore, lessons have not been learnt from mistakes make by DCC in work in other areas (e.g. Stanage Causeway, Chapel Gate) where the costly work they did has quickly deteriorated making it either unsafe or costly to maintain. They also don’t appear to have learnt that the public need to be adequately involved in decision making and this involves commitment to consultation which is full, transparent and meaningful.
DCC also replied: Furthermore, we do target stakeholders to invite comment and we do ﬁnd that word does spread when there is a wide interest which in turn generates wider comment which we welcome.
Finally, it’s somewhat concerning to find that DCC are relying on individual groups to publicise its consultations. These consultations are a requirement of any public body and therefore we believe this should be core work of the council, not of volunteer groups.
Thanks for reading this far. Do comment yourselves by clicking on the survey link. We also think writing to or emailing Peter White with your comments is important to have full impact. Take 5 minutes to tell them what you think. Let’s keep the voice of mountain bikers loud and strong.