Following the recent meetings with Derbyshire County Council regarding the controversial work on Rushup Edge, Peak District MTB were asked to submit a formal response to DCC by January 16th 2015. That day has arrived so here is a transcript of our letter to DCC’s Peter White.
PDMTB RESPONSE TO DERBYSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL 16 JANUARY 2015
Peak District MTB is an advocacy group aimed at using the collective voice of the Peak District’s resident mountain bike community and seeks to improve, preserve and promote access interests for mountain bikers who live and ride within the Peak District National Park. Our membership is now in excess of 1200 individuals with support from other organisations, clubs and local businesses.
As an advocacy group we have tried over the past 12 months to engage with, and discuss the plans for maintenance and repair works for various rights of way in and around the entire Peak District National Park with Derbyshire County Council (DCC). Unfortunately, after one meeting, at which we were assured that we would be consulted and offered the opportunity to work with DCC on plans for Stanage Long Causeway, we have been unable to glean a response from DCC, more specifically Peter White, regarding these works by either telephone or email.
This situation forced PDMTB and concerned members of the public to undertake significant direct communication with DCC, through the organisation of an on-site protest and through social media channels, in order to generate an opening of dialogue with DCC. This resulted in a meeting in early December after the cessation of the works on the western end of the Rushup Edge / Chapel Gate byway, a site visit with Peter White, and an opportunity to present our views at the LAF sub group, also attended by Peter White. This increased consultation is welcomed and appreciated, however, our concerns remain that this may be an academic exercise and DCC will pursue its original course of action much as it did with the Stanage Long Causeway. We also had cause to notice that the designs presented at the meeting with DCC in December and shown to the LAF varied from the information imparted at the site visit, where we were advised that the work would be far more extensive than shown on the plans.
We share the concerns of Friends of the Peak and support, wholeheartedly, their position and recommendations.
In addition, we would like to highlight the fact that at no time has DCC, at its own admission, undertaken any research into the users of this particular route or the expected change in use after the work is complete. There has been no pre and post research undertaken on the Stanage Long Causeway to ascertain whether this work has changed the pattern and scope of users for this right of way. The only information regarding input and opinion into the process has been, according to DCC, from individuals or single interest user groups rather than from the whole spread of user groups.
We believe that without such research, and the publishing of same, no work should be undertaken as the outcry raised after the start of works on Rushup Edge / Chapel Gate clearly shows that it is unwanted by the existing user groups.
We would suggest to DCC that they undertake the following actions, in order of our preference :
- remove all materials that have been placed on the route and return it to its original state
- if maintenance or repair to this route is unavoidable we request the current materials are
removed and replaced with a planned and designed stone setting approach to
reasonably accommodate all amenity users as has been achieved on the Roych nearby
- should the larger steps be removed we request smaller steps remain and that solid
bedrock is left intact and visible, remaining consistent with the nature of the high
- that all maintenance is as sensitive, minimal and sustainable as possible for this and all
future work on rights of way
We accept that there is a duty for DCC in providing access for all, however, as was extensively referenced in the LAF meeting this should be in accordance with Natural England’s guidance. Everyone attending the LAF meeting was in support of Natural England’s stance on disabled access and, therefore, 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
According to these criteria the Rushup Edge / Chapel Gate byway is classed as a low priority route. This is in contrast to many areas within the PDNP that we believe have a much higher priority need for better access. This is especially important when taking into account the opposition to the work from groups and organisations prepared to present their objections publicly at the LAF meeting and directly to DCC. If accessibility is the key criteria we would also question that not including within the plan the replacement and maintenance of suitable gates would defeat the entire logic of access being the driving issue for the proposed works.
Finally we would like to draw to the attention of all recipients the many points raised in a report produced by PDMTB and submitted to DCC for comment (we are still awaiting a response), in addition to a user survey that was carried out in the very short amount of time available before the meeting with DCC in December. It includes the views and opinions of a number of user groups, as well as our members, in more detail as well as the opinions of an engineer familiar with this type of high moorland route into the suitability of the proposed repairs in this environment. The views of the engineer are particularly important when considering the durability of the proposal and the ongoing maintenance required to keep the proposed surface in good repair. We believe that without the commitment to a schedule of maintenance that this route would become unsustainable.
Andrew Burdett, Esther Hobson, James Irwin, Jeffrey King, Chris Maloney, Daniel Noble and Paul Richardson.
The Committee of Peak District Mountain Bike Group for and on behalf of our 1200 members and affiliated organisations.
CC’d to the following:
DCC – Alison Thomas, Richard Bonner,
DCC Councillors – Collins, Owens, Botham, Street, Taylor, Twigg & Spencer,
PDNPA – Mike Rhodes,
Friends of the Peak – Andy Tickle,
Ride Sheffield – John Horscroft,
BMC – Henry Folkhard,
PDMTB members via the group website.