Staffordshire County Council’s Swan and Limer Rakes Project Delivery Team have issued a response to the consultation for reopening Swan and Limer Rakes, two esoteric and challenging trails near Hollinsclough in the Staffordshire Peak District.
These interesting trails have been subject to a rolling emergency closure since February 2017. In February of this year Staffordshire County Council asked for views from multiple user groups about use of the currently closed Hollinsclough Rakes south of Buxton, with a view to repairing them this Summer.
Staffordshire County Council (SCC) received over 1,600 responses to the consultation, and we have no doubt many of those were mountain bikers who were keen to see the technical character of this quiet corner of the Peak District maintained. However, as SCC point out, they have a duty to maintain these trails to a safe standard and – despite decades of neglect – they have decided to take action.
With 1,600 responses to consider, SCC – working with Amey infrastructure services and engineering company – will try to find a design for the repairs that provides a compromise for the many varied views from the consultation, limits their liability, is suitably costed and has a practical ongoing maintenance budget. Whether the compromise works for the many Peak District MTB members who responded to the consultation and for all the other user groups remains to be seen.
The large quantity of responses means SCC will not respond to each one individually, but they have provided the following useful FAQs.
Frequently asked questions
Why are the Rakes closed?
The Rakes have been closed due to safety concerns relating to the general condition of their surface and the undermining of adjacent stone walls.
Will you resolve the issue with water running down the Rakes?
We will be investigating the issues with water running down the rakes and intend to address any problems found in a suitable manner.
Will the proposed surface be suitable for vehicles?
The design is still ongoing, and the proposed surface may be able to sustain certain vehicle use, but as referenced in the consultation documents the nature of that future use is yet to be determined.
Can you carry out minimal/essential repairs only and open the Rakes?
We are considering all options, but still need to ensure safe access to the Rakes before any reopening.
Will the surfacing be tarmac or in keeping with the environment?
Although the final surfacing has not been yet decided the aim is to ensure that the proposed surface will be in keeping with the local character.
Why are you spending so much money on this when could be used somewhere else?
The general public have a right to expect that the highway is fit for purpose and their enjoyment. We are responsible for ensuring the safety of our assets and need to ensure the Rakes are safe to use.
How much are you planning to spend, and do you have maintenance strategy/plan and budget for further maintenance?
We are still at consultation stage and the design is still evolving; hence we are unable to provide an estimate of costs at this time. The maintenance of the Rakes will be aligned with the Highway Infrastructure Asset Management Plan.
Can you set up a permit scheme or seasonal access?
This is something that we will consider as part of the ongoing consultation.
Are you considering allowing volunteers to help with the maintenance of the Rakes after the repairs are complete?
We are prepared to work with volunteer groups to explore the options for ongoing maintenance.
Will you keep us updated with the proposals?
We understand the importance of the Rakes to the stakeholders and are therefore will be posting updates at the following web pages:
What are the next steps you are planning to take?
We will be considering the consultation responses, which will take some time due to the number and level of detail and will ultimately compile a report outlining the possible options for consideration. In the meantime, we intend to investigate and resolve the drainage issues and undertake safety critical works.
What can *you* do?
Peak District MTB will monitor what happens next and encourage you to so so too. Please make sure you check the links above for progress on this initiative.