Farmer irate over gate

A FURIOUS farmer has vowed to take legal action after Kirklees Council gated off a 400-year-old bridleway on his land.

Richard Haigh, 63, of Newhall Farm, Mirfield, used the bridleway off Newhall Road to move his sheep and cattle from one of his fields to the next, but since the council installed the kissing gate last Tuesday, he now has to take a 30 minute detour.

He said: "Kirklees Council did not tell me they were going to do this. I have a right of way and they haven't consulted me and now I can no longer use it. Riders also use it to connect to a labyrinth of other bridle paths and have done so for hundreds of years.

"This is an ancient route and it is going to be challenged in law."

Mr Haigh said the council had received complaints from ramblers the bridleway was too narrow to pass horses.

But he claimed the pathway would be between 14ft and 16ft wide if the council maintained it properly.

The ancient route has been used by horseriders for centuries, but since the gate was installed, they have had to take a detour on Liley Lane, which Mr Haigh called a 'rat run'.

Rider Angela Stocks, 44, of Grange Moor, said: "Many people are riding horses these days. It's a growing sport and there are not a lot of bridle paths in this area.

"Horses are unpredictable and scare easily. Not all of them are good on roads. Some will jump even when drivers go past carefully, which can lead to accidents - so we need bridle paths."

Mr Haigh said he had invited Kirklees Council to a press conference on Monday, but nobody attended.

He said: "We want Kirklees Council to repair the eroded sections of the bridle path and restore it to its original width of 12ft to 16ft so it can be enjoyed by ramblers and riders alike."

A spokesman for Kirklees Council said the route had been mapped as a footpath since 1952 and signs had been put up stating horses and motorbikes were banned from using it - but had since been vandalised.

He said: "We have had numerous complaints about this public footpath being used by motorbikes, mountain bikes, and horses, which raises significant and dangerous public safety issues. In places this is a very tight and narrow footpath, so walkers confronted by motorbikes or horses face considerable health and safety risks. We have an absolute duty to protect and maintain the safety of users of public paths.

"As a matter of public safety we have a duty to protect the public who use our public footpath network for the proper purposes for which they are provided. We have installed the gates to maintain those safety aspects and minimise the risk to people who use the footpath.

"If this has an impact on the landowners and their working operations we are always willing to discuss those matters with them, and have done so in this case."