We’ve had not one, but two replies from Derbyshire County Council about the ongoing trail-mangling at Rushup Edge/Chapel Gate…
First, we received a stock email response from the Deputy Cabinet Member for Jobs, Economy and Transport, Councillor Andy Botham – which seems to have mostly been cut-and-pasted from the story on DCC’s website regarding Chapel Gate, and angled towards appeasement. I’ve been reliably informed that this particular page wasn’t actually on DCC’s website last week… It’s also interesting that the original £70,000 estimated cost of the Chapel Gate works has been reduced in this story to a mere £30,000. That’s quite some saving – perhaps they’ve switched supermarkets?
Here is the email in its entirety:
Thank you for your interest in the work we are currently carrying out to repair erosion at Chapel Gate.
We realise the Peak District National Park is an area which is close to many people’s hearts and they feel very passionately, as we do, about its protection and maintenance.
Up to 16 million people visit the park every year. We want as many of them as possible to have an enjoyable experience, whether they’re out for a drive, walking, running, or cycling, and to encourage them to return to boost the local economy.
However, the very nature of the park’s varied uses mean we’re never going to be able to please everyone with the work we do to maintain and repair its rights of way.
Mountain bikers prefer challenging, rockier routes, whereas these might not be suitable for horse riders or walkers.
We carry out maintenance on paths in the greatest need of repair or with potential to benefit the greatest number of users.
The work at Chapel Gate was approved in November last year, as part of our Green Lane Action Plan, and has been discussed at the Peak District Local Access Forum, which includes representatives from many different interest groups and comments on planned improvement works. It is expected to take around six weeks to complete.
Many areas of the path are in a serious state of deterioration. Work is needed to combat erosion, prevent further deterioration and make the route safe. Currently, many people are unable to use Chapel Gate because of the rocky ‘steps’ which have evolved due to damage over time.
We’re not killjoys and don’t want to stop people having fun, but we have a legal obligation to maintain our routes. Unfortunately, this means we have to carry out some maintenance work which won’t be popular with everyone.
We understand that you may not agree with the work we’re doing but hope you can appreciate the difficult position we find ourselves in.
However, we’ve also received a reply from the faceless “News (Chief Executives)” at DCC, in response to the questions we asked them yesterday. Here it is in full:
Singletrack (ST): How was the need for the work identified?
Derbyshire County Council (DCC): The route was generally in disrepair and this is Phase 4 of our work programme having repaired the lower section over the past three years.
ST: What is the intended outcome of the works?
DCC: To provide a route that caters for the majority of users entitled to legally use the route.
ST: Was any consultation carried out with user groups?
DCC: We consulted through the Peak District Local Access Forum.
ST: Why is a limestone based aggregate being used? Was there any environmental impact of this carried out?
DCC: It’s not Limestone, we are using Gritstone.
ST: Why has your PROW team disengaged from discussions with Peak District MTB as a user group?
DCC: We haven’t, we’ve been offered the opportunity to meet and a date will be arranged.
ST: Are your PROW team willing to consult and carry out more sympathetic maintenance with volunteers?
DCC: Very happy to work with volunteers and indeed the PDNPA does engage with volunteers within their boundary and DCC runs active volunteer groups outside the National Park.
ST: As a contributor to the Visitor Safety in the Countryside Group how does this work fit with its principles, particularly the fundamental principles?
DCC: Our approach ties in very well with the guiding principles which are to ensure that all users entitled to use this route can do so in the knowledge that the route is safe.
ST: “Communication is not an afterthought at Derbyshire County Council – it plays a vital role in everything we do.” How does your PROW team’s approach to consultation fit with your communications strategy?
DCC: Advice is sought through two Local Area Access Forums – The Derby and Derbyshire LAF and the Peak District LAF. These are statutory bodies set up to advise the council on matters relating to outdoor recreation, rights of way and access to the countryside.
This is not a cast-iron defence by DCC.
The Peak District Local Access Forum (PDLAF) it mentions doesn’t presently have any mountain biker representation – here’s the list of forum members. So any consultation made had no input from us as a community. And the (slightly out of date) Derby and Derbyshire LAF website suggests that they’re currently looking for new members – or at least they were, but the cut off date was 19th September. Still, it might be worth enquiring if you’re a Derbyshire local.
We’re also not at all certain that they are actually using gritstone as the responses insist – Dave and Dan from Singletrack were at the Picnic Protest yesterday, and believe that the aggregate being used is actually limestone based:
There may be some light at the end of the tunnel, though – Jim Dixon, CEO of the Peak District National Parks Authority, has tweeted that the PDNPA has asked DCC to pause repairs to Chapel Gate pending a visit later on this week. Hopefully they’ll be able to definitively establish the provenance of the aggregate used, as well as the need for the scale of the works undertaken in the first place, and perhaps moving forward we’ll have something a little more sympathetic to both our needs and the Peak environment generally.
For those confused about the Rushup Edge/Chapel Gate nomenclature, by the way, the work at present being undertaken is on the section of trail marked by the BIG PURPLE ARROW below:
Fingers crossed we can actually negotiate a positive outcome to the issue. We’ve been pretty unhappy with DCC’s apparently roughshod approach to the needs of mountain bikers in the past – it’d be good to see some definitively effected change.
Comments are open below for your thoughts – let us (and DCC) know what you think…