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The Story of Wigley Lane

Monday, 7 October 2013

Earlier this year Derbyshire County Council carried out maintenance work on a Public Byway in the White Peak, close to Great Longstone. The byway is known as Wigley Lane and runs from Longstone Edge down towards the village of Rowland. 

Here's a handy map:

Wigley Lane Location

For those not familiar with this byway, it was a relatively narrow and rocky limestone track. Although not especially steep, it was, in places, challenging in nature, and had a unique character because of the limestone. As the map indicates, there are alternative routes for all trail users.

Here's a screengrab from this video we made a year or so ago of what the top of Wigley Lane used to look like:

Wigley Lane - Before

And here are some photos I took a week or two ago:

Wigley Lane - After

The new surface is recycled road planings – Tarmac – flattened in to the ground, with a loose scattering over the top, a little like scree. 

There are several issues here, for cyclists, walkers and many other users: 

  • How work of this nature can be carried out (in a National Park) without any consultation. The 'Highways Act' is the Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free card perenially employed in these situations.
  • How the native character of a path or track can be ignored, and how a non-native, intrusive material can be used to resurface such paths.
  • The consideration given to post-work safety of the trail, for all users. As a cyclist, this trail is undoubtedly more dangerous, given the higher speeds of the average rider, and the potential for falls on the loose, scree-like surface.

Given we live in a modern age, we attempted to communicate with Derbyshire County Council via Twitter. Little information was forthcoming. So, in mid September, I submitted a Freedom of Information request for more information about the work. Here's what I wrote:

 

Dear Sir or Madam
 
I would like to make a Freedom of Information Act request for information relating to the maintenance carried out on the Public Byway Wigley Lane, near Rowland. 
 
For the avoidance of doubt, this is the Byway between grid references SK214734 to SK216728. I understand a legal challenge was received by Derbyshire County Council, prompting the work.
 
I’m particularly interested in:
 
The number of complaints received regarding the prior surface, and the date they were received
Specific consultation that took place with user groups prior to the work
The legal basis for the work
If any attempt was made to preserve the character of the existing limestone track
The environmental basis for the material (road planings) used to resurface this Byway
Any safety evaluations carried out with user groups following the work
The cost of the work
 
I trust you’ll reply in a timely manner.
 
Yours sincerely

 

And here's the reply from Derbyshire County Council:

 

Please see the below the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 response:
 
1.    1.
 
2.    No specific consultation were undertaken, therefore this information is not held by Derbyshire County Council (DCC).
 
3.    The Highways Act 1980.
 
4.    Yes, the use of limestone was considered, however it was concluded based on officer experience that planings would be more durable.
 
5.    It is a recycled material.
 
6.    No direct contact with user groups other than a complainant.
 
7.    As of the date of your request £59,552.
 
I hope this now satisfies your request.
 
A single complaint can trigger £60,000 worth of trail maintenance work, which involves the import and use of old Tarmac which is no longer deemed fit-for-purpose on a road elsewhere in the country. In the middle of a National Park.
 
The hoo-ha that this has kicked up follows the similarly jaw-dropping work carried out on the Long Causeway at Stanage (work which looks set to continue on the section above the revetment).
 
At what point should we start regarding this level of maintenance – carried out without consultation, with little or no regard for the local area, and with no thought to potential safety issues after the fact – as vandalism? 
 
This episode certainly demonstrates that local authorities will do what they want, where they want and when they want.
 
JC.

 

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