Leeds Group of the Ramblers’ Association
Minutes of Annual General Meeting held on 21st November 2015 in Victory Hall, Thorner at 3.00 pm
Martin Bennett (Chair), Carl Richman (Vice-Chair and Secretary), Lee Davidson (Minutes Secretary and Footpath Secretary), Peter Sweeney (Walks Programme Co-ordinator), Mike Willison (Countryside Secretary), Stephanie Blevins (Committee member) and 11 members of the Group.
Sally Firth (Treasurer and Membership Secretary)
Minutes of the AGM of 8th November, 2014
The Minutes of the AGM of 8th November, 2014 were circulated at the meeting.
The meeting approved the Minutes as a correct record of the proceedings (Prop P Sweeney, Sec C Calderwood
Item 5 Chair’s Report re WalkLeeds Festival. A member asked about the walking festival. See Item 7.1, Chair’s report, below.
Proposed motion on the safety of walkers in fields with cattle
Colin Calderwood raised a matter of importance based on recent changes in farming. Dairy herds were being reduced in number because of the falling price of milk. It was likely that fields previously used for dairy herds would be turned over to crops or to beef raising. This could lead to a rise in problems for walkers such as cropping and young beef cattle. He had asked Peter Sweeney to raise the matter with Ramblers Central office. Janet Davis had confirmed that the Ramblers had at present no policy to deal with this aspect of change to the walking environment. Carl Richman mentioned that a recent article in the Sunday Times had dealt with fatal and other serious accidents in fields caused by cattle, especially perhaps when walkers were accompanied by dogs.
In the light of the discussion it was agreed that the policy in these areas should be reviewed and updated. The Committee would consider a motion for the Area AGM which would allow the issues to be discussed further.
Accounts for 2015 (MB)
In SF’s absence the Chair presented the following summary of the accounts for the year.
These accounts had been inspected by John Miles.
The WalkLeeds Festival had been held in June, comprising a total of 51 walks, 45 of which had been led by Ramblers from all parts of the Area. Janet Street Porter had provided a rousing opening ceremony in Roundhay Park, the culmination of some six months of steady work. A small group of members, including notably the Chair Martin Bennett and Peter Sweeney, had been members of the team which assisted Keith Wadd and Mike Church with the arrangements. The co-operation with Leeds City Council had been particularly important in drawing the Ramblers to the attention of senior Councillors including Lisa Mulherin (with executive Health responsibilities). Rights of Way and Parks and Countryside staff had also been involved.
A member asked from the floor about the success on attracting new walkers. MB did not think that many of those who took part had been new to walking or occasional walkers trying out walking with a group.
The success of the Walking for Health organisation was noted, but most of their walks were shorter. It did not seem to be easy to bridge the gap between these walks and the range which had been offered in the festival programme, despite the fact that they represented a remarkable variety of places and scenery all within the Leeds boundaries.
The Area would not be organising a festival in 2016. However, Living Streets were known to be interested in promoting a festival throughout West Yorkshire and it would be a good idea to work closely with them and offer assistance where possible. Once again public health bodies were believed to be interested.
During the year the Committee had met six times. Working relationships with Public Rights of Way section in the Council were good.
The walks programme had been successful. It was essential to have a flourishing programme to attract new members and to fulfil important purposes such as providing opportunities for women to walk in groups.
Mike Willison continued to Chair the Leeds Local Access Forum. This is a statutory body whose membership represents walking, cycling and land management interests as well as involving Councillors. The current Councillor members seemed to be anxious to see the LAF play an active role.
MB had also attended a number of meetings of the Parks and Green Spaces Forum which was largely composed of representatives of the various ‘friends of’ and similar organisations attached to many of the parks and local green spots (eg Woodhouse Ridge). Some of the Council officers appeared at these meetings. The groups appeared to be more interested in working on their own chosen territories than in pursuing broader issues of policy.
A long running case, which had given rise to a number of meetings, concerned the removal of the level crossing on the Huddersfield railway line just behind the SW corner of the White Rose Shopping centre. The crossing had been closed for some time, leaving a stranded section of cross-field path (FP Morley 34) on the W side of the line. It had for long been agreed in the Group that the loss of this crossing should not also lead on to the loss of a section of path without some compensation. Network Rail had investigated providing an extension of the path to join Morley 34 to the area of Morley Station, but there was insufficient lineside land to provide a safe route. Rights of Way were investigating whether the landowners on the W side of the line would be willing to create a path, but it was not thought likely that there would be agreement. This left creation followed by agreed compensation. While it was often supposed that compensation would be very expensive this might not be the case.
The recently ended Site Allocation Consultation made extremely detailed provision for the use of land for housing. In many cases this would affect land over which ran footpaths. The Footpath and Countryside Secretaries had made responses to the consultation.
The £1000 from the Group funds which had been given to Leeds City Council for footpath signage had been matched by the Council and the signs erected.
Election of officers and committee for 2016
It was noted that the Chair and Treasurer/Membership officers were standing down. (See below, in the Chair’s annual report appended to these Minutes, his expression of the Group’s thanks to Sally Firth.) The Chair stressed the desirability of having a Publicity officer who could concentrate on bringing the activities of the group to the attention of the press and media organisations.
Listed below are the details of those officers who were willing to continue plus a nomination received from the floor (Prop C Calderwood, Sec S Blevins/J Winn1):
|Minutes Secretary||Lee Davidson|
|Treasurer and Membership Secretary||Peter Sweeney|
|Footpath Secretary||Lee Davidson|
|Walks Programme Co-ordinator||Peter Sweeney|
|Countryside Secretary||Mike Willison|
|Committee member||Stephanie Blevins|
Action on Committee membership subsequent to the AGM
It was not known at the time of the AGM whether the Committee Member Josie Andrews wished to continue as a member. Josie contacted the Committee meeting in January to say that she was willing to continue as a member, and the Committee added her to its membership.
The January meeting also received a letter from Peter Taylor, former Footpath Secretary, to say that as a result of improvements in his health he was able to continue his interest as a member of the Committee. The Committee agreed to add Peter Taylor’s name to the list of members as a former officer.
In the absence of a nominee at this stage for Chair it was proposed that members take it in turn to chair meetings during the year. The number of meetings was to be reduced from six to four, making the duties of the Chair less onerous.
The meeting approved the above nominations en bloc.
The meeting discussed communications between the Committee and the membership in general. Peter Sweeney had been expanding the use of email communication during the year. His primary purpose had been to keep in touch with those who attended the walks on the programme. Cancellations etc could be notified very effectively. He was proposing to use the list to distribute other items such as the Committee minutes so that members could be kept up to date with the activities of the Committee and its officers.
The Countryside Secretary’s report/presentation centred on a series of wind farm applications in the countryside round Leeds. Two of these had been aimed at supplying power needs on the farms concerned (Brecks Farm and Harper Farm) and two had been speculative (Woodhouse Farm and Gamblethorpe Farm).
The officer undertook site visits with the Footpath Officer and Chair. In all cases a detailed response was made which normally required the applicant to include photo montages from vantage points not originally supplied with the application but which were important viewpoints for walkers. All the consultation responses were concerned to improve the quality of the application, in some cases by proposing height reductions to the turbine. Suggestions were also made for planting to screen out views of the turbine, and for substituting solar apparatus on available roofs. In no case was the response to oppose without suggested improvements. In one case proposals for new paths had been made to improve the network in the Kippax area.
Some of the proposals had been rejected and some granted, normally with modifications along the lines supported by the Group such as height reduction.
Membership was at present 604 (591 active and 13 payment pending).
The Footpath Secretary’s report/presentation covered a number of the trickier cases which had arisen during the year. He had had very few reports of problems on paths in open country and the majority of his work had concerned planning applications or similar cases where paths were likely to be affected. These included a historically complex application for a Definitive Map Modification Order in Roundhay, a diversion near a Special School and a very weakly supported case for an extinguishment through school grounds. In one case plans had been redrawn to exclude a path from extinguishment.
A further issue of importance was the possible role which the Street Register might play in the run-up to the 2026 terminal date for adding paths to the Definitive Map. The Street Register data was of very variable quality, but it did record a number of paths as ‘public’ which were not on the Definitive Map.
Big Pathwatch (MB)
The Chair drew the attention of members to the current Big Pathwatch campaign, which was attempting to walk all paths in England and report on their state in a standard form. Walkers would undertake to walk paths in a kilometre square, and a website existed where squares could be reserved and to avoid duplication of effort.
The website can be found at http://www.ramblers.org.uk/bigpathwatch.
Walks Programme (PSw)
The next walks programme had recently been completed. He was pleased to report that there were more walks leaders, including some who were new to walk leading.
The members attending expressed their appreciation for the work of the Committee members.
The meeting ended at 4.30 pm approximately.
[The Chair’s annual report for 2105 appears below.]
Leeds Group Chair’s Report - AGM November 2015
The Leeds Group committee has met six times in the year, with considerable activity between meetings. There has been a regular and varied walks programme and committee members have been in frequent and positive contact with Public Right of Way officers from Leeds City Council. Budget, membership and secretarial work carried out by committee members has kept the Group solvent and efficiently run.
The previous AGM was held at St. Giles Church Hall, Bramhope on 8 November 2014. It was preceded by, as ever, a well-attended local walk. Leeds Group walks are published in the West Riding Area Walks Programme, which is also on the West Riding and the Leeds Group websites.
There have been planned walks near to home in the Leeds area and also further afield. The walks have varied in length between 5 and 10 miles at both a leisurely and faster pace. These are popular days out and are appreciated by members, discovering new locations led by our experienced leaders. The walks offer a friendly atmosphere to chat and enjoy our wonderful countryside. The social walks also help to attract new recruits.
The successful WalkLeeds West Riding Festival of Walks was held over eight days in May and June. Committee members were heavily involved in the considerable planning, preparation and activities for the event. All the walks were in the Leeds city boundary and over 51 walks were organised for the well-presented programme. The Lord Mayor opened the ceremony at Roundhay Park and Janet Street-Porter led the well-attended Celebration Walk around the park. The festival gave the opportunity to showcase the excellent walking to be found, both in the urban areas and in the extensive open attractive countryside of Leeds. The festival was publicised widely in the local media.
Amongst many meetings held, were several with Leeds City Councillors at the Civic Hall. These meetings, as well as giving support to the festival, also raised the profile of both the 817 kilometre footpath network and of the Ramblers. It has drawn councillor’s attention to the fantastic benefits of walking and has forged good links with Leeds Public Health. It is expected that the excellent links and relationships made with council staff and other health and environmental organisations will continue and further develop.
Committee members have attended various other meetings including the Local Access Forum, Leeds Parks and Green Spaces Forum, and extensive dialogue with PRoW officers. Personal interests, skills and membership of organisations contribute to the expertise and knowledge of the committee.
Footpath and countryside matters, as always, have been important areas for focus throughout the year. Contact with council officials takes place on a regular basis. Particular footpath and countryside matters can be protracted and time-consuming. For instance, meetings have continued over an extensive period regarding the Morley Rail footbridge and nearby paths and crossings. Countryside matters included site visits to proposed turbine applications. The proposed 70,000 houses to be built in the Leeds area by 2028 should take up much of the committee’s future work. Previously, the Leeds Group had donated £1000 to LCC’s PRoW department to put up footpath signposts at road junctions. This was match-funded. All the signposts have now been erected. However, the Leeds area still has many signposts missing. These are the starting point to alerting walkers and the general public to a local public footpath. Without signposts, often even local people can be unaware of a path on their doorstep.
The Ramblers Big Pathwatch project has had considerable committee attention, with many Leeds Ordnance Survey kilometre grid squares walked. However, as at mid-November there is still substantial walking and surveying to be done. Big Pathwatch is a campaign to walk all the Rights of Way in England and Wales, and then use the results of the survey to highlight the need for resources to maintain our tremendous footpath network.
There are committee vacancies for membership, publicity and treasurer. I would like to give my very warm thanks to Sally Firth for her excellent work and effort in the roles of membership and treasurer. I am also intending to stand down as chair after three years. It has been a privilege to chair Leeds Group, as part of an interesting, talented and collegiate committee. This is an opportunity for one of our Leeds Group 600 plus members to extend the work and the successes of the Leeds Group.
Committee meetings are held at 7pm at Oxford Methodist Mission in the centre of Leeds, with dates of meetings on the Group website. Members are warmly encouraged to come and observe proceedings with an option to seek nomination to the committee during the year.
The Minutes Sec failed to get the individual’s name and subsequent inquiries have failed to resolve the question. The issue is referred to the 2016 AGM.