Wibsey Community Website

Councillor Simon Cooke scoffs at Ramblers who request that dangerous stiles be repaired!

Simon Cooke Councillor for Bingley believes that Ramblers in the Bradford district should be made to pay for the upkeep of stiles and footpaths.
Recently the Bradford Telegraph and Argus contacted me in my capacity as the President of the largest rambling club in the Bradford district, and invited me to pass an opinion on the state of footpaths and access stiles in the Bradford area.
A Simon Cooke blocked stile In the article which was subsequently published in the T&A,  I spoke about the 5% of stiles in the area that had not been maintained, which at the very least prevented the elderly and infirm from completing a  walk, and at worst presented a serious danger to anyone attempting to pass through.
Simon Cooke, who is a conservative Councillor for Bingley, an area which contributes more members to Bradford CHA Rambling & Social Club than any other in the district, declares in his daily blog that I and all the members of the Rambling community do not contribute anything to the upkeep of stiles and footpaths.
He has quite obviously assumed that the walking community do not pay council tax.  Neither has he made any effort to find out that many of us are members of local footpath groups, who do indeed spend many hours of our own time and money in erecting and maintaining stiles and footpaths.
I would like to mention one group of walkers in the Wharfedale area as an example. The Lower Wharfedale Working Group of The Ramblers, which was formed in 1994, was recognised in 2009 by an award from Ilkley Civic society for the work which they had voluntarily carried out on footpaths, stiles and bridges. Indeed, since the working group was formed, they have built or repaired more than 260 stiles, 43 bridges, 75 paths and 60 gates. Their work benefits everyone who loves walking in our area!
In his blog Councillor Simon Cooke refers to the 115,000 members of The Ramblers as my “walking buddies” and states that I and my “walking buddies” do not pay and have no intention of paying any contribution towards our walking pleasure.  I have no idea where Councillor Cooke has acquired his facts about me and my “walking buddies” but I am afraid that his information is sadly wide of the mark.
I personally have been a registered volunteer leader of the “walking for health” initiative for a number of years, and in the past have led many walks for the elderly and disabled people in the district. Many of my “walking buddies” are also involved in the same initiative, several of them lead weekly rambles open to all-comers and a lot of local people have benefited both in mind and body through taking part in these walks.
Has Councillor Cooke taken into account the money saved by the NHS due to the health benefits conferred on the elderly and infirm by ramblers freely giving of their time? Some people may consider such work for the community as a small measure of pay-back.
In the weeks between the two Olympic Games and the success achieved by our British athletes, with all of us enthused to take more exercise, I find it barely credible that Councillor Cooke should be so negative about an activity that is available to all, and delivers so many benefits for so little effort.  Councillor Cooke makes a joke about “those funny ski pole things” when referring to the aids used by elderly and infirm walkers, which actually prolong their walking life and assist them to ramble in safety. Don’t the disabled also need to cross stiles?  
The problem of blocked footpaths and stiles is affecting all who value a walk in the countryside, whether it be a constitutional with their dog, a walk for health or an organised day’s outing. Local authorities have statutory duties to ensure they're not impeded? Is he suggesting that they should wilfully neglect them? Not a good position for a local politician to take. We should be keeping them clear and looked after properly as they are a valuable local leisure time amenity.
Due to the existing situation with stiles, I believe that people are deliberately being discouraged from using them.
What hope is there of getting any improvement when a prominent councillor sends a message like this out?
We do not want to build Jerusalem, only to walk in England’s green and pleasant land!
Go To Simon Cooke's Blog

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