Save Our Stones

Campaign to Increase Usability of The Stones River Crossing at Burley-in Wharfedale


A. Comments on Documents Obtained From Bradford MDC Archives

B. Comments on a 1980 photo of The Stones compared to the 2009 photo

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Comments on Documents Obtained From Bradford MDC Archives

Councillor Matt Palmer has now obtained a number of documents from Bradford MDC archive. The SOS observations on them have been emailed to Burley-in-Wharfedale Parish Council on 4 January 2009. The text of the email is shown below in blue.

For ease of reference, the documents are repeated below the email listed in chronological order by title for ease of reference. Should you wish to see them, please note they are PDF files and you will need Adobe Reader to access them. Please allow ample time for them to download.

The email reads:

"Councillor Palmer has now obtained a number of documents relating to the history of maintenance of The Stones. It is assumed members of the Parish Council will have been given access to them but they can be downloaded from the Burley Forum. They have also been downloaded to the Save Our Stones website and listed by title in chronological order for ease of reference. Access via “Latest News”.

One issue which keeps being raised by contributors to the Burley Forum and was also attempted by the solicitors J.H. Milner & Son in their representations on behalf of their client [presumably Leeds Angling Association] who was trying to stop any work in the 1970s, is that “The Stones” are not and never were intended as stepping stones. The simple fact is whatever name they are given is irrelevant. They were used as a means of crossing the river with sufficient regularity and over a sufficiently long period for them to acquire Right Of Way status by reason of habitual use. Their ROW status is confirmed absolutely by perhaps the most crucial part of the 1968 Enquiry - Inspector’s Conclusions at Section 105 (2). It confirms the route over The Stones is a public route. They are also recorded on the Definitive Footpath Map as a public footpath. This matter does not need further discussion.

In his letter dated 27 May 1977 (re-dated to 14 June 1977) in his letter to J.H Milner and Son, the Chief Engineer says that The Stones were to be bedded on the slab, rather than made part of it, so that in the event that they were struck by large floating objects, The Stones would be dislodged, avoiding any shock being transferred to the sill. Restoration of The Stones in a similar manner therefore cannot pose any risk to the sill, the stilling pool or the weir.

Save Our Stones has contended throughout that Bradford Council has a duty to maintain the Right Of Way across the river. I do not think this has ever been disputed but in any case, the Chief Engineer confirms this absolutely in his letter to J.H. Milner and Son dated 24 June 1977, where he says “the Council has a duty to maintain the public right of way which was gained over the stepping stones”.

Now I come to what I regard as probably the most useful of the documents in relation to getting The Stones restored.

In his letter of 6 July 1978 from the Chief Engineer to R.G. Brook at West Yorkshire CC, he sets out relevant history.

It states in the eighth paragraph that “…. there are 2 or 3 existing stones towards the northern side which are slightly lower than the remaining stones, and, therefore, are under water before the remaining stones are submerged”.

If you look at the photograph of The Stones on the SOS website (the portrait orientation) which was taken in September 2009 after a very long dry spell, (you may need to zoom in), it is obvious that The Stones nearest the northern bank are now higher than the 6 or 7 submerged in the centre. If this number of stones in the centre are now submerged before those towards the northern bank, logically, these must have either sunk or been eroded. These 6 or 7 cannot be the same 2 or 3 referred to by the Chief Engineer as they are in the centre and could hardly be classed as “towards the northern side”.

We have no way of knowing what the original level of all The Stones was when they were installed. This is confirmed by the Chief Engineer’s letter to A.E. Naylor dated 31 January 1978.  However Save Our Stones believes there is clear evidence that the condition of The Stones has worsened and that there is a clear need and duty for Bradford Council to restore them to their former levels which at the very least has to be the same as the stones close to the northern bank . This would constitute maintenance, not improvement.

The Chief Engineer is right to conclude the heights should not be raised by levels which might encourage crossing when the river is in a dangerous state but the degree of elevation to bring them back to at least the level of The Stones at the northern bank would be nowhere near this.

We should also not be distracted by the fact that someone was drowned crossing The Stones in the 1960s, when they must have taken an unreasonable risk. Obviously if stones are submerged, one should not cross. In fact, the Council would be substantially reducing risk if they maintained all The Stones to the same level as if any were submerged, they all would be, thus discouraging the foolhardy from starting to cross in the first place. There will always be a temptation to complete the crossing if one gets towards the middle and finds only 6 or 7 submerged."

Documents from the Bradford MDC archive are:

1)  Ilkley Urban District Council Survey14 March 1951

2) 1968 Public Hearing Presided Over By A.A. Sloma, Barrister At Law

3) Letter From J.H. Milner & Son, Solicitors Representing Leeds Anglers(?) to Bradford MDC dated 28 April 1975

4) Letter from J.H.Milner & Sons to Bradford MDC dated 15 October 1975

5)  Letter from Chief Engineer dated 31 December 1976 to J.H. Milner & Son

6) Letter from Chief Engineer dated 14 June 1977 to J.H. Milner & Son

7)  Letter from Chief Engineer dated 24 June 1977 to J.H. Milner & Son

8) Letter from Chief Engineer dated 7 July 1977 to J.H. Milner & Son

9) Letter from Chief Engineer to West Yorkshire CC dated 31 January 1978Memo from Bradford Chief Engineer to Chief Planning Officer dated 17 March 1978

10) Letter from Chief Engineer to Director of Administration West Yorks CC dated 6 July 1978

11) Bradford MDC Public Right Of Way Condition Survey 2 September 1997

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Comments on a 1980 photo of The Stones compared to the 2009 photo via email to Burley Parish Council and Matt Palmer on 14 January 2009.

 Email reads:

"We have  today been copied into some photographs taken of The Stones in 1949 and 1980. I have now put copies of the photos taken in 2009, 1999, 1980 and 1947 on the same page on the SOS website for ease of reference. See page Comparative Pictures. If any more turn up, I will add them.

It is difficult to know of how much assistance the 1949 photo is as work done in the 1970s may have replaced these stones. However they do all seem to be progressing towards installation at the same level.

More relevant I feel is the photo taken in 1980 compared with the 2009 picture. If you look at the slight curve in the line of the stones on both pictures, it appears identical which is an indicator we are looking at the same set of stones.

In the 1980 picture, all The Stones are much more above the water level than in the 2009 picture. For this to be relevant, some gauge as to the comparative water levels in each picture is necessary. I attach two image files [see below text] . The one titled “water levels” shows two pictures. I have tried to zoom in to the same point and to the same extent on the northern bank in  both pictures. The water level is virtually identical.

The second file titled “stones with blobs” shows two zoomed pictures again. The left one is from 1980, the right hand one from 2009. If one looks at the right hand profile of The Stones in both pictures, it is fairly easy to pick out the same stone in both pictures which I have overlaid with a yellow blob. It is the one most indented. Counting forward from there, one can work out on the 2009 picture roughly on which stone the pair are standing. Even if I am  one or even two out, the comparison is near enough to show that the stones immediately behind the pair must have deteriorated since 1980.

The above evidence together with that previously discussed in relation to the documents from the local authority archives shows that work is necessary to restore the stones to their previous condition. It is difficult to see what more evidence could be needed.

Such maintenance would not be “improvement” which may (or may not – we do not know yet!) conflict with any injunction restrictions."