A row has erupted between angry residents and Incredible Farm in Todmorden after a historic bridleway path was badly damaged.
Residents say that Incredible Farm, based at Lumbutts village, left the path in a very poor state after spreading gravel on it to enable some vehicular access.
But residents say that, having been told by Calderdale Council that it must restore it to its previous state, the farm scraped up and removed the gravel, which scratched the historic stones.
Julia Grieve, a Todmorden town councillor and chairman of Upper Stoodley Residents Association, said: “Concerns among the residents are multifaceted. We are distressed that the bridleway has been repaired in the way that it has.
“But even more fundamentally the residents and other consultees have not been included in any formal planning process and planning application.
“We understand the farm was given agricultural exemption.
“However the farm is much more than just a farm. The implications to the conservation area are profound.”
Nick Green, from Incredible Farm, said: “The trustees of the Incredible Farm apologise unreservedly for the disruption caused to walkers and horse riders by the lengthy works involved in re-building the farm at the Healey Dam site.
“Despite the best efforts of all parties involved, and the long hours worked by volunteers and our sole employee, work which we hoped would have been completed by late summer 2017 has continued into the winter months.
“Discussions have taken place with the local authority’s planning and highways officers. In recent weeks this has focused on the best means of restoring and improving the surface of the adjacent bridle path.
“The trustees followed the council’s advice of December 21, and have been seeking further advice in respect of the conservation of stone setts.
“The work will be completed as quickly as possible. Further decisions will be taken shortly on the matter of the temporary pedestrian access off the bridleway and the adjacent stone wall.
“Several sections of stone walling on the south east of the site have already been repaired or reconstructed and more repairs are planned as finance allows.
“Now that the greenhouse, the two green covered structures, the cowshed and milking station are fully functioning, work will commence shortly in improving the overall visual appearance of the site.
“The trustees are very much aware that many people feel that more effort could have been made to explain the farm’s aims and activities. Although a leaflet was delivered to most local households, we accept that much more needs to be done.”
Calderdale Council’s assistant director of strategic infrastructure, Steven Lee, said: “We are aware of the concerns and are taking the issues seriously.
“The footpath is within a conservation area and any development must maintain or enhance the character of the area. We are in regular contact with Incredible Farm, and are taking the appropriate action to ensure that any development is in line with planning and conservation regulations.
“Our priority is the safety of the footpath and we will not tolerate the path being left in its current state. The surface is uneven and muddy in parts and we’re working on a plan to restore the footpath to its original condition.
“We anticipate that after carrying out this work, grass will regrow over spring and summer, returning the bridleway to its original condition. We intend to seek the appropriate level of damages from the landowner concerned.”