The Kinder Mass Trespass remains controversial 80 years on. Plans to commemorate this seminal event in the long struggle for public access rights have sparked unexpected conflict in a sleepy parish council.
To walkers in Hayfield it seemed the perfect way to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the Kinder Mass Trespass. A permanent heritage centre telling the story of this landmark event in the struggle for access to the countryside would open in a parish council building that was once the village lock-up - the same lock-up where Trespass leader Benny Rothman and his co-accused were held after their demonstration in April 1932.
A local team including parish councillors put together a proposal and won almost £100,000 in grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the European Union and the Peak District National Park's Sustainable Development Fund. A consultation with villagers showed widespread support. The post of development officer was advertised and filled, plans were laid for the grand opening, and Hayfield looked forward to the village's role in the trespass receiving wide publicity. At the very least, it would be good for business.
Then came May's parish council elections. In Hayfield these had rarely been contested, but this time things were different. Candidates opposed to what the previous parish council had been doing prevailed and put the heritage centre plan into reverse.
'The negativity and hostility to the project have really surprised me. The unifying agenda among opponents is that they don't like visitors. They resent incomers. Some of them have issues about communists coming in from the city.'
They handed back the grants and cancelled the project, claiming that the building, currently used as a storage room for gardening tools, wasn't suitable. The cost to the parish council, at £6,000, was also deemed too high. Even though some of the money had already been spent, the new council washed their hands of it.
Former councillor John Harvey, one of the driving forces behind the heritage centre said:
'The negativity and hostility to the project have really surprised me. The unifying agenda among opponents is that they don't like visitors. They resent incomers, many of whom moved here because of their love of the hills, including myself. Some of them have issues about Benny's political affiliation, about communists coming in from the city.'
While Hayfield's parish council has turned its back on the Kinder Mass Trespass, the old steering group have reorganised and reapplied to the Sustainable Development Fund with a new plan, beginning with the Kinder Trespass Archive Project. This will bring all the relevant documents available about the trespass online in one location. The new website will also act as a focus to raise funds for a permanent visitor centre in the village, to display the archive and publicise current environmental issues around Kinder.
The final programme for the 80th anniversary has yet to be announced, but will include a week of walks, talks, exhibitions and events at various venues, beginning on Tuesday 24 April, with a launch event at The Moorland Centre, Edale. Speakers will include Dame Fiona Reynolds, Director General of the National Trust, which next year celebrates the 30th anniversary of its acquisition of Kinder Scout.
For more information see Kinder Trespass website.