Sunday, 19 October 2014

Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry Day 64


Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry

Day 64


Thursday 16th October 2014


The first morning session of Day 64 of the Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry, Thursday 16th October 2014, Mr John Brooks gives his statement of case and is examined by Gregory Jones QC for First West Yorkshire. 
Due to the extreme quietness with which this witness spoke it has been necessary to make numerous level adjustments in order to improve audibility.


In the late morning session of Day 64 of the Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry, Thursday 16th October 2014, Gregory Jones QC  concludes his examination of Mr John Brooks for First West Yorkshire.
A short adjournment was taken a few minutes into this session which I have represented with a two second gap joining the two segments into one.
Due to the extreme quietness with which this witness spoke it has been necessary to make numerous level adjustments in order to improve audibility.

 

In the early afternoons session of Day 64 of the Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry, Thursday 16th October 2014, Neil Cameron QC commences his examination of Mr John Brooks.



Due to the extreme quietness with which this witness spoke it has been necessary to make numerous level adjustments in order to improve audibility.

In the late afternoon session of Day 64 of the Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry, Thursday 16th October 2014, Neil Cameron QC cross examines Mr John Brooks.
Due to the extreme quietness with which this witness spoke it has been necessary to make numerous level adjustments in order to improve audibility.


Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry Day 63


Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry

Day 63


Wednesday 15th October 2014

The first morning session of Day 63 of the Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry, Wednesday 15th October 2014, is taken up with programming matters and the matter of some late documents submitted by the Applicant.

In the mid morning session of Day 63 of the Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry, Wednesday 15th October 2014, Ms Katie Lightbody, expert conservation witness for First West Yorkshire, gives her evidence in chief and is examined on it by Gregory Jones QC


In the late morning session of Day 63 of the Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry, Wednesday 15th October 2014, Gregory Jones QC concludes his examination of Ms Katie Lightbody, expert conservation witness for First West Yorkshire, and is followed Mr Walton for the Applicant NGT.


In the early afternoon session of Day 63 of the Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry, Wednesday 15th October 2014, Gregory Jones QC re-examines Ms Katie Lightbody.

In the late afternoon session of Day 63 of the Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry, Wednesday 15th October 2014, the Inspector holds an open round discussion on planning conditions should the TWA Order for the Applicant be granted.

Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry Day 62


Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry

Day 62


Tuesday 14th October 2014


The first morning session of Day 62 of the Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry, Tuesday 14th October 2014, is taken up with programming matters for some forty minutes. 

In the mid morning session of Day 62 of the Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry, Tuesday 14th October 2014, Mr John Reid, local resident, retired planner and private objector gives his evidence against the NGT scheme.  Mrs Jenny Phelps, the operator of a hair and beauty salon on Headingley Lane.

In the late morning session of Day 62 of the Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry, Tuesday 14th October 2014, Mr Nabarro gives the case on behalf of Mrs S Baskind, owner of property on Shaw Lane corner and is followed by Cllr Barry Anderson (C) Adel and Wharfedale, who is cross examined on his case.

In the early afternoon session of Day 62 of the Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry, Tuesday 14th October 2014, Mr Geoff Steele gives the case on behalf of Dr Ruth Cunliffe for the Adel Association, and Cllr Jonathan Bentley (Cllr for Weetwood) speaks on his own objection and on behalf of his constituents.

In the late afternoon session of Day 62 of the Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry, Tuesday 14th October 2014, Mr Nigel Sleeman gives his case against the NGT scheme and is cross examined by both Mr Walton and the Inspector.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry Day 61



Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry

Day 61


Friday 9th October 2014

Links to the audio recordings for the day are included here and commentary follows below.

In the first morning session of Day 6 of the Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry, Friday 9th Oct 2014, Mr Stuart Natkus on behalf of Morley House Trust (LGHS) and other local Statutory Objectors, gives their cases against the NGT proposals.

In the late morning session of Day 6 of the Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry, Friday 9th Oct 2014, Mr Stuart Natkus on behalf of Morley House Trust (LGHS) and other local Statutory Objectors, completes their cases against the NGT proposals and Neil Cameron QC for the Applicant begins his cross examination.

In the afternoon session of Day 6 of the Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry, Friday 9th Oct 2014, Mr Stuart Natkus is cross examined by Neil Cameron QC for the Applicant NGT as well as by the Inspector.


As week 15 ground to a close, and the Enquiry has now extended to over twice the length originally anticipated (by NGT I should hasten to add), we saw Mr Stuart Natkus for the statutory objectors along Headingley Lane and on Headingley Hill present his case against the trolleybus scheme, or at least against a lot of details which are part of it.

I have a little joke I make about Mr Natkus, for which I hope he will forgive me.  Doubtless my readers will know the saying ‘The enemy of my enemy is my friend’.  And Mr Natkus, or at least the clients whom he is representing, are enemies of NGT.  So in this he is our friend.  However life is never simple.  While, of necessity, their case is made on as many technical heritage grounds as can be found, and they are essentially restricted to objections around the properties which they own, their prime objective must be to minimise the impact on those properties. 

And several of those properties have highly contentious developments pending in one way or another.  If the trolleybus doesn’t go ahead then there is still the application to build on the fields which are currently grazed by horses.

And clearly the old Leeds Girls’ High School site which is the principle property that is being defended has great development potential and has failed to realise this because of the planning blight which has hung over it for so long.  Desirable residences could be established in several of the old buildings, but the question of whether a slice of land would be taken from the northern edge of it along Headingley Lane has been the problem.

However, for a good many of the objectors, what was already a complicated local heritage and development issue is made a great deal more so because of the proposed building development on the Victoria Road playing fields site which is attached to this.  And Mr Natkus is involved with this highly controversial issue which has raised questions in the minds of local residents about the planning decision to build on a green field in such a heavily built up area.

And so, while the enemy of my enemy is my friend, in the particular context of the Trolleybus Enquiry, at the same time he is our enemy, as he is working for the interests who would cause this asset of green space to be lost forever as well as quite possibly the field on Headingley Hill.

The subjects of his evidence were fairly predictable if you have heard his cross examinations of some of the witnesses, focussing on the question of whether it would not be better and more practicable to leave out the proposed segregated cycle track on Headingley Lane, and leave any road widening to the northern, uphill side of the road.  He also concentrated on arguing that if widening were to take place on the southern side (his clients side) that the old Design Freeze 2 plans should be implemented, only taking a very narrow slice on this section, rather than the 3 to 5 meters of the more recent Design Freeze 7.  Interestingly, this is the same preference for DF2 as Mr Barraclough had for the grounds around Headingley Castle a few days, earlier, and when you take into account that both argue for the trolleybus track to go in the defile now occupied by St Columba’s church car park, and that that should be relocated to the adjacent part of the field now currently grazed by horses, (proposed for the ‘pocket park’) it seems not impossible that they might have co-ordinated their cases.  Which they are entitled to do.  Clearly First West Yorkshire and the Leeds College of Art have done the same thing in that they are employing the same counsel, and it cannot have been out of their ken that this would make a stronger and more comprehensive case.

And so quite possibly with the owners of these other pieces of land such as the Roman Catholic Diocese, Hinsley Hall and Headingley Properties and Headingley Castle.  They would almost be fools not to organise some pincer attack.

One thing I do wonder about though, is whether by offering the kinds of alternatives that they do, they are trying to impress on the Inspectors the severe limitations of the proposed trolleybus route, especially through this heritage rich zone on Headingley Hill.

I’m thinking here of the, in my own view at least, unworkable idea of widening Headingley Lane on the north side.  It would be one thing to build up the south side where the hill falls away in order to create a new carriageway, an ugly and destructive proposal, but one which would be possible in engineering terms.  However, to cut away several meters of land on the north side for this purpose creates a serious regrading problem from the very steep side roads such as Cumberland Road, Grosvenor Road and the listed Ashwood Villas, amongst others.

There are listed buildings, structures and walls on both sides of the road and it is so rich, despite the run down nature of some parts, that I am frankly staggered at the audacity of Metro in attempting to pull such a road widening off.  Perhaps we should remember Councillor Richard Lewis’s remark at the Headingley Public Meeting last summer that this is ‘far more of a Highways scheme than one of public transport’.

They want road widenings is what I read from this.  Cllr Lewis is disingenuous in the extreme in his zealous crusade to implement the NGT scheme, claiming that the need for it is driven by the fact that there is too much traffic on the A660, but he himself was instrumental in helping to seal the deal for the (ghastly) new Victoria Gate development (for which we have lost half of our heritage in Eastgate) which has an increase of some 375 car parking spaces for shoppers who wish to bring their cars into the city centre.

Mr Martin Farringdon, Chief Development Officer for Leeds City Council and the first witness at the Enquiry proudly stated at the beginning of his testimony that one of his recent achievements was his involvement with that very Victoria Gate development.  These two gentlemen work closely in Council, as befits their positions, but they apparently see no contradiction in on the one hand encouraging hundreds more cars into the city centre while at the same time complaining that there are too many cars coming into the city centre and arguing that that is sufficient reason to demand we are subjected to the trolleybus scheme. 

Which, would widen roads, that when the trolleybus had died a doubtless swift and tragic death, could be filled up by the cars of those they have encouraged to park in city centre car parks.

So by defending their own patches on strong technical heritage grounds, the statutory objectors around Headingley Hill represented by Mr Natkus and Mr Barraclough are obliging the Applicant and the Inspectors to look at the fact that if you want to widen roads, the alternatives to those you have designs on are equally fraught in various different ways.  One hopes that they are getting the message that our narrow Victorian streets are not suitable for such a project and would be irrevocably damaged. 

Before I wind up I will just mention something that appears to be good news, and which I will elaborate upon later, but it seems that a witness for Leeds College of Art may be coming to speak.  There has been some uncertainty about this and Mr Jones has suggested that their position was not clear, but we are keeping out fingers crossed that this does not fall through. In the words of the Inspector ‘It doesn’t look like they are going to come to an agreement’ so their witness has been tentatively scheduled for the Wednesday 29th and Thursday 30th of October, which if that remains the case must be seen as good news for the Objectors.

Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry Day 60

Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry

Day 60

 Thursday 9th October 2014

The links to recordings of all the sessions from the day are included here.

Again I have got a little more behind with things and am now considering that it may be the end of the enquiry before I will be able to 'back blog' the gaps that have crept into this day by day diary of the proceedings.  However, since we do not expect there to even be the Inspector's report by the time of the General Election, it will remain a live political issue for some time to come and so it will be worth the trouble of going back and filling in the gaps.  Apologies to my readers that I am presently unable to give you updates in as near to real time as I have done for the earlier parts of the enquiry, but the audio recordings are the prime concern at present and these blogs are really just tasters to get you to listen to them, so I hope you will, regardless of when I am able to post a considered commentary.

In the first  morning session of Day 60 of the Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry, Thursday 9th Oct 2014, retired town planner Mr Tony Ray gives the Heritage case against the NGT scheme on behalf of the North West Leeds Transport Forum.

In the late  morning session of Day 60 of the Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry, Thursday 9th Oct 2014, Mrs Helen Pickering gives the Heritage case against the NGT scheme on behalf of the Drummond and Churchwoods Residents’ Association.

In the afternoon session of Day 60 of the Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry, Thursday 9th Oct 2014, Mrs Helen Pickering completes the Heritage case of the Drummonds and Churchwoods Residents’ Association against the trolleybus scheme and is then cross examined by Mr Walton for the Applicant NGT and then by both Inspectors.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry Day 59

Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry

Day 59

Wednesday 8th October 2014

Recordings of all sessions from Day 59 are linked here, and I add some commentary below.


In the first  morning session of Day 59 of the Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry, Wednesday 8th Oct 2014,  Dawn Carey Jones on behalf of the South Headingley Community Association and herself gives the cases against the NGT trolleybus scheme.  Sue Buckle of the SHCA also supports this case.

In the late morning session of Day 59 of the Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry, Wednesday 8th Oct 2014, Dawn Carey Jones on behalf of the South Headingley Community Association and herself completes their cases against the NGT trolleybus scheme. Sue Buckle of the SHCA also supports this case.


In the afternoon session of Day 59 of the Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry, Wednesday 8th Oct 2014,  Mr Walton for the Applicant NGT and the Inspector cross examine Dawn Carey Jones and Sue Buckle on their cases for themselves and the South Headingley Community Association against the trolleybus scheme.



The Enquiry is now wearing away into the final month, or so we are all hoping.  Even at this late stage the programme is suffering change and reorganisation.  I don’t envy the task of Mr Graham Groom the Programme Officer or his second in command Mrs Joanna Vincent in arranging this.

The loss of Ms Katie Lightbody from this week’s schedule yesterday was something of a blow to the smooth running of the proceedings, but fortunately we were back on track today with the presentation of evidence from Dawn Carey Jones of the South Headingley Community Association, assisted by local resident of some fifty years, Sue Buckle.

My good friend Dawn has appeared on a number of occasions for cross examination of the NGT witnesses, but today she gave her own case.

I always learn something new when she speaks about the area she loves, and indeed which I lived in myself for about a decade before I moved up to West Headingley.

Her case covered a wide range of aspects of the trolleybus scheme, from practical points which the roads engineers and traffic modellers had neglected to pay attention to or had detailed poorly, to the monstrous affront of the consultations which had been almost farcically carried out.

The point of the consultation responses was raised again and we found out that only 45 responses out of some 340 or so were actually supportive of the trolleybus scheme.  Amongst these were general comments that indicated the writer didn’t really know much about it, but just thought that an improvement in public transport would be a good thing.  The majority of the remainder were opposed, and there were many concerned complaints about the consultation process, or about misinformation and the inadequate website etc etc.

This is not only an important point in respect of how it is certainly perceived by objectors that the consultations were biased and highly flawed ~ for instance the appearance of the landscape designs the day after the Plans Panel day in Council last year ~ but indicates that while some people were in favour of the idea in the most general principle, that they didn’t really understand what it was that they were actually supporting.

This is a common and widespread tale.  Former trolleybus supporters are like ex-smokers, more vigorous in their opposition than those who have never been seduced by its lures.  I saw Dr Maurice King, Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Leeds, local Hyde Park resident and deep green environmentalist, in the audience today.  I recall that when he first heard about the scheme in 2012 he was gung ho for it, but a few weeks later when the subject was mentioned again he didn’t have a good word to say for it.
You can’t blame people for this reaction when they find out any of the many downsides to the trolleybus scheme.

The destruction of the fancy dress shop, the former garage, and the row of shops in the angle of Headingley Lane and Victoria Road is a troubling matter for the small businesses and the local residents who shop there.  I particularly admire Dawn in the way she has stood up to the misrepresentation of these buildings by Metro and the Council.

They are perpetually portrayed as run down, ramshackle, in need of repair, little more than lean tos thrown up and of no importance.

If they have been allowed to become run down, which is a much exaggerated statement (as are so many that NGT makes) it cannot be unrelated to the fact that Metro are the owners of them and through a mixture of their own neglect and the planning blight associated with their uncertain future, there is demonstration of a clear desire if not actual intent to get rid of these buildings.

And yet there are rarely any of them left empty for long.  Low rent premises in such a convenient place for passing trade are hard to come by.  I used to commonly drop into several of these shops when I was around that area. 

The aesthetic value of the shops is also falsely derided by the NGT assessors, who said that the frontages were cheap modern ones, when actually they still have the original Victorian features.  And the description in the Heritage documents says they are early 20th C, when actually documentary evidence exists that they are clearly from at least the 1890s.  These are not the only buildings which have been wrongly dated as 20th C.  Their continued occupancy and use for some 120 years is a testament to their value to the community over the generations.

Leeds City Council and Metro, now WYCA, have no interest or concern for the needs or aspirations of local people.  If they did they would not seek to overwrite their very lives with their own grand designs which will obliterate the history and identity which is an integral part of the genius loci of the place.  Certainly over the last couple of years since I have started to imagine what it was like when the young Professor Tolkien would walk these streets ninety years ago I have been able to see greater value in the surviving legacy of past generations.  A legacy which would be all too casually swept away for the ‘bold initiatives’ and ‘exciting design opportunities’ of people whose only interest seems to be in making their own marks rather than really thinking about the effects they might have on people and place.

The road designs that go with all this are often not even safe.  Ms Jones identified that the loss of railings in front of the LS6 Café for a trolleybus stop would tempt pedestrians to take short cuts across this busy road.  While at the same time putting the trolleybus shelter in front of the café where people sit outside the south facing frontage, and so which would have disbenefits to the business and cause obstruction for people queuing for the trolleybus.  Both would be adversely affected.  If you know this frontage you will know that it is not an appropriate place to be putting a stop for an articulated vehicle, too near by far as it is to the Hyde Park Corner traffic lights and opposite the open end of Victoria Road.

The litany of disregard for heritage and people is added to with their shoddy and inadequate planning and design.  The trouble for NGT is that they have so little to work with and would have to do so much more damage than they already purpose to in order to really make it work, that they are continually faced with having to squeeze through narrow bottlenecks in our Victorian streets, or to simply destroy them and have done.

Mr Walton in his cross examination took the now familiar line trying to suggest that simply getting a witness to agree that some sort of improvement to public transport arrangements on the Headingley Lane would be beneficial is enough to justify the trolleybus.  He tried to pin down Dawn Jones demanding that she offer alternate solutions, but she quite rightly said that she was not an expert and could not make recommendations other than perhaps a tube, but that her view was that the entire concept of the trolleybus was flawed and a bad idea and that it was one idea which should be rejected.

This is what many people have said, not just long term residents who get accused of being ‘nimbys’ (although what is wrong with valuing your community heritage and trying to protect it is not clear to me).  The trolleybus is pretty much the worst of all solutions that might be applied to Leeds traffic issues. 

For the issues go far beyond the A660, and we must see our problems in the broader context of the entire city.  Eviscerating the string of pearls that are the Conservation areas along the A660 is only one more of the political agendas behind the trolleybus, in which community is to be trampled under foot in the stampede for endless economic development which serves none but the large corporate empires.  Meanwhile the slaves are to be trolleybussed into the work pens in the city, standing like cattle, seven to a square meter, through the bulldozed remnants of our communities.      

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry Day 58


Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry

Day 58

Here is the link to the audio recording of today's brief session at the Enquiry.  The discussion is about how to programme in order to make the best use of time taking into account the availability of witnesses.  The session was broken briefly so I have joined both pieces together with a two second gap to indicate the adjournment.

On Day 58  of the Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry, Tuesday 7th Oct 2014  there was only one short session since the programmed witness Ms Katie Lightbody had been taken ill last night.  There was discussion around the programming schedule.  The Enquiry resumes tomorrow, Wednesday 8th October at 9.30 am.