Saturday, 29 June 2013

Residents' Objection to Trolleybus Scheme (Headingley)

This is the text of the objection I made at the Leeds Planning Panel on Tuesday 25th June 2013.

I was allowed six minutes to speak so was unable to include every point I would have liked to.  At the end of this I have attached some of the points I had to trim due to constraint of time.

As a resident of Leeds who may be forced to pay for this project, I wish firstly to state the overwhelming opposition of the community to it and our belief that it is a waste of government and Council tax payers’ money at a time of austerity. 

My comment on this section is that while the aims of a trolleybus system may seem laudable, it would irrevocably damage Headingley. Our beautiful heritage area would be carved up for what has been acknowledged by Richard Lewis as being a Highways scheme more than one of public transport, and I believe, be held up as an example of short-sighted thinking in years to come once the damage was seen.

I understand that older residents of Bramley still mourn the loss of the original character of their area. I can only hope that Councillors will think again and not inflict a similar fate on Headingley.

Councillor Carter has stated that it is ‘not the preferred option’ and has referred to ‘NGT with its undoubted problems’ and Cllr Golton has said that there are ‘questions unanswered’.

Some of the problems and questions which have not been properly addressed at consultation concern the loss of heritage in what is largely a Conservation area, where there are many trees of mature years, some dating from Victorian times, and detriment to English Heritage listed structures.

There are more mature trees, stone walls, old Victorian buildings, communities and other things of value on this stretch which would be threatened with destruction and consequent loss of character to the area, and other issues, than I can itemise in the time allotted to me.

From Alma Road, where a 19th century cottage with architectural character in good repair is in question behind the Arndale centre where stone walls would be lost and dozens of mature trees would have to be cut down.

On Wood Lane mature trees and a large late Victorian house which is occupied and in good repair would be lost, making homeless some seven people including two children who attend Shire Oak School very nearby and one adult who has lived there for 20 years.

Headingley Hall retirement home would have its buffer of beautiful mature trees stripped away and a swathe cut through those on Shire Oak Road, behind the Telephone Exchange, Ivy Lodge and the old gatehouse now of St Columba’s church, where a representative has told me his community supports this objection. St Columba’s and its caretaker's lodge would be on a traffic island effectively, sandwiched between roads.

Across the meadows of Headingley Moor, the last remnant of Kirkstall Abbey sheep grange, more Victorian planted trees would be taken down and partial loss of an old stone wall would occur. New plantings to replace the loss of century plus old trees is not acceptable.

Every inch of the proposed bypass route is already either usefully employed or beautified by nature and heritage. There is no brown field or derelict land.

On Headingley Lane the setback of walls required for the proposed road widening would be extensive, needing to build up several meters in places and Rose Court children’s playground would be severely reduced. From Ford House to the end of the former Leeds Girls’ High School there are at least four listed structures of which three would be affected or demolished. Under the 1990 Planning and Listed Buildings Act there should be no detriment to these or their curtilage.

Morley House Trust for the former Leeds Girls’ High, Ford House and Rose Court have expressed support for this objection.

All along this section of road are mature trees right up to the small businesses at the end which would be lost. 

The redesign of Victoria Road junction and Hyde Park would involve loss of green and buildings.
It is a plan which would spend 90% of its capital budget on the road building and only 10% on the transport itself.

Richard Lewis has told me in response to a direct question ‘Will it be stopped if the local people don’t like it?’ ~ ‘Absolutely’ he said.

All the local resident and community groups that I am aware on the route of are against it.

The sheer immensity of the destruction and upheaval in an area so rich in visually aesthetic heritage and environment would in my own view as a professionally qualified Art Therapist be detrimental to the wellbeing of local residents for the loss of aesthetic surroundings, especially to the old and vulnerable who would likely suffer a significant degree of culture shock due to the perceptual stress of seeing so much of their accustomed local world destroyed before their very eyes, in order to satisfy the travel needs of passers through.

On the principle of ‘make polluter pay’ it is these people who should be made to take some responsibility for the problems they cause with their traffic, and not make the local residents pay with the destruction of their heritage.

I would invite Councillors to walk this section of the route with me and witness firsthand the many beautiful mature trees which have intrinsic value in their own right and make the character of Headingley what it is before voting to destroy them, their surroundings and their contribution to air quality which would not be helped by the failure to reduce existing traffic.

You do not preserve the environment by destroying it.

It has come to my attention and I understand that at the city centre plans panel in 2005, Councillor Taggart said "Headingley is the jewel in the crown of Leeds and we should welcome anything that benefits Headingley". This would not benefit Headingley, and I should like to ask Councillor Taggart and all Councillors to benefit Headingley now, by rejecting these plans.

Additional comments:

Although concerns about local air quality were a significant driver to the project, air quality would actually be worse, since it has been acknowledged that with this scheme traffic on Headingley Lane is unlikely to become less, and cutting down so many trees would be to the detriment of air quality.  You clearly cannot improve air quality if you cut down a massive number of mature trees while at the same time allowing traffic to continue at the same levels or even increase.  

The Exchequer has actually estimated that something over a million pounds a year in increased revenue would accrue from traffic usage on Otley Road/ Headingley Lane and Woodhouse Lane.  This is an acknowledgement that the prioritisation of the trolleybus would cause increased congestion ~ part of the scheme involves deliberate stacking of traffic to allow trolleybus priority which is the only way it can achieve the paltry time savings which are claimed.  If this did not occur, it would not be able to achieve any improvement.  This also would penalise the buses which currently run on the route, which would probably lose customers as a result and so local residents would suffer a reduction in the service which suits their needs.

Something I feel strongly about is that the proposed trolleybus route behind the Arndale Centre would not only require the felling of some thirty or so mature trees (very conservative rough estimate, could well be much more) but it would allow the trolleybus route to pass over the spot where the Yorkshire Ripper’s final victim, Jacqueline Hill was murdered.  It is disquieting to many of religious belief and none that thousands of people are expected to pass daily over this unfortunate spot.

When I put this to my local Councillor John Illingworth (who actually mentioned the spot before I did as an opportunity for a bypass) he said that there can't be many spots where people have not died and so this is no reason to prevent such a route.  My own response to this is not just any death.  

This is the most infamous and tragic death within the living memory of those resident in Headingley, and probably way back for many generations.  I well recall shopping near here on the Saturday afternoon following the dreadful event and at a quarter past five people had all fled the streets, leaving them bare and deserted.  I too wanted to get home as quickly as possible, and simply passing near the end of Alma Road was bad enough.

The proposed route of the bypass and road widening on Headingley Lane reads as a one of ill repute.

Coming from the Hyde Park end, we would have: destruction of small businesses, demolition and detriment to several English Heritage listed buildings and structures, the loss of a children's playground, destruction of dozens of mature trees, many dating from the mid nineteenth century, and some from before, the felling of mature trees in front of Headingley Hall retirement home, stripping bare the buffer between the residents and the main road, the demolition of a perfectly good house and the making homeless of its seven occupants, of whom two are children and go to the nearest school, Shire Oak, the taking down of old Yorkshire style stone walls, and ending with the route passing over the tragic murder spot.

This is a path of ill omen, and is only a mile or so of the route which I am most concerned with, but the swathe of destruction would go for the entire eight or nine miles of the route.  In a world where human and spiritual values were not considered of lesser importance to economic 'development' it would be seen immediately that such a catalogue of mishap should be a clear indication that it is simply wrong to try and destroy these things for the benefit of those who wish to pass through our beautiful suburb.

Human rights, environmental heritage and ecology must be put before the ephemeral requirements of commuters.

I would urge all residents of Headingley and Leeds to write to their councillors and strongly urge them to abandon this folly.

These Councillors especially are responsible for attempting to inflict this on our communities and our environment.              Chief Executive Leeds City Council                  Chief Officer for Development                     Head of Leeds Metro Transport

1 comment:

  1. Hi I spoke to you at the poetry night on wednesday, arcaelogical linguistics and all that. Thought Id share this youtube link showing springfields experience of 'a trolleybus.' If the link doesnt work just put 'Simpsons Monorail' into youtube.