Monday, 19 May 2014

Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry Day 12

Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry Day 12
May 19  2014

An extra afternoon sitting of the Enquiry was arranged for today for two reasons.  Firstly the timetable has been slipping behind and I believe the Inspector wanted to regain some time where possible, and at the same time, Mr Bill McKinnon of The Friends of Woodhouse Moor and the North Hyde Park Neighbourhood Association, who was timetabled to cross examine Mr Jason Smith, Highways Engineer on technical design features and engineering standards, was only available in a narrow window, and so these two factors converged.

The links to the audios of this afternoon’s two session are below, and as usual my commentary and thoughts on today’s proceedings follow.

In the first part of the extra afternoon sitting which took place on day 12 of the Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry, May 19 2014, Bill McKinnon of The Friends of Woodhouse Moor and North Hyde Park Neighbourhood Association cross examines Jason Smith, Highways Engineer on many details of the Highways work associate with the NGT trolleybus scheme.

In the late afternoon session of day 12 of the Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry, Bill McKinnon, of The Friends of Woodhouse Moor and North Hyde Park Neighbourhood Association continues his cross examination of Jason Smith, Highways Engineer, concentrating on issues including the regulations concerning trolleybuses and areas which may be 'pedestrian dominated' rather than actually pedestrianised.

The trolleybus enquiry continues to wade through mountains of data.  At present the stream is on the technical nature of the road changes that would be made if the NGT scheme were to be implemented and why they have been designed in the particular way that they have.  While on the one hand I would definitely urge readers to dip into the archive of the Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry audios we have accumulated, at the same time I feel there is often a danger of getting lost in amidst all that detail.
The Inspector has found many occasions to chide objectors in their questioning style, and for going on at too much length but while this may be deserved one must remember that most of the objectors are laypeople who are coming at both the technicalities of the engineering and participation at a Public Enquiry as a new experience.

On the other hand I am beginning to feel that our current witness, Jason Smith, is going on at too much length and often failing to get to the point after very long peregrinations.  Indeed it was the case that on several occasions the Inspector appeared to slightly lose patience with him and ask him come to the point.  A good example of this was when the condition of Woodhouse Lane in front of the Parkinson Building was debated and Bill McKinnon was able to winkle out the fact that the area would only be described as ‘pedestrian dominated’ which was to be distinguished from actually being ‘pedestrianised’ because the Inspector enquired of Mr Smith, in effect: ‘Well is it pedestrianised or isn’t it?’  It seemed to me that there were elements  of sophistry and evasion being employed in the way these conditions were being described.

The first and most obvious effect of this is that the cross examinations are going on much longer than expected.  Mr McKinnon originally gave his estimate for how long he would need as two hours or so, but after a full afternoon he is perhaps half way through what he has prepared.  He cannot be held entirely to blame for the drawn out nature of the proceedings, and the extreme length of some of Mr Smith’s replies must surely need to be curbed.  The absurd fourteen minutes and thirty five seconds which he took to answer a simple question from Mrs Fahey the other day comes to mind as an example of such a thing.

Also Mr Smith seems to have almost over rehearsed his replies, running on with his explanations, not allowing pause for the questioner to make a response.  The Inspector has rightly come down on questioners who have interrupted the witnesses and has imposed a good discipline on this, but I think it is one that Mr Smith in particular has exploited and taken advantage of unfairly.  It is a psychological war of attrition, and a cunning way to make the questioner look bad when it is the witness who is actually wasting time.  I wouldn’t be surprised to hear murmurings of ‘Get on with it’ from the audience, at least in private, before long if this kind of thing is repeated too often.

While I am mentioning psychological war, I would like to take the opportunity to mention another more subtle technique that some of the NGT witnesses appear to be schooled in. You may notice sometimes if you listen critically, that virtually all statements made by NGT are couched in the future tense.  ‘This will happen.’  ‘There will be such and such tree loss.’ ‘The NGT land will run on Woodhouse Moor.’

All these type of assertions are presented as statements of fact as if they are certain to happen.  Presenting something as certain to happen when it is not, and repeating it, is a kind of attempted perceptual control that is an application of Neuro-Linguistic Programming.

Neuro-Linguistic Programming is a technique of restructuring thought according to the way reality is presented in linguistic terms and has been understood and used by the purveyors of propaganda for many years.

This is what is being done when the NGT people speak about this in definite terms.  They are attempting to infiltrate into your unconscious the assumption of inevitability. Often the ‘worm’ assumption is hidden behind more attention grabbing stuff, such as the actual data about the roads and documents etc., that we are supposed to be paying attention to anyway.  So the definite future is ignored at a conscious level, but recognised at the unconscious level.  It happens again and again, and yet is not challenged by the conscious mind, so it embeds as an accepted assumption. 

People say things like ‘the Council are going to do it anyway, you won’t be able to stop it’.  And while it is certainly the case that the Council want to make the trolleybus happen, I believe there are enough committed people who are determined that it will not happen, and that they have such a wide variety of justifications, that there may be a fascinating battle of wills going on, but the implementation of the trolleybus is by no means certain at all.

Couching all their terms in the definite future is not only a sly way to twist people’s perceptions, but also monstrous hubris that stands on its own regardless.

They have massively over egged the pudding and are presenting a damaging proposal as if it were the future saviour of Leeds.  This is why they seek to get us lost in their endless detail and forget that there is a city and communities at stake here.  If people and trees and the history Leeds didn’t matter, then this would probably be a great cattle truck.  But the communities and heritage and environment do matter and that is what the infra-structure should be for, to support all that functionally, not dominate and take over so that it destroys them. 

For the people in Metro their plans are more important than the people who would be trampled in their way. 

If the trolleybus went ahead, the Council would doubtless declare that the operation was a success, but when you looked closer you would find that the patient had died on the operating table.

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