Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry Day 7
May 9 2014
On the seventh day of the Public Enquiry objectors pressed ahead with the cross examining of Dave Haskins, Project Director for NGT.
Audio recordings of the day can be found on
The matter of the consultations both leading up to the choice to go for a trolleybus system and those with the public after that choice had been made keep coming up. While on the one hand objectors are drawing attention to the various polls and responses which have been elicited from the public, Mr Haskins continues to claim that he and his team have done all that could be reasonably required of them and that the various responses can be discounted because only the type of people who make responses are being counted, so it is not representative. This is a tautological argument ~ it defines itself rather than deals with the evidence.
The Yorkshire Evening Post poll came out 70% against and barely 30% in favour.
MP Greg Mulholland’s poll, which probably had a tighter methodology, for those concerned about such things, actually had as many as 87% either against or strongly against.
And now that the responses to the 2012/3 consultations have been released and reviewed we find that the number against exceeds 60% and that with neutral or undecided also counting in the region of 20 percent or so.
The consistency of the trend of these results flies in the face of NGT claiming to be making progress with public approval. The trend is entirely the opposite, with the newer the poll, the stronger the opposition.
The level of detail that has been gone into in the Enquiry so far is quite mind boggling, and as I have said before I cannot cover all that in depth. However, I had the opportunity myself to ask some questions on Friday because I wished to question Mr Haskins on the clarity and fairness of the visual presentations given at the consultation events.
I asked him why it was at the consultation event I attended in Ireland Wood, on the 12th Dec 2012, that the maps of the route (Design Freeze 6) all had the orientation of North between approximately 3 o’clock and 6 o’clock. In other words they were mostly upside down.
He replied that these were engineering drawings and technical in nature, so I had to point out that their purpose in the consultations was to be comprehensible to the general public. I then drew attention to the fact that they had also been placed on the wall in reverse order so that none of the left or right edges were contiguous with the image displayed next to them. He had actually been at this event himself and I had challenged him on the layout. I am a qualified Art Therapist and it was obvious to me that this was very poorly presented.
He had at first (at the consultation) defended the layout and suggested that having it in that particular layout was no worse than any other, which is patently absurd. He had presented the public with a jumbled up jigsaw of images which had little or no contextual relationship to each other or any whole. As the Project Director he should have overseen the presentation of the images and had a standard layout so far as each room used allowed.
There are practical design skills required to make a good presentation of material like this, and clearly Mr Haskins does not have them. Either he was unaware when the maps were laid out that they were being put in reverse order, which shows that he wasn’t paying attention at the event he was supervising, or his design skills are so entirely absent that it didn’t occur to him that having the images in reverse order would make any difference. In either case he is clearly not competent to be responsible for presenting a public consultation of this nature.
The second part of my questioning, which unfortunately was lost from the audio recording due to a power issue on the recorder, and was only a few minutes long, focussed on the fact that the photo montages shown at the consultation events of that series were by no means fair and balanced. I had the images to examine from photographs I had made at the time, and comparing the before and after images, all the befores were shown in autumn or winter, with trees that were mostly bare, brown leaves on the ground and in the image of the Parkinson Building with even snow on the ground, while all the images with trolleybuses had trees in full leaf on bright sunny days.
At first Mr Haskins suggested that this was not the case, but I have my evidence and it is. He then passed the question on to one of his technical team whom I shall hopefully have the opportunity to ask later this being the case. He did however assert that he did not believe that any deliberate attempt had been made to bias the montages.
Frankly this is disingenuous. It is a clear example of an attempt to infiltrate negative associations into the present conditions and positive ones to NGT, unless of course, as I asked Mr Haskins, it is the case that just as he prefers to stand on public transport while most of us prefer to sit, and as he prefers North to be portrayed facing downwards, he prefers the winter with its bare trees and snow on the ground to sunny spring and summer days with trees in full leaf.
It is really quite astonishing what these people will try to get away with, and if they are not challenged on it, they probably would. Do I really have to explain that a fair and balanced before and after set of photographs would involve original images which then had the necessary changes made in conformity with the expected changes of the NGT system, and the images shown side by side? That they should in this way be directly comparable and thus an objective evaluation of people’s responses could be gained?
For a Project Director who is concerned about a rigorous scientific methodology in poll taking, Mr Haskins seems unconcerned with the grossest and most obvious of attempts to rig approval ratings, which of course he passes on responsibility for to his technical experts.
Listening again to some of his responses on the recordings I had a growing sense of a glibness in his manner. ‘Yes, we’ve done it. No, I don’t believe we needed to do any more. Yes, it’s all under control. No, I don’t think there is any validity to any else’s point of view which doesn’t agree with mine… etc etc’ While at the same time, passing off every other question to his specialists. He has presented better than Mr Farrington before him, however, not a difficult task, but his manner has still been evasive in that he has just used strength of denial and assertion to fend off the objectors’ cross examination rather than truly engage with us.
Now that Mr Haskins has finished in the witness chair we go down the chain of command and will be hearing from the supposed technical experts on the solutions they intend to impose on us and the way this has all been managed. I recall from the Plans Panel presentations at the Council chamber last year that the NGT designers saw the trolleybus as an ‘exciting opportunity’ to revamp parts of the proposed route.
God save us from ‘bold initiatives’ and ‘exciting opportunities’ which are mostly newspeak for someone getting away with imposing some plan on people who would rather not have such things imposed on them but wake up to find that it has happened while they were distracted elsewhere. Let us hope that we have woken up in time and that the strength of our argument and justness of our cause has impressed itself on the Inspector, for if not, these ‘exciting opportunities’ will be the end of the local world as we know and love it.
Word is now that the Enquiry will extend to some time in July. I understand that this is on a website somewhere but I confess I haven’t seen that yet.
The Public Enquiry continues on Tuesday 13th May at 10 o’clock in the Regus Suite at No 2 Wellington Place off Wellington Street.