Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry Day 17

Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry Day 17:

June 03  2014

The Enquiry resumed today after a week’s break for the Bank Holiday and half term, taking up a new witness on the subject of heritage, Mr Philip Ward, leader of the Leeds City Council Conservation team.  After the introduction with Mr Walton, Counsel for the Applicant, taking him through his proofs of evidence, Gregory Jones QC occupied the remainder of the day in cross examination of this witness.

The audio recordings of today’s sessions are linked below.  Those of a more observant disposition may notice that the URLs give ‘day 16’ which is a clerical error on my part that was not spotted until all the uploads had been completed.  However I have corrected the actual titles on the page for each audio.  My commentary on the day follows below the links.

In the first morning session of day17 of the Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry, June 03 2014, Mr Philip Ward, witness for Heritage matters presents his evidence with the assistance of Mr Walton for the Applicant, and is then cross examined by Gregory Jones QC for First West Yorkshire on the methodology used in the assessment of the heritage assets which would be affected.

In the late morning session of day 17 of the Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry, June 03 2014, Mr Philip Ward continues to be cross examined by Gregory Jones QC, covering details of what exactly the curtilage of Rose Court mansion extends to and how the gate piers would be affected by being moved up to five meters as is proposed.

In the early afternoon session of day 17 of the Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry, June 03 2014, Gregory Jones QC continues to cross examine Mr Philip Ward on details of the impact of the NGT trolleybuses and their cable fixings on buildings in Millennium Square such as the Museum and others.

In the late afternoon session of day 17 of the Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry, June 03 2014, Gregory Jones QC continues to press Mr Philip Ward on heritage matters such as the effect of cumulative changes, the impact of wires on visual appearance of listed buildings, whether recording is sufficient mitigation to balance destruction and whether the building of a replica of a listed structure can really be called 'relocation'.

A new phase of the Enquiry began today, with not only a new witness and subject, Heritage, but also an additional Inspector, Mrs Katie Peerless, who will be presiding over proceedings for the week that this subject will be examined and will return for another stint after the summer holiday break.

The sheer amount of detail which was raked over today in the examination was quite remarkable.  Rose Court mansion on Headingley Lane which was scrutinised with regard to its curtilage and the two gate piers that are proposed to be moved closer to the mansion caused a great deal of discussion.  I was planning to include questions on matters around what is ‘substantial harm’ in my own cross examination later this week, but Mr Jones has dealt with this so well that there is not a great deal I will be able to add.  We were led into a curious world where the piers (grade 2 listed) might not be in sufficiently good state after being demolished to be reconstructed in the new place closer to the mansion, and that replicas might be built but this would be called ‘relocation’ or ‘reinstatement’ instead, even though no fragment of the original survived.

Mr Ward said near the beginning of his cross examination that he was an independent witness and not a witness for NGT and yet he did seem to be taking a very soft line on what was or was not ‘substantial harm’ when it came to demolishing buildings or parts of them.  The old coach house near Rose Court School (not to be confused with the mansion at the other end of the block), probably the oldest building in the section at pre-1835, is proposed to have two bays of seven entirely demolished and the gable end set back by several meters, and it was suggested that architectural recording of the building was sufficient mitigation, while Mr Jones on the contrary put it to the witness that this would be actually ‘substantial harm’ and could not really be mitigated by such measures.

The visual amenity of Millennium Square and the Museum, formerly the Civic Theatre, was examined and Mr Ward was reluctant to acknowledge that cables would be to the detriment of the appearance of the Museum.  This is like shooting fish in a barrel for Mr Jones ~ surely arguing that cables, wherever they are strung, are not unsightly and restrictive to the view, is a hiding to nothing and these witnesses shouldn’t waste our time trying to persuade us it is only a matter of taste and that some people don’t find them a problem.

Early on Mr Ward admitted that the impact of the trolleybus on Headingley Castle, another listed building, would be ‘harmful’.  There were so many individual detriments that Mr Jones invoked English Heritage on the effects of cumulative change, which would certainly apply to the effects accrued, and he drew attention on more than one occasion to what looked like opportunism on the part of the Applicant.  At one point Mr Ward actually made a remark which sounded like he was identifying himself with the Applicant.  Whether this was just poor phrasing on his part or a Freudian slip disclosing the truth, I shall leave to the listener, who can peruse and examine the recordings at their leisure and draw their own conclusions on these matters.

A little side trip that has been going on in the background for the last couple of days is that I appear to have acquired a stalker on twitter who keeps accusing me of being selfish for wanting to preserve our city from damage and demanding that I accept the false choice of trolleybus or banishment to outer darkness.  Twitter is a great vehicle for getting out little quanta of information, announcements, links and so forth, but it is not a medium designed for in depth debate and discussion.  The comments rapidly became personal, and multiplied in number.  I’m a bit of a newbie to tweeting, so shoot me if I’m breaking any taboos.  When I saw three tweets at me in my email inbox all the space of a few minutes this evening, I thought ‘this has gone too far’ and deleted the lot without reading them.

Do people really think that trolling and harassing people for having different views is the way to conduct affairs or how to get your views across to the world?  I don’t know, perhaps some do, but if they want to engage me in debate, I would gladly take them on here on my own page if they would care to post comments.  I’m still waiting for the Tbus lobby on skyscrapercity to make a response, but none of them have dared to yet, although I see from my analytics that they are one of my largest referring sites, so hi there! 

And if Mr 3chord Ryan from twitter wants to engage in debate, he is welcome.  I have only one stipulation though ~ his comments must be longer than 140 characters in length.   And they should address the question of what NGT want to do to the people of the Whitfields in Hunslet, where they propose to run a trolleybus through their pedestrianised precinct (which has been that way for thirty four years).  Anyone supporting such a gross act of disrespect should think about how  they would like such a thing done to them, their relatives or community.  This is where the rubber meets the road folks.  Those people attempting to enforce this on communities as if they were serfs and chattels should really have a good think about the kind of morals they employ in their lives.  Whether it is really acceptable to go forcing unpleasant ‘solutions’ on people because it suits your own megalomaniac fantasies, or whether they should get a new set of morals which actually treats communities and individuals with respect and doesn’t put them down like they are nothing.  Only then can we actually start talking about transport solutions that serve the citizens and communities of Leeds, and not just service commuters who pass through by destroying the inconvenience of what is in the way.

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