Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry Day 18

Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry Day 18:

June 04  2014

The cross examination of Mr Philip Ward, leader of Leeds City Council Conservation team continued today with Gregory Jones QC, Helen Pickering of the Drummonds’ and Churchwoods’ Residents’ Association and Tony Ray, retired town planner.

As usual the links to the audio recordings of each session follow and my commentary can be found below them.

On the morning of day 18 of the Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry, June 04 2014, Gregory Jones QC resumes his cross examination of Mr Philip Ward, leader of the Conservation team at Leeds City Council on Heritage matters, which is the subject of this week's Enquiry.

In the late morning session of day 18 of the Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry, Gregory Jones QC completes his cross examination of Mr Philip Ward witness for Leeds City Council on Heritage matters.

In the early afternoon session of day 18 of the Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry, June 04 2014, Helen Pickering, for the Drummonds' and Churchwoods' Residents' Association cross examines Mr Philip Ward of Leeds City Council Conservation team on Heritage matters which concern the communities along the consecutive heritage areas that are strung along the A660 from the University to the Outer Ring Road, also highlighting particular issues around the area of St Chad's Church in Far Headingley.

In the late afternoon session of day 18 of the Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry, June 04 2014, Helen Pickering for the Drummonds' and Churchwoods' Residents' Association continues to cross examine Mr Philip Ward of LCC Conservation Department on Heritage matters and then hands over to Mr Tony Ray, retired town planner while some documents are being prepared which will be returned to tomorrow.

Tomorrow I shall be asking questions myself of the current witness Mr Philip Ward.  My job has been made a great deal shorter and simpler by the fact that a great deal of what I wanted to ask about has been covered by my fellow objectors Helen Pickering of the Drummonds’ and Churchwoods’ Residents’ Association and retired town planner Tony Ray.

They were able to work on a foundation built by Gregory Jones QC in which he built an argument that, as in so many other aspects of the Applicant’s case, it was not as thoroughly supported as it might be.

I was particularly interested in the lines of enquiry taken by Mrs Pickering and Mr Ray which both worked, in different ways, on the cumulative effect argument, that basically while in themselves many of the proposed changes which are admitted to be detriments might only be considered by the Heritage officer to be minor, the accumulation along the route would have a significant effect on changing the character of the area.  Helen Pickering pursued one line on the importance of such a consecutive series of Conservation areas being of special importance, which Mr Ward acknowledged for Leeds, but refused to consider it as of national importance.  Tony Ray on the other hand focussed on points where major and significant changes would be implemented, arguing that these are ‘substantial’, which again was resisted by Mr Ward, who claimed that a trolleybus route through Wood Lane which is at the heart of Headingley would not make the suburb unrecognisable.  Not unrecognisable perhaps, but like the face of a dear friend who had suffered in car crash it would never be the same and could never be seen again without a feeling of loss and pain.

I am finding Mr Ward a very interesting witness to observe.  He comes across far more in the vein of Gordon Robertson, the signals expert who spoke what seems a long time ago now, rather than Messrs Farrington, Haskins, Smith or Henkel.  That is to say one can’t help finding his manner engaging, he seems a genuine sort of person.  But as one observes and listens to his answers over long periods one can’t help feeling that he is holding something back, that perhaps he is in two minds about it all. 

Nonetheless he has disappointed the objectors by his adamant refusal to acknowledge that the cumulative effects of the NGT changes would be substantial, that the Headingley area and its well preserved Victorian structure would be damaged irrevocably, that even though the line would run directly in front of Headingley Castle where the effect would be ‘harmful’ the character of the area would not be lost and so on.

Near the end of today’s proceedings perhaps he dropped a little Freudian slip when he said that averaging the impacts on Woodhouse Moor they would be ‘more than moderate to major’.  He later tried to say something different, but the Inspector pulled him up and said ‘You did say that, I wrote it down’.

Despite such a slip I couldn’t help but feel that he was saying what he knew his masters wanted him to say.  Not that I am suggesting any obvious pressure was put on him, but we all know what it is like to work in a culture where a particular zeitgeist holds sway and how difficult it is to go against the unspoken assumptions.  If so many members of the public whom I know think that the trolleybus is a foregone conclusion, merely because the Councillors Richard and James Lewis (no relation) keep telling them it will happen and that it will be good for them, one can only imagine what it must be like working within the Council bureaucracy, where dissent would be looked down upon and that could lead to a level of self censorship which would be stifling.

It would take a person of strong conviction and individuality to step out of line in such circumstances.  It has been asked and clarified a couple of times that Mr Ward, while employed by the Council, is an independent witness.  This may be so in principle, but there are too many assessments of only minor to moderate impact, detriment or loss for the objectors to be fully convinced.  Perhaps he has just become blaze about the value of heritage assets dealing with them as his job.

One is left bemused by his admission that the new container grown trees would not fill out for 40 to 60 years and thus would not have reached full maturity before the expected life of the NGT scheme was run.  Most of the people in the room would be dead before they had achieved anything like the condition of the existing trees, and even the youngest would have reached old age by that time.  It is staggering to hear someone like this talk as if it doesn’t matter what we would have now, in our lifetimes, or that we would lose it.  It only matters to them that in one lifetime from now the new plantings will have regenerated the appearance of the area.  And then perhaps someone will come along with a new scheme in the tail end of the twenty first century saying that it is alright to destroy those trees because their new plantings will again be mature for the late twenty second century, claiming that we are planting for future generations.  But there is nothing wrong with the tree stock we have now.  Many of these species of trees can live for centuries, and we could leave our successors a stock of truly ancient city grown trees that have grown for two, three or even more centuries.  This is long term thinking, not the constant replacing and claiming it is for the future.  If we are really thinking about the future, we should think about preserving the best of what we have today, not destroy it. 

It is a form of doublethink.  Always sacrifice today for tomorrow.  If you want to save something of value for your community you are selfish and a ‘nimby’ (a trite and meaningless clich√©) for not wanting to let some outsider take away what you and your community value for their own use.  All genuine values that have been understood for centuries have to be undermined and belittled.  Anyone who has independent thought and doesn’t cowtow to the dominant clique in Civic Hall has to be vilified into submission. 

Whether Mr Ryan 3chord boy was a paid lackey of Leeds City Council or just some poor deluded trolleybus enthusiast who thinks its cool to act like the great dictator and tell us all what is best for us (we don’t know of course) I have no idea.  I had hoped he had gone away after I had not replied to him yesterday when he sent me three consecutive tweets in a few minutes, but he is continuing to stalk me, so I have had to delete his messages.

I am happy to discuss with anyone the issues I raise on this page and other wider concerns, but I will not be limited to the false constraints of their narrow paradigm.  There is such a bigger picture here that to believe you can deal with it effectively with name calling in 140 characters is absurd. 

I have no idea whether he would read this blog, but if he does, and he genuinely wishes dialogue, then I would urge him to post here and we can have a better discussion than that available on Twitter, which is not designed for such things anyway.

This is our city, our beautiful heritage of which we are only stewards for our successors.  We must save it for the future.  As has been said more than once in the last couple of days, heritage is irreplaceable.  It is unique and what makes our local world what it is.  People like Mr Ward who on the surface appreciate it, but are willing to give in to peer pressure have lost their real connection to the purpose of what all this is for.  Infrastructure should exist to serve communities.  When the communities become no more than means to the ends of the infrastructure, then society has been turned upside down and lost its way.  Only by challenging the destructive assumptions of those who always try to tell us ‘you can’t have progress without loss’ should look at themselves and ask what they are sacrificing, and what they are asking others to sacrifice?  It is too easy to demand others give up what they have for ‘the common good’.  This is often no more than an excuse to rip people off.

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