Sunday, 8 June 2014

Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry Day 20

Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry Day 20

June 06 2014

Today was the final day for examining the Heritage issues with Mr Philip Ward, team leader of the Conservation department in Leeds City Council.

The cross examinations from Mr Stuart Natkus, Mr Bill McKinnon and Ms Dawn Carey Jones went over aspects of the heritage environment from the Clarendon Road junction of Woodhouse Lane by the University to Buckingham Road by Rose Court School at Ford House.

The examinations can be heard at the following links and my commentary follows below these as usual.

On day 20 of the Leeds trolleybus enquiry, June 06 2014, Mr Philip Ward, head of conservation at Leeds City Council is cross examined by Stuart Natkus for Morley House Trust (Leeds Girls High School) on heritage issues around the moving of the long wall on Headingley Lane and related assessment issues.

On day 20 of the Leeds trolleybus enquiry, June 06 2014, Mr Bill McKinnon picks up the cross examination of Mr Philip Ward on Heritage matters around Woodhouse Moor and is followed by Ms Dawn Carey Jones on Hyde Park corner.

In the final session of day 20 of the Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry, June 06 2014, Ms Dawn Carey Jones completes her examination of Mr Philip Ward on Heritage matters around Hyde Park Corner, and is followed by Mr Walton for the Applicant who re-examines on some points he picks up from the week.
Mr Natkus had clearly done a huge amount of preparation for this, surrounded as he was by huge box files and piles of documents.  It would appear to have been worth his while as he picked apart what seemed to be numerous inconsistencies in assessments.  He asked how moving the long wall up Headingley Lane could be assessed as ‘moderately adverse’ but the rebuilding made it only ‘slight’ when rebuilt.  He argued that the obvious change in appearance was a significant factor in this while Mr Ward was virtually suggesting that people who knew the area might not notice the difference.

He then drew attention to whether, if the conservation planning application was granted, but NGT did not go ahead, it could be used by a future developer to make changes.  Technically it appeared that would be the case.

He was keen to point out there were  large discrepancies in measurements given in the application, buildings were missing from the Environmental Assessment such as 35 Headingley Lane and a whole series of ‘moderate’ assessments became ‘minor’ after what seemed to me, frankly, to be sophistry.

The Coach House, the oldest building on the road as I understand it, dating from perhaps 1835, was regarded as having ‘low value’ even though it was a ‘positive building’ and examples were given where ‘significant adverse’ effects were somehow juggled to become ‘slight’.

Probably the most telling exchange of the day was when Mr Natkus said to Mr Ward that the documents ‘don’t appear to add up’, and Mr Ward was obliged to reply ‘They don’t appear to’.

This is serious stuff.  It would appear to have been established that Mr Ward was at best bending the evidence, and there is the suggestion that it was falsified, or at least presented erroneously and misleadingly.  I was reminded of Mr Henkel when Mr Jones turned around the allegations by Metro that First had been unco-operative and demonstrated that it was Metro themselves who had been unco-operative.

The cross examinations by Bill McKinnon and Dawn Carey Jones focussed in their turns upon the historic significance of Woodhouse Moor, Leeds’ first public park, and Hyde Park Corner, about which I learned much, such as that there had been a building made of the unique Leeds made material ‘Marmo’, a terracotta like material which looks like marble, at Hyde Park Corner where the large billboard is now.  

Mr Ward made various unsupported statements to the effect that the demolition of buildings such as this, or the Oriental Baths which Mr McKinnon drew attention to, that had happened in the nineteen sixties wouldn’t happen today, and yet here we are, with the proposed demolition of Victorian detached villas (no2 Victoria Road came into the discussion again), the loss of park space and the serious impact of partial demolition of a long heritage site right next door.

Again and again Mr Ward appeared to be underplaying the impact of all these demolitions that NGT want to carry out.

My own view is that Leeds City Council planners are out of control.  The demolition of Eastgate is the most current example, to be replaced by a larger replica of the Trinity development so far as I have been able to make out.  I recall that Mr Farrington who was examined in the first week was proud to put his name to the Victoria Gate scheme which will be the name of the John Lewis sponsored complex.  Following the recent demolition of Royal Park School, which had been purposely allowed to deteriorate so as to make it not viable, and before that the closure of the Holt Park Centre I have to ask if they are planning to delete and overwrite any other valued and appreciated assets to the communities of Leeds.  Not even the fine fa├žade of Portland Stone and red brick is being kept on Eastgate, which the planners could easily have stipulated be kept by the new design.  So now the radical modernistic design with its detail which bears no contextual relation to the townscape around will dominate and clash with its surroundings.

But I digress.

Unlike Eastgate, the destruction of the conservation areas along the A660 is by no means yet set in motion and a massive case was made this week by the concerned parties to demonstrate the historic significance of the route.  Many unsupported statements or diminutions of importance have been exposed.  Such simple things as Mr Ward’s assertion in his proof that the tree stock was ‘aging’, which when examined, he admitted he had no idea of the potential ages the threatened trees could reach, and so demonstrated another example of how he seems to work on ‘belief’ rather than hard evidence.

The fallacious nature of much of what has been presented is something we have to trust the Inspectors will have noticed.  Unfortunately the day was marred by their uncharacteristic impatience.  I am not clear why this was, but there was a suspicion that a train that needed to be caught had something to do with the hurrying of the last two cross examinations from objectors.

Nonetheless, with this witness as with several of the others, there was a sense that if we hadn’t holed his evidence below the waterline, it was at least on the waterline and that he was shipping some briny to dilute the strength of his assertions that this route was not of such great importance, or that the damage would not be such a loss to the community and heritage of Leeds.

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