Monday, 7 July 2014

Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry Day 31

Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry Day 31

June 26  2014

Day 31 of the Enquiry was short, the first morning session only, due to issues with availability of witnesses following the completion of the cross examination of Professor Jeremy Purseglove by Mr Bill McKinnon on the case for ecological impact.  I understand that the Inspector Mr Whitehead took the opportunity in the afternoon to visit some of the locations discussed here and on the previous day.

[New commentary added 13 July 2014]
The short session today exposed a fair few failings in the preparation by NGT and Professor Purseglove.

It is true that after Mr McKinnon had completed his examination, when Mr Walton for the Applicant asked him if these errata had or would have changed his view on the ecological impact on Woodhouse Moor, Professor Purseglove insisted that it wouldn’t, but the real failings of his report were in its many errors and omissions.

He was shown to be unclear about which part of the Moor was which, and when the subject of Cinder Moor was mentioned he asked Mr McKinnon ‘Remind me where Cinder Moor is’, to which he received the response ‘You tell me’.  It is not acceptable for a witness to be making a statement when he doesn’t even know what is being referred to.  Mr Walton, Counsel for the Applicant said ‘This isn’t a quiz’ but surely Objectors are entitled to find out if a witness actually knows what he is talking about.

This was clearly an error in the Professor’s Summary Proof, and he was forced to admit it.  He had believed that Cinder Moor was to be grassed over.

The proposed widening of Cliff Road was not mentioned in his evidence, nor the concomitant loss of several mature trees in that area.

The accuracy of the Professor’s report and technical appendix were rightly brought into question.

When Low moor was discussed, he said it was not an improvement, but a slight loss of ‘not important’ ‘amenity’ type grassland.  However, similar grassland at Bodington was mentioned in a technical appendix and Mr McKinnon sought to find out why one was mentioned and the other not.

In addition Woodhouse Moor around Cliff Road was incorrectly labelled and it was admitted that the band of the ‘corridor’ should have been widened on the map.  This arose with the demonstration that Professor Purseglove’s assistant clearly used old data for the preparation of the maps and evidence since there were otherwise unaccounted differences between his submission and other NGT material.  When asked if his assistant had actually visited the site, there appeared to be some vagueness on his part when he said that he was ‘certain’ that she had, and he maintained this when pressed by Mr McKinnon, but I found it worrying that he would not say that he ‘knew’ she had, and however certain he felt he was, this still sounded like a matter of belief rather than knowledge, an assumption that she would have, that she must have because it was her duty, but not a matter of knowledge because she had told him so or that he had seen her go there.  Either way her data was incomplete.

After a week or so of listening to Mr Chadwick mumbuwl frough ’is teef it was a great relief to have a witness who actually spoke well and was clearly comprehensible.  However, in view of this cross examination it became evident that his evidence was not so clear, but was shot through with inaccuracies ~ which might be dismissed by the Applicant as minor technical details, but we must ask how many minor technical errors we are expected to put up with?

For instance, on Woodhouse Moor, Mr Sean Flesher of Parks had insisted that Monument Moor was not accessible to wheelchair users, so the NGT changes would be an improvement in this respect.  The Inspector, after having examined the site, reported back that he believed it was accessible.  Thus Mr Flesher was in error.

Writing as I am during the two week break from proceedings, I, and other objectors, have received a huge new document of some 380 pages or so which is the resubmitted Heritage Statement.  You may recall that the original Heritage Statement was cross examined when Mr Philip Ward was up as a witness some weeks ago.  This new document, printed in colour, is thought by some to have cost several hundred pounds per copy.  The costs of all the work required to compile it is unknown, but must be sizeable.

Apparently so many shortcomings were demonstrated in the original document that NGT felt they had to resubmit it in a revised form, while they insist that they do not acknowledge criticisms of the original, but have re-entered it purely for clarity’s sake.

As one of the Objectors who examined Mr Ward I am simply not able to accept this new submission, which I would have to read in order to be able to re-examine him on, which I and others should be entitled to do if this is recognised as a core document.

Some £25 million or so has already been expended on the preparation for this application, over several years.  The final statements of case had to be entered by January 30th this year, and summaries of these by April 1st.

Mr Whitehead, the Inspector, has expressed concern over the late submission of documents to the evidence on numerous occasions, but so far these have mostly been short papers of no more than a few pages in length clarifying points of policy, history and the like.  Witnesses have been given these to look at shortly before having to answer questions relating to them, but it must be emphasised that nothing on the scale of this new Heritage Statement has been attempted by either side.  And rightly so I would suggest.

If the Applicant has failed to do the necessary work in advance, then they should not be allowed extra time to rework their case, especially after they have already been examined on it.  Reports have been doing the rounds that over recent weeks NGT surveyors have been all over Headingley and its environs making new measurements.  I know people who have seen them.  It is preposterous that after several years of preparing their case, NGT have had, at the last minute, to make measurements and surveys which should have been completed at the very latest before January 30th this year when they submitted their detailed case, and which one would hope had been made long before.

Counsel for First West Yorkshire have already made it clear that they could well make a formal complaint about the submission of this revised Heritage document, and that costs for the extra time required to examine it might be sought.

So, while it may be true that Monument Moor, Low Moor and the like are not of huge ecological value, the real value of Mr McKinnon’s cross examination lies in its exposure of the incomplete nature of the work behind Professor Purseglove’s evidence.  Such a finding is congruent with the shortcomings in the evidence from NGT in many other fields, the most striking being of course demonstrated by the need they felt to entirely revise and resubmit the Heritage Statement. 

I will here pass over the false allegations which were made against First Bus as to their being unco-operative with Metro in consultation, which was demonstrated to be false.  (I have repeatedly asked for those who might contest this to point me to the day and time in recordings where I may be demonstrated to have misunderstood the evidence, being only a layperson, but as yet, no-one has contacted me for purposes of correction.  If I have genuinely misunderstood and thus misrepresented this, I will happily apologise and correct my erratum, not wishing to make false and libellous assertions here in my blog.)  However the cumulative weight of inaccurate, false or simply absent evidence (one thinks of Mr Hanson’s absent models) is a matter of great concern, and late submissions seeking to correct these should be seen as little more than an admission that they were indeed so.

We await the Inspector’s view on the resubmission, but it is hard to imagine that he would be happy with it.  How many re-examinations would be required if this were to be allowed?  In view of all that has been heard since the end of April, doubtless there is much that we would all like to resubmit and make clearer in our statements and evidence, but there has to be some limitation and demarcation, and entering a replacement document, and one of such size, at this stage when the Enquiry is already about half way through is simply not acceptable.

The most important aspect of this to me is that it demonstrates that NGT feel they have less to lose by risking the displeasure of the Inspector than they have already lost through the inaccuracies and shortcomings in their original case on Heritage, which is a significant part of the problems with the proposed route, but by no means the only one.

If the Applicant has not been able to collate its evidence adequately after so long and so much expense, we must ask whether it can be relied on with its business case, when the claims of Mr Chadwick, for example, about the wonderful prospects of the Edinburgh tram made in 2001 have been demonstrated to have been so entirely fantastic and fictitious.

It is often said that when one is in a hole it is best to stop digging.  In the view of many objectors, NGT is engaging an entire gang of navvies with picks and shovels and instructing them to dig for all they are worth.

I should like to apologise for the poor sound quality on the audio of Mr McKinnon cross examining Professor Purseglove.  An unknown source of interference, which appears to be some sort of radio frequency signal has been getting into the recordings, and this morning is the worst example we have experienced.   Having reviewed our equipment over the two week break we hope that this problem will be eliminated by the measures we have now taken.

The Enquiry will resume on Tuesday July 15th at 10am and for the remainder of that week.  The following week will begin on Monday 21st July and sit until Thursday 24th, when the summer holiday break of five weeks will commence.

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