Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry Day 34

Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry Day 34

July 16  2014

Today saw three witnesses cross examine Mr Thomas Walker of Gillespie’s consultancy concerning the proposed landscape plans which would be put into operation should the NGT trolleybus scheme be implemented.

Here are the links to audios of each of the four sessions today and commentary below these.

In the first morning session of Day 34 of the Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry, July 16  2014, the cross examination of Mr Thomas Walker on the landscape impact that the NGT route would have begins with Mr Chris Foren for the A660 Joint Council and is continued by Mr Bill McKinnon for Friends of Woodhouse Moor.

In the late morning session of Day 34 of the Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry, July 16 2014, Mr Bill McKinnon, for Friends of Woodhouse Moor, continues and completes his cross examination of Mr Thomas Walker on the visual and landscape impacts of the proposed trolleybus system on Woodhouse Moor if it went ahead.

In the early afternoon session of Day 34 of the Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry, July 16 2014, Dawn Carey Jones for the South Headingley Community Association cross examines Mr Thomas Walker concerning the impacts the NGT scheme would have on the area around Hyde Park Corner.

In the late afternoon session of Day 34 of the Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry, July 16  2014, Mrs Helen Pickering of the Drummonds and Churchwoods Residents’ Association cross examines Mr Thomas Walker on the landscape and visual impacts which would occur should the NGT Trolleybus scheme be implemented.

When you’ve been going to the Public Enquiry sessions for a while you find that there are many levels of the information, what is happening and what it all means.

Today three local community representatives examined the proposed landscape plans which would be implemented should the scheme be allowed to go ahead.

I learnt a lot about the history of Hyde Park and Woodhouse from the first two examiners, Bill McKinnon and Dawn Carey Jones.  Mr Walker seemed to disagree with almost every one of their points and this led me to reflect on exactly why and how he does this.

The principle thing to remember here is that the landscape design is not the driver behind the NGT scheme.  Landscape designers are only the clean up and repair team who get called in after the tsunami of chaos has rolled down the street and put everything out of kilter.  So as long as he sticks to the party line that the scheme is necessary in the first place, then his work is necessary, and he is essentially arguing that he can clean it all up like new.

Frankly, I have to acknowledge that some of the landscape designs that were being proposed and which were examined were not that bad ~ if they had to be used for repairing a community environment which had suffered major attack and degradation.

But that is the real point ~ whether a real need to inflict this mayhem could ever be proved, and whether the proposed system is good enough for the local people to support it and be willing to put up with the several years of disruption which it would entail.

It is as if a well loved friend had suffered monstrous injuries in a car accident and a top reconstructive surgeon had put their face back together.  Their face might be recognisable, but their scars would be permanent.  That is what it would be like if this happened

However well a landscape designer might be able to reconstruct the face of the historic townscape we have come to know and love it could at best ‘mitigate’ the harm we would all experience.

This word ‘mitigate’ is one we have heard a little too much of lately in my opinion, and I was pleased to hear Helen Pickering address the issue by pointing out that NGT seem to think that they can do anything they like to the landscape so long as they get the patch up team in afterwards to clean up so that newcomers to the area won’t see the building site, rubble and tree stumps which those of us who have lived here most of our lives would have to face on a daily basis for probably several years if this nightmare were forced onto the community.  ‘Don’t worry, it’ll all get mitigated!’

This is socio-environmental engineering on a massive scale.   The landscape and thus the people’s relationship to it is to be rewritten as if it never existed in some places.  The landscape is not seen as something which has its own character that grows and evolves over time like the trees which define its space but simply as a blank canvas which can be overwritten at any time. 

One can see this in any area which has received massive redevelopment.  Countless priceless buildings of character get lost over the years because the people who have managed to gain control of the reins of power in these matters are largely Philistines who don’t care about character, culture and community, but are only interested in economic development at the cost of destroying these other things and packing people in ever more densely so as to extract as much from them as can be.

It doesn’t matter how slick and professional Mr Walker’s team from Gillespie’s would be if they were tasked with reconstructing a vandalised A660 or Hunslet, because the damage which they would have to repair should never be inflicted in the first place.

So this is not a primary level of the Enquiry.  It is another hoop that NGT would have to have successfully jumped through to be approved, but there are far more important hoops that could easily disqualify it however good the landscape recovery plans might be.

An entirely different level of business went on today as the Promoter NGT made a response to the objections about the submission of their Heritage Technical Data.  Letters were handed around, which I confess I have not yet read.  Frankly it is a monstrous affront that Metro, who have effectively unlimited funds to pursue this case, should put lay objectors to this degree of trouble in expecting us to take on this massive new document half way through the Enquiry.  I haven’t even got the time to read the correspondence about it all and I dare say neither have any of the other objectors.  It is absolutely unacceptable and if the Inspector does not reject it I can see a great deal of anger getting expressed and there being considerable acrimony as the Enquiry proceeds.

I should correct an error in my reporting yesterday, when I said that First West Yorkshire had written to the Secretary of State I should have said that they had written to Angela Foster who is overseeing the administration of the Public Enquiry from the Dept of Transport in London.  She is likely to pass it on to the Secretary of State of course, but it is the correct form I suppose to address their position to her first.  This letter was asking her to pull the plug on the Enquiry and the other letter they wrote was to the Applicant, NGT, via their lawyers, Bircham, Dyson Bell offering them a deal whereby First would not seek costs if they withdraw their case within seven days.  Today’s letters were the reply to that, and the Inspector asked us to have responses to all this to him by the end of the week if possible. 

I shall post the text of these letters as soon as I have an e-version of them (they are several pages long I believe).  Failing that I will endeavour to get a scan of their pages to publish here and keep everyone informed as to these developments.

All this extra work is most unwelcome and I am inclined to see it as a distraction tactic by Metro.  Someone suggested to me yesterday that all this sound and fury lately might be a means of manipulating a strategic withdrawal which allowed saving of face.  That may be possible, but the principle thing here is that NGT are making themselves even more unpopular than they already are, if that is possible, by trying to mess with the procedures of the Enquiry and wasting the valuable time of all the Objectors.

Well, at least it never stays boring for very long!

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