Monday, 21 July 2014

Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry Day 37

Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry

Day 37

Monday 21 July 2014

Day 37 Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry 21 July 2014: Only Session

In the only session of Day 37 of the Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry, 21 July 2014, Mr Bill McKinnon for Friends of Woodhouse Moor cross examines Mr Speak of Planning for Leeds City Council on planning issues around the trolleybus and green space provision which would be affected on Woodhouse Moor.

Today’s extra session was inserted in order to squeeze a little more out of the timetable and at the same time allow Mr Bill McKinnon to attend at a time which would be convenient for his work.

Mr Speak is one of the very few actual representatives of Leeds City Council at the Enquiry, most are subcontracted through various consultancies such as Mott MacDonald, Stear Davies Gleave (SDG) and others.

However, unfortunately the cross examination seemed to be something of a slippery eel which rarely managed to pin down a great deal because so much of what was being asked about was apparently outside of the remit of Planning Policy.  I myself found this abstruse in the extreme.

My own view of some years is that bureaucracy is one of the principle and most successful works of the devil.  Like some kind of scene from a Franz Kafka novel one is never quite able to pin down the exact person able to answer the exact question one has in mind.

One might have thought that policy documents which say certain green spaces should be protected would be sufficient to ensure that such green spaces remained unthreatened.  However, so far as I understood the dialogue this is not actually the case.  In their ongoing epidemic of newspeak which allows for such things all those features along the route which we thought were protected by being in Conservation Areas, or in policy documents would be swept away by a Transport Works Order should it be granted.

I’m afraid that as far as connecting with the field that a witness is focussed on goes, this one has left me somewhat hanging. Perhaps it is my own particular way of thinking which makes this subject opaque to me or perhaps there is an element of the planners creating their little elite universe with their elaborated language that those outside of their specialist club aren’t intended to understand.

But, as the saying goes, this is not brain surgery.  I hold a view strongly that things which can be put into everyday language which most people could understand should be.  It felt evasive to me as Mr Speak peered out from under his shaggy Dulux dog fringe hanging over his spectacles and I was inclined to wonder if he could possibly be more vague and obscure if he tried.

It may well be the case that many of the questions that Mr McKinnon put were outside of the specialist field of the witness, but as so often has been the case one is left wondering who one should be able to ask them to, and the answer is not always clear.

One of the reasons I have yet to write a blog on Friday’s proceedings is that it was in many ways like today for me at least, feeling that it was all a long way round for Mr Speak to say that the Planning Department had decided that it was essential to have a trolleybus on this route and so they supported it.  I can feel some questions about consultation brewing in the background as, if I can paraphrase Disraeli, there seem to be ‘views, damned views and judgements.’

But I regret you aren’t going to get the greatest of sense out of me on this witness because he seems to have taken opacity to the level of an art form.  I have to confess that I am all hyped up and expectant for the main event of the week, at least in my own opinion, of Gregory Jones QC having a day tomorrow in which to cross examine Mr Neil Chadwick, another gentleman who is fond of vaguing things up a bit when the scrutiny gets close.  I can hear the calls of ‘Answer the question, Mr Chadwick’ already!

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