Friday, 12 September 2014

Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry Day 46

Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry
Day 46

Wednesday 10th September 2014

The audio recordings of all today’s sessions are included here and commentary follows below.

In the first morning session of Day 46 of the Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry, Wed 10th September 2014 Mr Kevin Leather presents his evidence in chief on the NGT Environmental Statement, is taken through this by Mr Walton for the Applicant and then Gregory Jones QC for First West Yorkshire cross examines him on his evidence.

In the late morning session of Day 46 of the Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry, Wed 10th September 2014 Gregory Jones QC for First West Yorkshire continues to cross examine Mr Kevin Leather on the NGT Environmental Statement.

In the early afternoon session of Day 46 of the Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry, Wed 10th September 2014 Gregory Jones QC for First West Yorkshire completes his cross examine of Mr Kevin Leather of Mott MacDonald on the NGT Environmental Statement.

In the late afternoon session of Day 46 of the Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry, Wed 10th September 2014 first Mr Stuart Natkus for Morley House Trust and then Mr Bill McKinnon for Friends of Woodhouse Moor cross examine Mr Kevin Leather of Mott MacDonald on the NGT Environmental Statement.

Firstly may I express my continuing gratitude to all the Objectors who have, and are continuing to, assist with the recording of the Trolleybus Public Enquiry, without whom the documentation, and indeed my own blogs, would be extremely patchy.  For newcomers to this blog I should like to point out that there is no formal minuting of the Enquiry, no stenographer, and no attempt in any form by NGT, Metro or Leeds City Council to provide documentary news updates of what has been covered in the proceedings.  This is utterly disgraceful and the Executive Board of Leeds City Council should be ashamed of themselves for refusing to make any attempt to do so.  The inadequacy of the BBC in failing their statutory duty to inform the public is not far behind that of LCC.  The Exec Board doubtless rely on the minutes kept by the Promoter’s own stenographer, but one doubts whether these will ever be made public, and I am extremely glad that we have an objective record with the recordings, as I do not believe we could entirely be sure of the reliability of the NGT minutes, to put it as diplomatically as I can.

The examination of Mr Kevin Leather was a fascinating experience.  I shall focus on Mr Jones’s examination as it was a long day with other examinations which made headway, but I shall try to give a broad outline of how the examination developed in the morning.

There are times when one wonders where Mr Jones is taking it all, and then suddenly it becomes clear.  He does like to prepare his ground well before he goes in for the kill, and this takes time, but when you get to the point where you can see the big picture you have to stand back in amazement and acknowledge that he knows what he is doing.

The morning began with exploration of Mr Leather’s position in the making of the Environmental Statement and the fact that he relied heavily on the evidence of Mr Ward, whose original Heritage Statement has been supplemented by the new document B-13, an almost 400 page document of which about 300 pages were new, and Professor Purseglove, whom it was elicited has no science degree, and is a landscape architect whose degree was in English Literature, facts which I do not recall having had a lot of attention drawn to them previously.

Mr Leather would not admit that the original HS was defective or inadequate and claimed it was based on best practice, but we were left wondering why such a massive additional document had been considered necessary if this had been the case.

He had not actually done the Environmental Impact Assessment or the Environmental Impact Statement himself and was quizzed on the fact that he is basically an overview administrator of all this rather than a technical expert.

Having laid out these shortcomings, a quite lengthy analysis was entered into by Mr Jones, and I have to confess that I was for a while at sea wondering where he was going with this.  However the argument had to be prepared by laying out the work that had been done on air quality measurements and the modelling that had been derived from that, in the first instance on Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) levels.  There was a rather large amount of detail on the supposed predictions for that and we were also given extensive reminders of how Mr Hanson’s traffic data modelling had been admitted to have been made with a possible variation of as much as + or – 30%, the park and ride predictions up to + or – 50%, and the local side road traffic modelling had been admitted to be inaccurate.  Further preparation was made with questioning of whether we can really expect the baseline predictions for air quality and emissions not to get worse in coming years as their modelling assumes.

All rather complicated technical stuff which I freely admit I found a little hard to follow in places but necessary when you bear in mind that Mr Jones was building up to a demonstration that the impact of the increased emissions, which it is admitted would be caused by general traffic should the NGT scheme be allowed to go ahead, causing an increase in congestion, had not been properly assessed when it came to how it would affect those ‘receptors’ (people) in the areas where this was expected to peak.

Put simply, all the increased emissions were averaged so as to argue that it would not be a major impact, and yet it was argued strongly by Mr Jones that with such a major degree of variation in the models which Mr Hanson had provided, the impact in local hotspots could not be reliably forecast.

All good stuff bringing the modelling data into question, but this wasn’t the killer blow.  After we had been treated to such marvellous skill with words from Mr Leather as ‘they will be categorised into categories’…  Mr Jones winkled out the fact that among the matters Mr Leather had been discussing with colleagues the previous afternoon when he was unavailable for cross examination was the + or – 30% figure, which apparently he had not been aware of when compiling the data, and had only found out the afternoon before his examination.

One can only take criticism of Mr Jones’s lengthy style so far when you realise that a great deal of time was wasted by Mr Leather over whether the degree of uncertainty of the data was of any importance or not.  To quote Mr Jones ‘It is not a safe basis for relying on the Environmental Statement as being robust when its authors are not aware when giving their judgement of the uncertainty of the parameters’.  At one point the witness seemed to agree with this, and then appeared to change his mind as the Inspector pointed out.

While predictions in air quality had been based on Mr Hanson’s uncertain predictions of traffic flows it was admitted that the probably more reliable data which had been compiled by Mr Gordon Robertson from traffic signalling inputs had been ignored.

When it came to particulates as opposed to the NO2 it was found that only two monitoring stations for these existed in Leeds.  Clearly this is no basis for making any realistic predictions on how these may or may not be affected by changes in traffic volume and flow.  All Mr Leather could say was that it ‘gives a view’ on the situation.  The data that had been used for this was not even the most recently available, coming from 2012 rather than 2013.  We were also given an argument that just because emissions might increase, this did not mean that air quality would deteriorate.  Hmmm….

I lost count of the number of times that Mr Leather said ‘I don’t know’ and frankly his manner of delivery led me to consider whether he is suffering from depression as he exhibits extreme ‘flatness of affect’ to use a technical mental health term.  In other words he is entirely lacking in any expressive confidence and shows no emotion.  He hesitates for long periods in giving his replies and doesn’t speak up.  One may have not agreed with the likes of Mr Haskins or Mr Smith when they were up as witnesses, but at least one could hear what they said.

One trusts that the Inspector is able to follow and understand the technical analysis which Mr Jones subjected Mr Leather’s evidence to as this seems to be crucial to the claims of NGT.  Basically, their predictive modelling is extremely tenuous and highly unreliable it would appear, as has been the case repeatedly with a large number or witnesses.  It takes a long time to lay out the stall when preparing to take this apart, but in the end I believe Mr Jones succeeded in achieving this.  One can imagine that Mr Leather might well feel depressed when you consider his lack of knowledge of the background to how his own statement was prepared.  ‘I don’t know’ appeared to be one of his favourite answers.

There was much more of this, but I will just leave you with a fact that was elicited by Mr McKinnon towards the end of the day.  Mr Leather, and therefore probably his whole team, were not aware that Monument Moor was a part of Woodhouse Moor when they proposed the works that would be required there for the NGT scheme.  One is reminded of a previous witness who didn’t know that the Dales Way began on Monument Moor, a fact which the Inspector found out for himself independently.  The lack of knowledge which these people display is alarming.

These are the kind of details which the people who are proposing this scheme either don’t know, or don’t care about enough to bother to find out about, even though they are in the public domain, on Ordnance Survey maps and the like.  But one is reassured that the Inspector clearly shows an interest, and one suspects from the tone of his voice on such occasions that he is not much impressed at this ignorance.

I try not to get too personal about the witnesses for the Promoter, well not too often at least, but the fact is that these people are working for the enemy who wish to permanently mar our beautiful heritage.  So when I see and hear a witness whose presentation is frankly dismal, and who seems ignorant even of his own case (he had to be pointed to paragraphs in his own documents) one cannot help but feel some degree of animosity.  I believe that those who have been present at a reasonable number of sessions at the Enquiry will agree that Mr Leather is probably the poorest witness we have seen so far, and at times one wanted to cover one’s head in embarrassment at his evident lack of competence.

I would urge readers to review the recordings of the day, especially of Mr Jones’s cross examination, to see how an argument can be prepared and then fully actioned.  Slow work at times, but the flimsy nature of the case put forward by NGT is often veiled beneath so much technical jargon and scientistic assumption and presentation, that a layperson could be forgiven for being taken in.  I have to express my gratitude to Mr Jones and indeed First West Yorkshire for taking the trouble to expose the inadequacy of a case which would be catastrophic not only to the local community and its environmental heritage should it be allowed to go ahead, but also to Leeds and its taxpayers.

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