Thursday, 25 September 2014

Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry Day 50

Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry

Day 50

Wednesday 24 September 2014 

Links to audio recordings of today's sessions are linked here, and an extended blog follows to make up for some of the days I have missed giving commentary on recently.
In the first morning session of Day 50 of the Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry, Wednesday 24 September 2014, Louise Howard Long and Chris Sheard for the Meanwood Valley Partnership present their cases of objection to the NGT scheme and there is some examination by Neil Cameron QC and the Inspector.

In the late morning session of Day 50 of the Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry, Wednesday 24 September 2014, Mr Stephen Hammond and then Mr Stuart Archbold, private objectors, give their cases of objection to the NGT scheme and there is some examination by Neil Cameron QC and the Inspector.

In the early afternoon session of Day 50 of the Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry, Wednesday 24 September 2014, Mr Malcolm Bell and then Mr Martin Fitzsimons give their cases of objection to the NGT scheme and there is some examination by Neil Cameron QC and the Inspector.

In the late afternoon session of Day 50 of the Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry, Wednesday 24 September 2014 Claire Randall first represents the cases for four others and then delivers her own case and is questioned on some points by the Inspector.

I should apologise to my readers for getting behind with these blogs and missing a few.  It is quite challenging at times to try to keep up with the relentless and gruelling pace of the schedule even if one is only reviewing audio recordings in one’s own time.  This would not be possible should those objectors who assist me with this project did not help so faithfully, for which I have immense gratitude.

We have moved on to the objectors and their evidence now that all the witnesses for NGT have been cross examined, a process which at times seemed never ending.

I am truly impressed with the quality of the presentations of virtually all those objectors I have heard so far, and that is not just because they are objectors and on my side, but because when I hear them speak I always learn something new and which gives a deeper insight into how this would affect people if it was allowed to proceed.

Yesterday we had Deborah Fahey speaking for the Whitfields community who would suffer a major, indeed catastrophic, impact on their community space, and Professor Christopher Todd giving a superb presentation with slides about the effects on local environments of trolleybuses in cities where they still exist and comparing these with how such a project could affect our own local mature heritage environments here in north west Leeds.

Among the other cases yesterday were two from West Park from residents adjacent to Weetwood Court whose representatives were the first private objectors to give their cases before the last break.  The people behind these objections stand to lose parts of the places they call home and have their lives entirely disrupted. 

I was told today that measurements of distances between the houses and boundary walls which had been discussed yesterday had been checked by the Inspector yesterday evening.  The NGT survey map which had indicated a distance of 10m was now I understand shown to be incorrect and that the distance was closer to the 7m held by the objector, thus the loss of nearly two meters from the garden would have had a much more major effect.

This is a theme which I would like to develop a bit more ~ the simple incompetence of the people at NGT trying to promote the trolleybus scheme. 

But first I will comment on a powerful witness who spoke today.  I was not surprised to hear the evidence of Mr Stuart Archbold today when he averred there had been machinations behind the scenes based on political motives of Metro (now WYCA) wishing to increase its power and not for any good reasons of improving transport, but I was impressed with the vehemence in his delivery.

‘This has to stop, and it has to stop NOW!’ he said, I believe more than once.

The passion, and indeed anger, with which he spoke demonstrated to me that he had gone through some kind of awakening process with regard to understanding what was going on and which could surely be the only reason behind his evisceration of the whole scheme from start to finish.  He said ‘A lot has happened since January’.  And while he did not deny to Mr Cameron’s question that he had indeed supported Supertram once, he was quite clear that he had entirely changed his position on this admitting freely that he had been ‘politically correct’ in toeing the line which had been expected of him seven or eight years ago.  I was glad to hear this not only to see a whistleblower on this case, but also because political correctness has infiltrated its Orwellian tentacles into the very fabric or our society and is ripe for denunciation and rejection.  Toe the party line, conform…  No thankyou, we’ll consider the evidence and make up our own minds if you don’t mind.

Rather than seeing a U-turn as a sign of weakness as the mainstream so often seek to do, I admire the courage of someone who has the courage to step out of line when they realise that the imposed consensus is not workable.  And if you have an unworkable system, such as existed in the old Soviet Union, then people within it have to squeeze their minds into ever more maladaptive channels which in themselves are unworkable.

If you have been following this in any detail you will know that the trolleybus scheme reads like something from bizarro-land.  And I am encouraged to understand from my contacts that our friends at Skyscraper City forum, whom I am led to believe are a collection of local property developers and the like, have been quiet and been in abeyance from their former sniping.  Not one of them has yet dared to make a comment on this blog despite their former gossip about me on their own forum pages.  It must be a position in which one feels severe cognitive dissonance, having the truth put in front of you every day with the recordings of the evidence that this is a scheme from an Idiocracy but firmly trying to cling to the flimsy justifications for their own profiteering agenda.

I am indeed massively biased.  Massively biased against incompetence, waste, deception, destruction and all the other unnecessary evils which Leeds CC and Metro/ WYCA is trying to impose on Leeds.

Nigh on every level at which you encounter or examine this beast, you find slipshod work and unprepared positions.  From the first consultation event I went to in December nearly two years ago where the maps all had north pointing to five o’clock and were jumbled up in order along the wall like a scrambled jigsaw so that viewers couldn’t get a coherent picture of the route or the impact, to the little episode I had today when I was giving my evidence.

The promoters have known since the before the beginning of the Enquiry that I had some audio visual evidence I wanted to present and that I would need not only a projector, such as has been used by other objectors, but also an audio device attached. 

I was going to say ‘incredibly the NGT technician couldn’t even open my files in a media player on the laptop’ but then, it isn’t incredible with these people to find that they were ignorant of something they should have prepared weeks ago. 

And there is a somewhat ironic parallel with some of the evidence which I gave today.  Forgive me for expanding on my own case in the blog, but this is the one chance I have for this.

Much of the force of my case was focussed on the, what to me at least, seems an almost transparent case of deliberately trying to keep information in the dark in an attempt to prevent people from finding it out and, one assumes, acting on it.

From the attempted refusal of Freedom of Information requests to see the consultation feedback to the refusal of Leeds City Council/ Metro/ WYCA/ NGT to provide any recording of the proceedings in any format, digital or analogue, written, audio or visual.

I was reading about the Public Enquiry after the Titanic disaster the other day.  A verbatim transcript was made of every question and every answer over the entire proceedings.  That was a century ago with none of the technology we have at our disposal today.  And yet, the drivers behind this scheme are prepared to use neither Pitman shorthand, a stenographer, nor digital recording devices.  Actions speak louder than words, and it is clear how the ruling class of Leeds see this Enquiry ~ they would like to see it disappear without trace and be utterly forgotten, whether they win or lose.  And this is because, if they were to win, they would not want to have the evidence hanging around demonstrating what a disaster-waiting-to-happen the trolleybus was, when it became that disaster.  And if they lose they will just want everyone to forget that they wasted £40m in planning and development costs for a project on the A660 route over twenty years or so.  That’s £30m on the Supertram and the £10m that has been spent on the trolleybus along a functionally identical route and which is basically a scaled down tram.

They will just want it to go away and not have some awkward internet archive of the fiasco being replayed to them by an irate public demanding why they have got our city deep into debt with a project that could be seen to be a failure well in advance, while having destroyed some of the best parts of our city.

When I began the recordings it was because I believed that it was an important principle of democracy that people should know what was being said about such an important issue to our city.  It could have all gone wrong for the objectors.  The evidence for the trolleybus could have all been tip top sparkling convincing stuff which made the Inspector smile, while Mr Jones and the objectors tried in vain to assail the impregnable heights of the noble and majestic Castle NGT.  If that had been the truth, then so be it that nimbys such as myself and my luddite co-objectors be crushed like bugs beneath the wheels of progress and the trolleybus.  Our determination to have transparent coverage of the proceedings would have been our downfall.

But this is so far from the case that has unfolded before us, or perhaps I should say, unravelled.  An endless series of items which apparently don’t need to be calculated at this stage but which the Promoter is utterly confident can be nicely fitted into the planning, development and construction budget, an endless series of judgements, views, taking it in the round and looking at the big picture and an endless series of pieces of evidence which are presented in such a way as to deviate from the official guidance for best practice in these matters.

No wonder the powers that have driven this wish that it would all just sink like the Titanic, and not be remembered as that poor vessel was, as the most famous maritime disaster in the world, or in this case public transport disaster.

And so the core focus of my evidence today was on the egregious and unconscionable withholding of these proceedings from being recorded and archived in the public domain.  If important information is withheld which would affect people, it is an immoral act to participate in that action, especially if by doing so one gains personal advantage at the other’s expense.

So it would appear that the Promoters are both conspirators and incompetent at the same time.  No false choice needs to be posed between alternatives when both are true.

The promoters of this scheme are attempting the basic propaganda technique of control of information supply.  But in seeking to exclude the people from awareness of what is going on, they have abdicated any moral authority that they may claim to have once had and demonstrated that they are not ethically competent for the tasks they seek to carry out.  It is their intention to control and dominate the population by information control and then do as they wish.  This is actually a war on the citizens of our fair city, their minds and their sense of reality, psychological warfare.  But it is good to find that a sense of awareness and justice is alive in the spirit of our citizens which is determined not to allow this travesty to proceed.
Here are the two videos which the NGT team had known were due to be played in evidence at the Enquiry but which they were incapable of showing.

This is Document 3 in my supporting documents list for my statement of case in my objection to the proposed NGT Leeds Trolleybus System at the Public Enquiry starting on 29 April 2014.

Subject: New Generation Transport in Leeds
Ref no. TWA/13/APP/04/OBJ/998

This video recording was taken on the 12 May 2013 at Leeds Civic Hall where a Public Meeting to discuss the proposed NGT trolleybus scheme was held.

Here Cllr James Lewis says:

'The bulk of the cost of this scheme is going on building the park and ride sites, building depots and building the physical infrastructure. The actual poles and wires and buses are in the order of 10 per cent of the scheme, and 90 per cent is doing the other things to make the buses flow freely and make them segregated from traffic'

This is Document 3a in my supporting documents list for my statement of case in my objection to the proposed NGT Leeds Trolleybus System at the Public Enquiry starting on 29 April 2014.

Subject: New Generation Transport in Leeds
Ref no. TWA/13/APP/04/OBJ/998.

This video recording was taken on the 5 June 2013 at the Headingley Heart Centre, where a Public Meeting to discuss the proposed NGT trolleybus scheme was held, hosted by Cllrs Richard Lewis and James Lewis.

Cllr Richard Lewis says that 'the whole NGT scheme is actually far more of a highways scheme than a scheme about a method of public transport'

This is an applicable document for my Statement of Case in the Public Enquiry to be held starting 29 April 2014
(This link seems to have gone down, so I shall have to look into that)
I have posted this video document here on YouTube as the pdf file referenced above does not have a live link to this important evidence for the Public Enquiry.

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