Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry
Day 57 Monday 06 Oct 2014
The second Heritage Week begins with Mrs Katie Peerless assisting the Inspector.
Audio recordings for the two afternoon sessions are linked here and I follow this with some commentary on the proceedings below.
In the early afternoon session of Day 57 of the Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry Mr Ian Barraclough, on behalf of the residents and management of Headingley Castle, give their cases against the NGT proposals.
In the late afternoon session of Day 57 of the Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry Mr Ian Barraclough, on behalf of the residents and management of Headingley Castle, continues to give their cases against the NGT
proposals, and is examined by Mr Walton for the Applicant and the Inspector.
This was an interesting couple of sessions to observe, especially if you are interested in the heritage aspects of the scheme.
I don’t actually fully agree with Mr Barraclough’s position myself, but it is nonetheless an interesting one, and it will be the case that people come at this from different positions.
Clearly his first concern are the residents of Headingley Castle and the business which manages it. Headingley Castle is a Grade 2 listed building and yet there had been no direct consultation with anyone there prior to last summer.
The problems which arise are around the fact that the trolleybus would not only run within the curtilage of the Castle grounds but across the south facing view of the open parkland in front of it. There would also be some issues around the drive and boundary wall.
Mr Barraclough cited an impressive series of documents detailing the formal guidance on the considerations which should be taken into account when dealing with a situation like this near a listed building.
The chief issue was the visibility of the running trolleybus from in front of the house, following on the Design Freeze 7 line. The earlier Design Freeze 2, from a previous stage, had it running through the much lower car park of St Columba’s Church which is cut into the hillside up to almost 2 meters in places. This, the examination of Mr Walton elicited, would not be a serious problem for Headingley Castle, hidden as it would be in a cutting and masked to a certain degree by the new planted trees, which of course would take a good number of years to mature.
Personally I would have liked him to take a stronger line of rejection of the scheme, but he has to do what he thinks best.
However, this is not the end of it. There have been some considerable goings on about that very car park between St Columba’s and NGT.
It is my understanding that the car park which was a matter of some concern to the management of the church because of consequent loss of users while it was taken up with NGT plant and vehicles was a point of issue which was resolved behind the scenes. Whilst congregation and users of the church remain opposed, the management found some accommodation with the Applicant which is not entirely clear.
I would agree with Mr Barraclough that his case for minimising the impact (if the ghastly thing had to go ahead) is a strong one and that the parkland view from the Castle should be protected as much as possible and putting the route into a cutting behind the church would make a big difference with that.
Of course, the trouble with this is that the church is even worse off than before. What was only a temporary loss of the car park which would affect room bookings would now be permanent, and the trolleybus would have to go within a few yards of the church.
And the dominoes don’t stop here. A suggestion was put forward by Mr Barraclough in his case that a new car park for the lost 17 spaces could be sited just to the south in what is the adjacent piece of land where the horses currently graze.
But this piece of land has been earmarked for the ‘pocket park’ which is supposed to provide Headingley with some new green space in the event of the scheme proceeding.
The pocket park is a rather sad little idea. It relies mostly on its funny little name and the delusion that putting a road with poles and wires through a green field that has probably never been built on, and then designating a fragment of that field, that could not be put to any other use because it is so small, as a ‘new green space for Headingley’, would somehow be ‘improving’ the area, as I seem to recall Mr Flesher of Parks suggested an eternity ago.
So I was left wondering if Mr Barraclough was being incredibly subtle and clever in passing the problem along, not it the hope that it would go away, but in the almost certain and clear knowledge that it would not, and would be batted down the line (as so many things in the examination of this scheme have been), causing consequent change and stress to other factors which had ostensibly been sorted out.
I don’t know if the Inspector will come to the same conclusion about this as I did, but to me all this demonstrated a fact which has been pointed out by a significant number of objectors, not least among them Professor Bonsall and Mr Archbold. And that fact is that this is not a suitable route for a system such as this. The streets are too narrow and the character too well established for it. The only way it could be achieved would be by massive destruction and invasion of existing established buildings, heritage and so forth.
To satisfy one objector, it would be necessary to harm another. And to get out of doing that, it would be necessary to reduce what scant provision is being offered to balance all the disbeneficial impact on the area.
This is simply another example in the perpetual stream which has issued from the enquiry of instances of inadequate consultation and planning, while at the same time over egging the pudding with grossly inflated claims which cannot be supported. They are trying to do too much in too little space and seek to persuade us that a sow’s ear is a silk purse.