Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry Day 16

Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry Day 16:

May 23  2014

May I first apologise for not posting this blog for day 16, the last day of the Enquiry before the break, sooner.  I did not attend that day and have had to study the recordings which my associates who were there were able to supply me with, and to whom I am most grateful for their assistance in keeping those recordings flowing.

As usual the short descriptions and links are given for those who didn’t catch the tweet on Saturday and I give some commentary below, including an update on the timetable.

First Morning Session


In the first morning session of day 16 of the Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry, May 23 2014, the cross examination of Mr John Henkel, acting Director of the WY Combined Authority for transport (formerly Metro) is continued by Dr John Dickinson, of the North West Leeds Transport Forum, who asks questions around the capitalisation costs and risks of NGT. He is followed by Mr Chris Longley of the Federation of Small Businesses who subjects the business case to some analysis, then by Mr Bill McKinnon for the A660 Joint Council who looks at strategic issues and lastly Mr George Geapin, a private objector.

Late Morning Session


In the late morning session of day 16 of the Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry, May 23 2014, Neil Cameron QC completes the examination of Mr John Henkel of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority for transport (formerly Metro). This session finished at about twenty minutes past midday and the Enquiry was adjourned early since there is now to be a week's break for Bank Holiday and half term and the Inspector felt that it would not be helpful for the Enquiry to call the next witness for one session alone as their evidence is on an entirely different subject.

The evidence explored today covered some very interesting and important issues, although they might not at first glance appear as significant as some of those which have been discussed lately. 

The matter of the capitalisation or as I understand it, the raising of the money to build this scheme, was examined by Dr John Dickinson, for I think, the North West Leeds Transport Forum.  One point elicited that I found quite alarming is that the franchise operator who had won the tender for the system would not be liable for losses if the required money to pay back the finance to build and supply it, but it would be the City of Leeds which would bear the weight of that burden, in other words, the Council Tax payers of Leeds.   Somewhat reminiscent of the socialised debt of the large financial corporations of recent years.

When coupled with the examination of Chris Longley from the Federation of Small Businesses who asked searching questions about how much NGT had examined the £60 million loss making Sheffield Supertram, this makes me very concerned that the Council, Metro (or the now Combined Authority) and NGT are taking a massive gamble on this thing being a success financially, and all that apart from the unavoidable destruction of communities, heritage and environment which it would entail.

A matter came up about dealing with the anti-competitive nature of the scheme, at least believed to be so by some.  If anyone would like to help me with this I would be glad of elucidation on what the Inspector meant about it not being dealt with by the Enquiry.  Obviously it is an issue and the Counsel for First have worked around the matter, but this is also a technical matter of competition law, and I have to declare not to fully grasp it at this stage.

Mr Bill McKinnon’s questioning which followed raised some extraordinary facts which I had no knowledge of.  Although I lived in Leeds 6 for most of the eighties I was entirely unaware of a scheme entitled ‘Electrobus’ which was a trolleybus system.  I can put that down to not being clued in to local political issues at the time, but it was fascinating to hear that the Director of Metro/ WY Combined Authority’s knowledge was scant about the Electrobus, even though he had heard about it.  While it was a scheme abandoned within living memory, it seems to have been reincarnated as the NGT trolleybus.  These things keep getting rejected, but then people keep re-presenting them in slightly different forms so that we have to go through the whole process of rejecting them all over again. 

It reminds me of the Irish referenda on the EU/ treaty, constitution or whatever it ended up being called.  They rejected it, so the politicians wouldn’t let go of it and pushed another referendum only two years or so later.

I recall Cllr Richard Lewis at the Headingley Heart Centre Public Meeting almost a year ago (June 2013) talking about how this had all come a long way since Supertram was first mooted in the early ‘90s.  It must now be pointed out that he made no mention of Electrobus which had been kicked out a couple of years earlier. 

There seems to be a persistent lobby lurking in the shadowy places of Leeds and West Yorkshire trying to get a trolleybus system installed somewhere, ever since Bradford closed its own last trolleybus in 1972.  It was the last and longest running trolleybus in the country, running since 1911.  I can’t decide if it is a bunch of grown up schoolboys who want to play with trainsets on a grand scale or if there are other motivations behind the idea they won’t give up on.  No-one elsewhere in England seems to have any interest in trolleybuses, Liverpool rejected a similar scheme in 1999, yet they keep trying to come back to haunt Leeds, like HR Giger’s Alien in the Ridley Scott movie, returning to stalk Ripley however many times she thinks she has killed it off.

But perhaps this will be the occasion when the people and businesses of Leeds do finally kill this monster that would devour well loved communities and heritage.  The Public Enquiry is bringing a lot of very interesting information out into the public domain, where it should be and making a permanent open record of it with the audio recordings which we have been organising.

One isn’t surprised that Leeds City Council would be unco-operative towards making the hearings available for public access.  They claimed cost was the reason, and yet it has cost us virtually nothing in monetary terms to make and publish them.  The citizenry of Leeds need to be reminded of not only the massive financial risk and social loss which would be entailed but also that this has happened before, repeatedly.  As Mr McKinnon reminded Mr Henkel and the Enquiry, ‘Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat its mistakes’.

One fact of history which Mr Henkel seemed not to have learned from was the fact that when trolleybuses were given up by Leeds in 1927 it was largely because people didn’t want to be making interchange connections, such as the contemporary park and ride, but preferred to stay on one vehicle, the motor bus then or their cars now, than to have to change and wait and then most likely have to stand for the length of the journey.

Mr Henkel came back with a response which stimulated some stifled snorts and chortles from the back rows so far as I could tell from the recording when Bill McKinnon asked if he thought people had changed and might now be willing to get out of their cars to go on a trolleybus where they might have to possibly stand for the rest of the journey to town. He said ‘Yes’ but he reply was rather muted, almost choked upon.  To imagine that anyone could expect that answer to be satisfactory for a ‘Quality Bus’ experience is laughable.  I wouldn’t have minded seeing his face.  It was rather a blunt moment.  He passed on the next question to another witness, as to whether any passenger surveys around this had been done, but if he isn’t brandishing a passenger consultation paper demonstrating that passengers are fine with standing then I wonder why not.  To be perpetually vague on subjects where he should be in mastery of the detail is not satisfying.  He may be the Director, but he should have some hands on engagement with such a massive and important project if we were to have any confidence in his proposal. 

I have said that if people and environments and heritage didn’t matter, this might be a good cattle truck.  I think Mr Henkel just confirmed what I suggested.

Mr Henkel reminds me somewhat of Martin Farrington at the beginning of the Enquiry who was always passing on questions to his specialists, and who has no real grasp of important facts, or is obfuscating.  I have been alarmed at how, like President Reagan, he ‘couldn’t recall’ so many details, dates, meetings and so forth that he should have known about.  I trust that the Inspector has noted this.

The next week, after Bank Holiday/ Half Term break, starting Tuesday June 3rd 2014 will be on Heritage matters.  A brief summary of the draft plan for the remainder of the Enquiry follows below.

The Public Enquiry resumes on Tuesday June 3rd at 10 am
in the Regus Suite, fifth floor, no 2 Wellington Place, Leeds 1 (off Wellington Street)

Week 5:  Heritage

Tues 3rd June to Fri 6th June 2014

Week 6:  Transport Matters

Tues 10th June to Fri 13th June 2014

Week 7:  Environmental Matters

Tues 17th June to Fri 20th 2014

Week 8:  Environmental Matters

Tues 24th June to Fri 27th June 2014

Non Sitting Week

30th June to 4th July 2014

Non Sitting Week

7th July to 11th July 2014 

Week 9;  Environmental and Planning Matters

Tues 15th July to Fri 18th July 2014

Week 10:  Heritage Matters

Mon 21st July to Thurs 24th July 2014

Non Sitting

28th July to 29th August 2014

Week 11:  Case for the Objectors

Tues 2nd Sept to Fri 5th Sept 2014

Week 12:  Case for Order Applicant and for the Objectors

Tuesday 9th Sept to Fri 12th Sept 2014

Non Sitting Week

15 Sept to 19 Sept 2014

Week 13:  Case for the Objectors, Residential Associations and Individuals

Tues 23rd Sept to Fri 26th Sept 2014

Week 14:  Case for individual Objectors, A660 Joint Council, Weetwood, West Park, North Hyde Park Residents, Friends of Woodhouse Moor and others.

Tues 30th Sept to Fri 3rd Sept 2014

Week 15: Planning Conditions, Site visits, Closing submissions.

Tues 7th Oct to Thurs 9th Oct 2014

This is only a draft and is subject to alteration.  Check www.persona.uk.com  the Programme Organisers for the latest status.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry Day 15

Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry Day 15

May 22   2014
Today’s Enquiry continued for most of the day with the cross examination of Mr John Henkel, acting Director of the former Metro, now subsumed under the West Yorkshire Combined Transport Authority, by Gregory Jones QC on behalf of First West Yorkshire who are one of the principle objectors to the trolleybus scheme.

Mr Jones tightened the screw on Mr Henkel slowly but deliberately and while it may at first not have been clear where he was taking the questioning his position was built up systematically and in time it all fitted together and the plan became clear.  If you can spare the time all of Mr Jones’s sessions with Mr Henkel will bear a close listening, but if you have little time or are simply impatient the first quarter of an hour or so of the final session of the day will show you the destination for which the course had long been set, although the more of the earlier stages of the examination you have followed, the greater will be your appreciation of the denouement.

Commentary on this follows below after the links to the audios and brief descriptions of each session recorded.


In the first morning session of day 15 of the Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry, May 15 2014, Gregory Jones QC continues to examine John Henkel, acting Director of the West Yorkshire Combined Transport Authority (formerly Metro) who is responsible for operational factors with respect to the NGT system.


In the late morning session of day 15 of the Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry, May 22 2014, Gregory Jones QC continues to cross examine Mr John Henkel of the West Yorks Combined Transport Authority about operational matters which relate to both NGT and First Bus.


In the early afternoon session of day 15 of the Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry, May 22 2014, Gregory Jones QC continues to cross examine Mr John Henkel, acting Director of the West Yorkshire Combined Transport Authority on behalf of First West Yorkshire, his client, and suggests that the Applicant had made serious allegations against his client which were untrue (to use Mr Jones words).
In the late afternoon session of day 15 of the Leeds Trolleybus Public Enquiry, May 22 2014, Gregory Jones QC continues to cross examine Mr John Henkel, acting Director of the West Yorkshire Combined Transport Authority on behalf of First West Yorkshire, his client, and demonstrates that no meaningful engagement had been made by Metro towards First West Yorkshire despite knowing about First's Objection and new transport proposals, although suggestions had been made by the Applicant to the contrary.
Professor Peter Bonsall follows working around transport as a system which needs to be viewed holistically while NGT works against that.  Following, Dr John Dickinson for Weetwood Residents' Association begins his questioning for the last few minutes of the day and will continue in the morning.

The case developed by the Counsel for First West Yorkshire is so extensive and widely ranging that it can at first be a struggle to grasp the whole picture, but Mr Jones is not shooting in the dark, he is, if you will pardon the mixed metaphors, more like shooting fish in a barrel.

The emerging evidence which Mr Henkel struggled to keep under control was that Metro had done nothing to approach or respond in any meaningful way to First’s new transport proposals or their Objection to the NGT scheme.  This has become something of a pattern with the consultation processes which have been minimal, half hearted and often late, followed by approaches attempting to make it look as if they had been engaged from the start and that it was the fault of the objectors, whether it be First or others.

I have to be careful what I say in a public piece of writing, but unless I am very much mistaken, what happened this afternoon, and if I have got it wrong I am sure someone will correct me, Mr Jones established that Metro had not been acting in good faith towards his client, but that, as he had built up the case earlier, they had actually imputed the intentions of First in a rebuttal.  This was covered yesterday when Mr Jones asked the Inspector to strike from the rebuttal the sentence or two in which ‘the reasons for the [First’s] objections’ were referred to.  He asked why the Inspector should need to look at First’s motivations and that to suggest so was to impute improper and dishonest intentions.  Now Metro have been caught suggesting that it was not their fault that no engagement or consultation took place between the bus company and itself.  When the email and letter documents were brought out in the last session it was demonstrated that Metro’s attitude had been lacklustre and half hearted towards consulting First in any meaningful way.

The Mr Henkel that we saw yesterday answering firmly was reduced today by the later stages to monosyllabic replies after being put on the spot by Mr Jones about the veracity of Metro’s assertion that First had hampered development by not supplying data when they had never refused to co-operate and NGT seemed to have no interest in approaching them.  The Inspector even at one point had to ask Mr Henkel why he had apparently a few minutes earlier said the contrary to what he was now saying.

I am no legal expert but after reviewing the final section of Mr Jones’s examination I can’t help feeling that this witness has been at least to some extent discredited.  He was vague about dates, meetings weren’t properly minuted and so on and so forth.

So far the only witness who has come through with any apparent integrity is Mr Robertson the Traffic Signalling technical expert who was on about two weeks ago now.  All the rest have appeared to prevaricate in various ways, were either unable to answer the questions or showed what seemed false confidence in their projections about this scheme.

The questions from the Inspector have become somewhat more searching in recent days.  It is of course right and proper that he should maintain a strong degree of insouciance to the public, but one cannot help reading into his manner when he shows what appear to be some emotion of concern.  Some Objectors have been chastened and rebuked by the Inspector, although this has reduced recently as the participants have fallen in with the expected manner of proceeding, but I believe we can take good heart at the fact that he seems a detached and independent observer.  With so much detail things can remain hidden for a while, but the general picture is emerging and the Applicants are not doing well by most understandings.  To have it established, so far as I can understand, that they have given misleading evidence and even slurred First is a monster black mark against their case, or so it would at least seem to the uninitiated layperson such as myself.

I would invite any of the Tbus enthusiasts who I have encountered on ‘Skyscraper Cities’ who are so critical of Objectors to engage with me here on my own page and get beyond making stock cliché remarks about ‘Nimby’s’.  For unclear technical reasons I appear only to be able to post short replies on that page and don’t have the time anyway to be surfing forums as managing the audio uploads and writing this blog is sufficient load for me at present.  But if any of those who are so critical of me in their own little pond would care to engage with me on my own turf with a couple of hundred Objectors and local residents watching, I should be happy to engage.  All comments are moderated and I will not tolerate the kind of remarks I have seen on their page.  Courtesy is de rigeur or your comment will be deleted.

I should be curious to see how the Tbus enthusiasts would deal with the sort of shenanigans that Mr Jones and his team have so adeptly exposed.   I have said that I have to be careful what I say and I don’t wish to be accused of libel, but Mr Jones would not say some of the things he has done if he did not have the confidence that he was on firm ground and that his opponent is not.  There have been bad and less bad days for the Applicant, but this one appears to possibly be the worst for them so far, unless I have entirely misread the situation.

I should give some attention to Professor Bonsall’s questioning which followed.  Lower key, but homing in on important implications of the scheme.  Getting to the heart of the matter he draws attention to the fact that transport generally should be considered as an holistic system and that having a prioritised transport scheme which shares space with other users goes entirely against this understanding.  Indeed he went so far as to establish, or at least strongly argue, it would appear to me, that having a two tier system like this would actually be counterproductive and be detrimental to the overall holistic functioning.  (A curious resonance here is with the debate about 'net neutrality' where prioritised customers would be favoured.)

I would add to that that things like ‘distinctive brand identity’ and ‘smart new livery on the trolleybuses’ are really irrelevant to what is at issue and are mere candy floss designed to distract.  Fortunately it appears that there are enough intelligent and perceptive people about who are willing to call this out in all its various forms, that objectors should feel that we do indeed have a realistic chance of fending off this potential catastrophe.  But what do I know?  Check out the recordings and make up your own mind

Friday 23rd of May is the last sitting before the Bank Holiday and Half Term.  Dr John Dickinson for Weetwood Residents will continue his examination in the morning and will be followed by Mr Bill McKinnon, Friends of Woodhouse Moor and North Hyde Park Neighbourhood Association.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry Day 14

               Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry Day 14

                           May 21   2014

Today saw a new witness sit behind the desk on the left hand of the Inspector at the Enquiry.

Links to audio recordings of each of the day’s sessions are below with brief descriptions of each session.

My thoughts on the days proceedings follow after the links.

The first morning session of day 14 of the Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry, May 21 2014. Mr John Henkel, acting director general of Metro takes the stand as a witness for NGT.

Neil Cameron examines on behalf of the Applicant NGT.

The late morning session of day 14 of the Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry, May 21 2014. Mr John Henkel, acting director general of Metro continues as a witness for NGT. Cllr Barry Anderson (C. Adel) cross examines.

In the early afternoon session of day 14 of the Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry, May 21, 2014, the cross examination of Mr John Henkel, Acting Director of West Yorkshire Combined Transport Authority continues from Mr Malcolm Bell, Mechanical Engineer.

In the final afternoon session of day 14, May 21 2014, Gregory Jones QC cross examines John Henkel, Acting Director of the new West Yorkshire Combined Transport Authority on the legal advice that has been taken by NGT and how this has affected their consultations, amongst other matters.

John Henkel is a much different witness to his predecessor Jason Smith.  A much older man to start with, former director of Metro and now acting director of it’s successor the WY Combined Transport Authority, if I have that correct.  It was elucidated in the final session from a question by Gregory Jones QC that this was the naming as it stands.  Previous posts of the audio had the ‘Metro’ usage as throughout the Enquiry that is the appellation that has been applied.

He is also more measured in his responses than Mr Smith.  In the session with Mr Malcolm Bell questioning which I witnessed I had the feeling that he was somehow dodging a fair amount of what seemed good questions.  Indeed the Inspector agreed at one point that Mr Bell was asking good questions, which is probably as close as anyone can expect to a compliment as we are going to get out of Mr Whitehead.

Perhaps it is the team of six legal experts behind him and his numerous years of study and practice at his art, but when Gregory Jones begins his questioning, it is as if scales fall from our eyes and we see through the fog which surrounds a witness to the truth of their meanings.

The legal advice, or ‘legal analysis’ which Metro (as then was) had  seemed to be somewhat in question as to its proper status and there ensued a long interchange about anti-competitive behaviour. Mr Jones posited that there would be the suggestion of the absence of a competitive market if head to head competition were not to be allowed, and of course the prioritisation of NGT over regular buses on roads which both share for long sections of the route surely has to raise such a question.

First had not been found to have engaged in anti-competitive behaviour and yet to use a phrase I found amusing, Mr Jones suggested that NGT had tried to ‘play the man and not the ball’.  The instance of this was the NGT documents which mention ‘the reasons for the (First’s) objections’.

Mr Jones took particular offence at this on behalf of his client, because he asked whether there was any suggestion of his client’s reasons being improper, not true and therefore dishonest?  He argued that such comments in the NGT proofs should be ignored by the Inspector as they were clearly an attempt to tarnish First’s reputation in front of the Enquiry.

We then followed with a searing examination of the financial risks involved in the scheme if it were not successful in gaining enough revenue to pay for itself over a six to eight year period.  I cannot urge my readers strongly enough to listen to some of these sessions from Mr Jones on the audio player links and ask themselves whether the NGT and former Metro team have any credibility left at all.

We were left by the end of the late afternoon session with a strong impression of the immense financial risk for the city and people of Leeds involved in engaging in such a project.

An amusing sideline I discovered today was a web forum called ‘Skyscraper cities’, where Tbus, a group of trolleybus aficionados and lobbyists hang out.  Someone had posted a link to this blog for which I thank them.  Someone a couple of posts on called this blog ‘massively biased’.  Well I had to laugh.  I am a resident of Headingley and I am giving my views on the insane trolleybus scheme which would devastate a string of conservation areas and damage communities and environments both sides of the river.  And I am largely reporting on how I see the progress of the Enquiry.  What these kind of people mean when they say something is biased is that it doesn’t conform to what they want and expect of us.  The fact that communities all along the route are saying ‘No’ and withholding their consent to this is a factor which cannot be ignored, no matter how much the people with minds of metal and wheels try to persuade them otherwise.  It is something that these proponents cannot compute in their heads and so they continue to seek to impose their madness on us all.  For I do genuinely believe it is a kind of madness which the proponents of this are suffering from, believing that it is acceptable, and that it can be calculated and justified on the basis of a cost benefit analysis, to destroy whole green environments which have evolved over centuries.  Or to tell people that they will just have to live with the fact of this intrusion in their lives and get used to it for the benefit of the control freaks who put it there.

All along so far we have seen shortcomings in many aspects of the proposals, most especially consultation and that really sums up what this is about.  Having a plan they wish to impose which has not in any way been consented to.

Before I close I will just trail a piece I am anticipating posting during the half term break next week.  If you have read other entries in my blog before those on the trolleybus you may have noticed several on the subject of the history of possibly Headingley’s most famous literary former resident, Professor JRR Tolkien, who lived in several different houses along the A660.  I believe strongly that the eco-ethics which are embedded throughout his works can inform our discussion of how we wish to frame our future.  Many of the trees along the A660 which were Victorian or older plantings will be trees which Tolkien knew as he went up and down along that road.  For those of us who take a special interest in his works this is an opportunity to feel a connection with him through his well known love of trees.  But the greater insight is the recognition of the continuity of the life within our local environment.  To seek to destroy so many trees and so much of the history which they embody and have witnessed is a disregard for the entire community along this road.  Headingley deserves to have some low level Tolkien tourism, there is still enough context left hereabouts to get a strong feel of the history of this local Shire, and how it might have been ninety years ago, but if the trees were cut down and all the roads enlarged that would be lost.  I am reminded of Orwell’s 1984 in which history is rewritten so often that no-one knows what it originally really was, and what is worse, no-one cares.  Let us not ever become so detached from our roots that we do not care about what was here before us and how we relate to it.  The threat of NGT is the threat of a mindset which cares not about these things, only about quotas, and statistics, and how these can be used to manipulate the world.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry Day 13

Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry Day 13

May 20  2014

Today saw Mr Jason Smith finishing his stint as a witness for the Applicant for the Transport Works Order, NGT.  Cross examination began with Mr Bill McKinnon for Friends of Woodhouse Moor and North Hyde Park Neighbourhood Association, who was followed by Gregory Jones QC for the remainder of the morning and the early part of the afternoon.  After Mr Jones the Inspector asked Mr Smith some questions and the last session was spent with Neil Cameron QC giving the final examination for the Applicant.

Jones really hit home today and I have been fascinated listening back to his cross examination on behalf of the Leeds College of Art.   This begins a short way into the second of the audios listed below, and if you are limited for listening time and need to cherry pick, the middle hour of that one is pure gold.

My commentary on today’s proceedings follows these links to audios of all today’s sessions.

In the first morning session of day 13 of the Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry, May 20 2014, Mr Bill McKinnon of Friends of Woodhouse Moor and North Hyde Park Neighbourhood Association continues his cross examination of Highways Engineer Mr Jason Smith on important details of the proposed NGT route on issues of shared space and the BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) Standard 2013 relevant to the proposed NGT trolleybus scheme.

In the late morning session of day 13 of the Leeds trolleybus Public Enquiry, May 20 2014, Bill McKinnon of Friends of Woodhouse Moor and North Hyde Park Neighbourhood Association cross examines Jason Smith, Highways Engineer on shared space and future proofing of the proposed system.

In the early afternoon session of day 13 of the Leeds Trolleybus Enquiry, May 20 2014, Gregory Jones QC for the Leeds College of Art continues his cross examination of Jason Smith, Highways Engineer with regard to, among other concerns, factors of safety, capacity and flow speed which would affect the College and the roads approaching it in the vicinity including Woodhouse Lane and Blenheim Walk.

As those who read my blog yesterday will know I was critical of Jason Smith’s long drawn out answers.  Today Gregory Jones brought him to heel with his cross examination on behalf of Leeds College of Art.

It is most instructive to watch a really good cross examination.  To hear him pinning his quarry into corner and getting him to admit that the proposed scheme was not one that was good for the College despite the endless prevarications and evasions was most satisfying.  It was quite staggering really to hear how the College had received no consultation from NGT before the original compulsory purchase order or the revised land take plan that was substituted after the formal objection was made. 

At one point Mr Jones said that it was quite clear that Mr Smith was equivocating and attempting not to answer the question

It is always interesting to notice when the Inspector asks a witness a question, especially when it is to ask the witness to answer the question that they have been trying to evade for the last few minutes while their gaze darts about, at least metaphorically, as they look for a way out of their predicament.  

'So, er.. what we did was....'  'Please answer the question Mr Smith, 'Did you or did you not engage in consultation with the College of Art on the design, 'Yes' or 'No'?' 

Eventually Mr Smith passed the buck back to Dave Haskins, NGT Project Director, about what consultations had or had not taken place.  Mr Smith appeared to be under the impression that they had, but could not give dates and so had to refer to his superior.  Mr Jones said that he had quite clear instructions from his client on this matter that there had been no design consultation before January this year.

Jason Smith came out of this very badly so far as I could tell as not only Mr Jones but the Inspector too had to press him hard to give a straight answer to all of this.

Following the mid afternoon break the examination continued around traffic issues on Blenheim Walk, the road in front of the College, and flow around the block between here and Woodhouse Lane.  The astonishing fact emerged that in this very complex zone, which includes a ‘pedestrian dominated’ area, no safety, capacity or flow assessments for the new road layouts and introduced trolleybuses had taken place. 

The day was filled with these kind of facts being extracted from the NGT witness and I was pleased to see that Mr Jones was firm in preventing the answers from spinning out into the lengthy digressions we have seen in previous days.  

I was however concerned at what appeared to me to be a deliberate obfuscation that was made after Gregory Jones had completed his examination and during the Inspector’s questions which followed.  The subject of the corner of Victoria Road corner which is proposed to be demolished and replaced with a larger road junction was raised by the Inspector, who stated that he was concerned about the amount of demolition proposed.  This is the small row of low rent business premises and the old petrol station adjacent which is also a business on Headingley Lane.  But there is also a fine Victorian red brick semi-detached villa behind these, facing out South onto Victoria Road, I believe it is no.2 Victoria Road, which they purpose to destroy along with the rest.

No mention was made of this building, which the Inspector may not have seen when he cycled along the route as part of his own evidence gathering, as it is not on Headingley Lane itself.  The three buildings were referred to by Mr Smith as ‘one property’, taking advantage of the fact that the three buildings, and their three plots of land have been acquired by the Council/Metro and so are held by one freeholder.  However I would suggest that it is misleading to refer to these as ‘one property’.

Mr Smith’s evidence giving has seemed to rely heavily on people not noticing that he can be economical with the truth on occasion.  This last was to me a blatant attempt to hide the fact that a fine Victorian building in both good repair and use would be lost forever, a fact that the Inspector should know.  It is unfortunate that the structure of the proceedings allows little opportunity to intervene on a point of order so as to correct or clarify a statement such as this, and the other day the Inspector took a member of the public to task for ‘shouting out’ as he put it.

I trust that an opportunity will present itself to introduce this fact into the information revealed as the various other cross examinations go forward, but it is most regrettable that the Inspector should have had the misleading idea infiltrated into his mind that there is only ‘one property’.  I think we know that a property is a building and that separate buildings on separate plots should be clearly distinguished.

This was immediately noticed and discussed by several objectors in the following break.

The objectors have had a fair number of what seemed to us good days, and a few where less obvious progress was made, but today was one of those days when it really felt that NGT had been exposed as not responsibly engaging with those people it would affect most, and shilly shallying when their failures to do their proper groundwork were in danger of being brought to light.

In the first couple of weeks the objectors joked that we would welcome the last day of the Enquiry when all the buck passed questions would be answered by the final witness.  But now we have back passing of the buck as Mr Jones said at one point.

I am pleased to see that the Inspector does appear to have picked up on Mr Smith and his evasive ways in answering questions.  And we have to trust that he will give this kind of less tangible evidence weight in his deliberations.