The proposed trolleybus route across Monument Moor
The re-emergence in Autumn 2013 of the inspector’s report on the Liverpool trolleybus application,1 and the secretary of state’s decision,2 showed opponents of the current Leeds trolleybus scheme that failure to replace open space is sufficient reason to recommend rejection of an application for a TWAO.
The NGT Project Board Minutes3 reveal that this major obstacle for the Leeds trolleybus scheme was already apparent to the NGT team. At paragraph 5d on page 9 of the Project Board Minutes of the 18th June 2013, it says that Mr Tom Gifford of Metro advised the group that the open space position in relation to Woodhouse Moor contravened both local and national guidance.
The local policy that would be contravened if the trolleybus were to run across Monument Moor is Policy N1 of the Leeds Unitary Development Plan.4 The policy is set out on page 53. It states that N1 protected green space has to be replaced if it’s going to be developed, unless the need in the locality can be shown to be met.
The national policy that would be contravened if the trolleybus were to run across Monument Moor is Policy 74 of the National Planning Policy Framework.5 This states that open space should not be developed unless it’s surplus to requirements, or replaced.
At paragraph 4f on page 4 of the NGT Project Board Minutes of the 16th September 2013, it states that Deputy Chief Planning Officer Stephen Speak “raised concerns that it will be difficult to designate the land on Woodhouse Moor as surplus and Kieran Preston asked how this was dealt with on the Supertram project.” Mr Preston must have forgotten that Supertram would not have run across Monument Moor.
At paragraph 4f on page 4 of the NGT Project Board Minutes of the 21st October 2013, it says that acting Chief Executive of Metro, John Henkel stated that “it is difficult to argue the case for the land being classed as surplus.” Mr Henkel was referring to the land to be appropriated on the 8th January 2014.
To get round the problem, the promoters devised four separate strategies:
Trying to prove that Hyde Park and Woodhouse has a surplus of open space by referring at the Public Inquiry to an unpublished revised PPG17 study that forms part of the council’s Draft Site Allocations Plan.
Trying to prove that the mitigation required by the scheme would enhance the quality of the park and in this way make up for the loss of open space.
Arguing that Monument Moor has little landscape or historical value.
Appropriating part of Monument Moor and declaring it to be no longer required as open space.
At the start of this year, MP Greg Mulholland flew to Budapest to learn about trolleybuses. During his visit, he was told by a representative of the body that administers Budapest’s transport, that trolleybuses do not lead to increased use of public transport. He was also told that Budapest would like to buy battery powered buses. Subsequently, at a meeting in this country he was told by another representative from Budapest, that the only reason Budapest hasn’t already scrapped its trolleybuses and bought diesel buses, is because they can’t afford to.
And yet despite this, on the 4th July, Mr Mulholland submitted an early day motion to parliament calling for the government to approve funding for the NGT trolleybus scheme in Leeds.
The following day on a secret visit to Leeds, the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg announced that funding had been approved, subject to NGT passing the necessary hurdles.
The suspicion is that this was a political decision, not based on the merits or otherwise of the NGT proposal.
And the question arises, why should we pay for MPs like Greg Mulholland to fly abroad on fact finding missions, when they simply ignore the facts that they learn on these trips?
The Yorkshire Evening Post has published several letters recently that criticise the NGT trolleybus scheme.
There were letters from Bill McKinnon and Dawn Carey Jones who are concerned about the plan to route the trolleybuses across a section of Woodhouse Moor. Andrew Batty points out that the trolleybuses will be bendybuses with wires, and that bendybuses have been scrapped elsewhere because they are cumbersome and unpopular. Peter Brash makes it clear that trolleybuses will just add to congestion. Kim Cowell relates how Transport for London ruled out the use of trolleybuses in London on the grounds of inefficiency and cost. Sarah Sullivan reveals that the Department of Transport estimate that the NGT trolleybus scheme will cost Leeds businesses in excess of £200 million.
An earlier incarnation of NGT was the failed Electrobus scheme of the 1980s. Metro’s original intention in 1980 had been to re-introduce trolleybuses to Bradford. But after two failed attempts to secure government funding, Leeds was included in the scheme, in the hope that this would persuade the government to change its mind.
But the government refused funding again on the ground that the trolleybus would only be economic if it had no competition.
Metro decided to go ahead anyway. But then in 1990, when an independent bus company announced plans to set up a rival bus service along the proposed first trolleybus route in Bradford, Metro withdrew its plan. It had taken them 10 wasted years to finally accept that trolleybuses couldn’t compete economically with diesel buses, the very same reason that trolleybuses were originally withdrawn from service.
In a now highly embarassing note dated the 11th February 1998, made in connection with the university’s objections to the inclusion of the former Grammar School cricket pitch within the UDP as an N6 Protected Playing Pitch, the Planning Dept commented as follows : :
The council responded to these objections, considering that there was a gross deficiency in playing pitch provision, particularly in some inner city areas, including University Ward.
Policy N6 seeks to protect playing pitches from development unless particular exceptions apply. The first of these (N6i) allows for overall pitch quality and provision to be upgraded though part development or relocation. N6ii allows development if there is no shortage of pitches, locally, and city-wide, and the land is not required for additional greenspace.
Subsequent to these comments being made, a deal was done between the council and the university which allowed the university to build on the Protected Playing Pitch, in exchange for a cash payment of £255,000 intended to establish replacement facilities on Woodhouse Moor.
The Planning Department note acknowledges that development is only permissible if there is no shortage of pitches locally. And yet, the result of the arrangement with university was that this area ended up with even less playing pitch provision than it had before. That there is currently a gross deficiency in playing pitch provision in this area is proven by the fact that none of the local schools comply with the School Premises Regulations 1999 in terms of playing pitch provision. In order to make these schools comply with the regulations, the council would have to acquire all three of the available Leeds Girls High Protected Playing Pitches. This could easily be done, for as Protected Playing Pitches, the land is worth no more than £15,000.
Back in the 1990s, Leeds Grammar School wanted planning permission to build on their cricket pitch in Hyde Park. But they had a problem in that the pitch had been given N6 Protected status in the draft Unitary Development Plan. So they appealed to the Planning Inspectorate at Bristol against the inclusion of the playing field within the UDP as an N6 Protected Playing Pitch. Here’s what the Inspector said when he made his decision on their application:
In this particular case, the site lies within a generally densely built-up area within which the retention of playing fields may be especially important. I can see no reason to remove this site from Policy N6, especially as the Grammar School has now been relocated at Alwoodley, so that an argument based on their particular needs will no longer apply.
I recommend that no modification be made to the UDP.
Albert at Leeds Civic Hall wearing the ‘Save Our Moor’ banner
Albert Slingbsy was a life-long community activist. I first met him in 2006 at a meeting of the Friends of the Earth. I had gone there to ask for support for the Friends of Woodhouse Moor campaign to stop the council building a pay and display car park on Woodhouse Moor. Albert helped us during that and subsequent campaigns, and became a very good friend.
On the 21st Febriuary 2010, Albert was admitted to St James Hospital with a diagnosis of stoppage of the bowels. For several weeks after his admission, the hospital did nothing to clear the bowel blockage. Instead, all they did was give him morphine for his pain. Initially, they wanted to discharge him without treatment. When they couldn’t discharge him, they came up with a diagnosis of cancer, and placed him on the Liverpool Care Pathway. This allowed them to withhold food and fluids, and to continue to administer morphine. Less than 3 weeks later, he was dead.
A few days before he died, Albert said to his friends Julian and Carl, “They’re murdering me in here.”