LEEDS trolleybus supporters and opponents alike have today welcomed the setting of a start date for the public inquiry that will decide the fate of the scheme.
The inquiry will get under way in Leeds on Tuesday, April 29, the Department for Transport (DfT) confirmed yesterday.
It will be staged in the Regus office building on Wellington Place in the city centre.
A pre-inquiry meeting will be held at Leeds’s Metropole Hotel at 10am on Tuesday, March 4. It will lay down the programme for the hearings and define their scope.
The meeting will be open to anyone who intends to be represented at the inquiry or give evidence to it.
Every person who has submitted a document of support or objection to the scheme will also be sent a letter informing them of the Metropole event.
Leeds’s trolleybus – or New Generation Transport (NGT) – scheme is being spearheaded by Leeds City Council and West Yorkshire passenger transport authority Metro.
The £250m project was given funding approval by the DfT in 2012. However, the city still needs a Transport Works Act (TWA) Order for permission to build the system.
As is normal for a scheme the size of trolleybus, the Government will make a decision on the award of the TWA Order based on the findings of the public inquiry.
Metro chairman Coun James Lewis said: “There has been a lot of debate over the planned NGT network, much of which I have been part of at meetings, public events and discussions along the route. The public inquiry will be an opportunity for Metro and Leeds City Council to present the significant transport and economic benefits that will result from the scheme and a chance for those people opposed to the scheme to present any evidence that supports their claims.
“We have known from when we started developing NGT there would be a public inquiry so I’m pleased that we now have a start date confirmed.”
Anti-trolleybus campaigner and chairman of the Friends of Woodhouse Moor, Bill McKinnon, said: “The date is slightly earlier than we thought it might be, but it’s good to have something set that we can work towards.”
The trolleybus network would link Holt Park in the north of the city with Stourton in the south. NGT bosses say the system would create up to 4,000 new jobs while critics claim the project would offer poor value for money and damage the environment.
The public inquiry could last around two months – and, once completed, it may still take another year for the Government to make a final decision on the TWA Order application.