As land is claimed for the route of the controversial leeds trolleybus, campaigners voice shock at the money that has been ploughed into the scheme. Aisha Iqbal and paul robinson report.
Leeds city council has reclaimed several pockets of publicly owned land as part of its trolleybus route plans, despite earlier claims by campaigners of ‘land grabbing’.
The YEP reported in November that campaigners against the authority’s flagship project with Metro _ known as New generation Transport (NGT) – had issued a last-minute call to arms to fellow objectors after it emerged that the authority was planning to legally ‘appropriate’ nine new parcels of land. The plans included using untouched parts of Woodhouse Moor as part of the scheme.
The move would effectively declassify the land and would avoid the need for the council to carry out a compulsory purchase.
The council received 152 objections, with campaigners claiming the appropriation was designed to pre-empt a public inquiry and criticising the timescale for objections. However, the plans have now been signed off.
A new report just approved by the council’s director of city development said: “The NGT scheme is proposed to be implemented over several parcels of land that are currently within the council’s ownership. Nine of these are open space used for public recreation. However, they are no longer needed in the public interest of their areas for the purpose of public recreation.”
The report added that much of the affected land is on the verge of highways, or it borders much larger open areas that will still continue to be used for recreation. “In addition, if NGT is constructed, there would be the opportunity to improve recreational amenity in areas along the route by the construction and improvement of green spaces,” the report said.
The report said it is “not accurate to say that the appropriation will pre-empt the public inquiry or mean that the parcels of land appropriated will no longer be part of the park”. It said the appropriation deals only with permission to use the council-owned land for the purposes of NGT, adding: “The council and Metro will still need to get permission to construct and operate the NGT system. That will still need to be decided at a public inquiry which will take into account the open nature, use and planning status of the moor.”
The nine areas of land are on various points on Otley Old Road, LS16, several along Woodhouse Lane and on Woodhouse Moor in LS1, LS2 and LS6, and pockets at Nursery Mount Road LS10 and Belle Isle Circus.
Campaigner hits out after spending on NGT scheme comes to light
AN ANTI-trolleybus campaigner today voiced his astonishment at the revelation that almost £5m has been spent on the scheme without any guarantee that it will go ahead.
As reported in Thursday’s YEP, figures released under the Freedom of Information Act show that a total of £4.9m has been ploughed into the New Generation Transport (NGT) project.
The outlay by the scheme’s co-promoters, Leeds City Council and West Yorkshire passenger transport authority Metro, will be written off if NGT is given the thumbs-down after a public inquiry later this year.
And today one of the project’s leading opponents branded the funds being pumped into NGT as “outrageous”.
Bill McKinnon, chairman of the Friends of Woodhouse Moor, said: “If this was a scheme with public support, then I could understand why the money was being spent.
“The point is, the support isn’t there – and that’s not the public being awkward, it’s the public looking at the plans and deciding they don’t like them. I see this as an outrageous amount of money.”
Metro says an “extremely detailed level of planning” is required for the project, which has £173.5m of Department for Transport cash set aside for it.
A spokesman for the transport authority said: “If this scheme does not go ahead, this £5m will be lost along with the £173.5m of Government investment and all the opportunity this first stage of NGT will bring to the local economy.”
Eco-friendly electric buses could be new option for network
ELECTRIC buses could eventually be pressed into service on the Leeds trolleybus network.
Technology being trialled in Milton Keynes allows minibuses to run on booster charges they receive from plates in the road.
Transport bosses in West Yorkshire say the eco-friendly vehicles could end up operating like standard buses on the county’s streets, if the pilot proves successful.
But they also say the buses could be used on the segregated trolleybus network.
Coun James Lewis, chairman of West Yorkshire passenger transport authority Metro, one of the co-promoters of the New Generation Transport (NGT) trolleybus scheme, said: “If successful, this is something we would definitely like to see the bus operators investing in.
“Although 90 per cent of the NGT scheme’s costs are about creating the segregation that will make trolleybus journeys quicker and more reliable, the technology is important and in the future we could see electric buses integrated into the NGT network as it expands.”
The trolleybuses themselves would be powered via overhead wires.