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Leeds college’s shock at trolleybus land ‘grab’

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Leeds College of Art has accused local transport bosses of keeping it in the dark after discovering that a piece of its land is due to be grabbed for use as part of the city’s trolleybus scheme.

The college’s principal says she had no inkling that the land had been earmarked for compulsory acquisition until some mail arrived containing the news.

Simone Wonnacott claims the site is “essential” to the college’s work and is now planning talks on the issue with the team behind the New Generation Transport (NGT) project.

Ms Wonnacott said: “NGT have not consulted the college or even had the courtesy to inform us that land essential to the college would be taken for the proposed trolleybus route.

“The first we were aware of the potential impact was when the notices to compulsorily acquire our lands dropped through our letter box.”

She added: “[We] look forward to discussing these concerns more fully ... to ensure that the college, which is a major contributor to the creative sector and the economic growth of the city, is safeguarded.”

West Yorkshire passenger transport authority Metro, one of the promoters of NGT, today issued a clear-cut response to the college’s claims.

A spokesman said: “This is an issue we are very much aware of, which is why we have been trying to set up a meeting with the college since June, when the updated plans were publicised.

“Unfortunately, due to a combination of sickness, the start of the college’s new term and the unavailability of their representatives, the three meetings that were scheduled have had to be cancelled.

“The NGT team is now looking forward to a rescheduled date from the college when discussions can take place.”

The affected land comprises the main entrance and fire exit point at the college’s Blenheim Walk building in Woodhouse.

It is separate from a list of around 20 sites where properties are due to be fully or partially-demolished to make way for trolleybus.

The list includes a parade of shops at Hyde Park Corner and a former church in Headingley.

Construction work on the £250m NGT scheme is due to get under way in 2017 or 2018. Supporters say the system will reduce congestion on the city’s traffic-choked roads and boost the local economy.