January 16, 2013

DEPUTATION TO FULL COUNCIL

Filed under: — Bill @ 9:45 pm

sw but or swiss built h Photo courtesy of Yorkshire Post Newspapers

Whether they live in the countryside or the city centre, the outer suburbs or the inner city, human beings have the same fundamental need for green space. This is one of the reasons why recently, councillors worked so hard to provide the city centre with its own park-like area on Sovereign Street. It’s also one of the reasons people are so concerned about changes taking place which could result in loss of the green belt.

Your concerns about the need for a city centre park, and people’s worries about loss of the green belt, are understandable, and shared by everyone who cares for the environment and the green space needs of their fellow human beings.

Sadly, in the past, there has been less recognition of people’s green space needs than there is now. This is why in the second half of the 20th century, motorways were built across Holbeck and Hunslet Moors, degrading these ancient commons and dividing communities in two.

Now in recognition of the damage that would be caused to Woodhouse Moor by the trolleybus route that was proposed three years ago, the NGT team have come up with an alternative route which would have the trolleybuses keeping to the existing road, and not encroaching at all on Woodhouse Moor, or the broad grass verges and York stone pavements which border Woodhouse Lane where it crosses the Moor.

This alternative route would spare historic Monument Moor which was the site of the city’s first outdoor gymnasium, and also the setting for the Festival of Britain Land Traveling Exhibition opened by the Princess Royal on the 23rd June 1951. The paths on Monument Moor today are the same paths that were laid for the Exhibition. They are the same paths that photographs show the Princess walking along escorted by the Lord Mayor as she made her way to the Exhibition’s entrance. These paths, a tangible reminder of the Moor’s proud history, will be saved for posterity if you choose the second route option being presented to you by the NGT team.

Hyde Park and Woodhouse is home to many thousands of students. Woodhouse Moor is their local park. Its beauty gives them and their parents a very favourable impression of Leeds. But it can be made to look even better than it does now. With money from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the park on both sides of Woodhouse Lane can be enhanced, making a drive along Woodhouse Lane where it crosses the Moor, as pleasant as a drive across the Stray into Harrogate. However, should you choose the trolleybus route option put forward three years ago, the one that would see trolleybuses running across Monument Moor, it would rule out forever the possibility of a grant to improve the entire park. The extra trees on Monument Moor that the NGT team promised as part of the earlier option, trees intended to screen the trolleybuses, would be very poor compensation indeed.

When the original proposal to run trolleybuses across the Moor was first put forward three years ago, there was incredulity. No one could understand why it was necessary to widen what is already the widest stretch of the A660 between the town centre and Lawnswood. The outcry was so great, that NGT project manager Dave Haskins said, and I quote: “People started to run at us with torches saying they were going to hang us from the trees”. I’m sure he was exaggerating, but people do feel very protective of the Moor. That’s why seven years ago, council leader Mark Harris scrapped a proposal to build a pay and display car park on the same part of the Moor that is under threat from NGT. He said at the time that the Executive Board had never before received so many letters and emails on a single issue.

We were told in July that the trolleybus route couldn’t be altered. But now, the NGT team has offered us an alternative route which would mean no road widening, or running of trolleybuses across the park. This is the common sense option, the option that preserves vital green space in an inner city area. We would much rather not have the scheme at all, but if you’re determined to go ahead with it, against the expressed wishes of so many local people, then we urge you to adopt the second option being offered, the one that leaves Woodhouse Moor intact. If you don’t choose this option, people might think it was put forward merely as a sop to public opinion, a clever ploy designed to make people think that their concerns were being listened to.

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