Residents from Belle Isle and Hunslet held a picnic on Belle Isle Circus on Saturday 25 April to protest about the plans for the Trolleybus.
As South Leeds Life has previously reported, West Yorkshire Metro plan to build the ‘New Generation Transport’ Trolleybus on a route from Stourton to Holt Park. We also reported on a protest at the Whitfield estate in Hunslet. The route would go from a Park & Ride facility by junction 7 of the M621 at Stourton, come through Belle Isle, across the Circus, down Belle Isle Road, through Hunslet past the Garden Gate pub and into the city centre.
Protestors claim the scheme is financially flawed, will needlessly damage green space and do nothing for local people.
The cost of the system has been estimated at £250m. Government will provide £175m and Leeds City Council will have to fund the balance. After planning permission was given by Leeds City Council, the decision was ‘called in’ and a Government Inspector appointed to rule on the project. His report, following a Public Inquiry is still awaited.
Martin Fitzsimons lives in the Rylands and attended 68 of the 72 days of the recent Public Inquiry as well as addressing the full Council meeting last November. He told us:
“The scheme is five years late and they say the costs haven’t gone up? I don’t believe them. The First Bus electric bus scheme would be cheaper and cover more of the city.”
Michaela Wood was there with her children. She said:
“We regularly bring the children onto the circus to play with the dog or have a picnic. I don’t like the Trolleybus and I don’t want to lose any of the Circus.”
Ian Liptrot, a tenant board member at Belle Isle Tenant Management Organisation, said:
“The Circus is a focal point for the estate and an important piece of green space.
“If the scheme goes ahead there will be one way traffic on Winrose Grove and two sets of traffic lights on Belle Isle Circus. It will lead to traffic delays and other streets becoming rat runs.
“The bills will just go up and the government won’t increase their grant, so Leeds City Council will end up paying. And this at a time of austerity and cuts? It doesn’t make sense.”
The protesters are also concerned that residents in Belle Isle and other parts of the route will pay the price, but not gain any benefit. They say the project is being built to ferry commuters from outside Leeds who can park on the outskirts and travel into the city centre.
As well as reducing the amount of green space on the circus, the route will require the felling of established trees. West Yorkshire Metro, the organisation behind the scheme, say they will plant new trees to replace these and along the entire route.
If the project goes ahead, the NGT Trolleybus will run on the roads, often in its own lane, and take a power feed from overhead wires. Metro claim the Trolleybuses will be quieter and cleaner than conventional buses and will cut journey times and reduce traffic congestion.