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27 November 2020

Growing Chorus of Concerns Over Planning Notice Threats

More Labour MPs have joined the growing number of Parliamentarians to raise concerns with Government about proposals to remove planning notices from local newspapers and the impact upon local democracy.

This week, Labour MPs Stephen Morgan, Portsmouth South; and Helen Hayes, Dulwich and West Norwood; became the latest to table Parliamentary written questions asking Ministers about the impact would have on local democracy.   

In his question to the Culture Secretary, Mr Morgan asked; “what recent assessment he has made of the (a) effect on transparency and local democracy of the statutory requirement to publicise planning applications in local newspapers and (b) potential effect on local newspaper revenue of discontinuing that requirement.”

In her question to the Communities Secretary Ms Hayes asked; “what assessment he has made of the potential effect of ending the statutory requirement to advertise planning notices in local newspapers on the transparency of the planning system; and what steps he is taking to ensure people who are not digitally literate are informed of planning applications which will affect them.”

It is the latest in a series of Parliamentary questions from Conservative and Labour MPs in which have sounded alarm about proposals to remove planning notices from local newspapers  in the Planning for the Future consultation.

MPs from across the political spectrum have been writing to Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick to voice their opposition to the move and an Early Day Motion was signed calling on Government to abandon the idea

Independent research conducted for the NMA in September by BDA BDRC shows that nearly 10 million people (19 per cent of GB adults), many of whom are vulnerable, would not be able to find planning notices if they did not appear in printed local newspapers, the research found.

The News Media Association is campaigning for the requirement for local authorities to advertise the notices in local papers to be maintained, arguing that many millions of people rely on local papers to find the notices.

In a letter to the Communities Secretary, the NMA said: “Maintaining the mandatory requirement to publish notices in print newspapers does not of course preclude publication in their online titles and use of their other online services, which foster their close relationship with their audiences.

“Innovations like online public notice portals and website listings contribute to news publishers’ efficient communication with the public, harness news publishers’ huge and growing online audiences and help planning processes keep pace with the digital age.

“Maintenance of statutory requirements for publication of planning notices in newspapers would also be consistent with Government policy in respect of sustaining high quality journalism and, in particular, the local and regional press.

“Revenue from public notices is an important stream of income for many local and regional publishers. The withdrawal of public notices from print newspapers could even prove fatal to financially fragile local publishers.

“The Government has committed to support the news media industry, including most of the recommendations supported by the industry in the Cairncross Review and its views on retention of mandatory newspaper publication of public notices. Removing the requirement to publicise planning notices in local newspaper would be antithetical to this commitment."