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15 October 2020

MPs Call For Planning Notices To Stay In Local Papers

A cross party group of MPs have called on Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick to keep planning notices in trusted local papers in order to maintain transparency and accountability in the planning process as the Government seeks to reform the regime.

Conservative, Labour, DUP, Green Party and Independent MPs have urged the Government to “recognise that local newspapers have the trust of the public and are best placed to distribute and publicise impartial factual details about planning applications in the form of planning notices.”

An Early Day Motion tabled in September said: “This House recognises that local and regional newspapers, in print and digital form, reach 40.6 million people each week across the UK; notes that they perform vital democratic functions by nurturing debate, investigating local issues and running powerful campaigns that foster community identity and hold vested interests to account.”

The EDM says that the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government proposals to remove the statutory requirement to publicise planning applications in local newspapers “would make the planning process less transparent, less accountable and less democratic.”

The MPs urge the Government to “recognise that local newspapers have the trust of the public and are best placed to distribute and publicise impartial factual details about planning applications in the form of planning notices.”

The News Media Association has written to the Communities Secretary to alert him to the “potentially grave problems” created by the Government’s proposals for changes to the planning system in two consultations – Planning for the Future and Changes to the Current Planning System.

“If the Government decided against retaining mandatory newspaper publication of planning notices in the reformed system, this would obstruct and diminish public alert, input and engagement in development proposals, not improve public consultation,” the NMA said.  

“Such a decision could also weaken the viability of many local titles, to the further detriment of their local communities and loss of public oversight and democratic engagement.”

The NMA is concerned that removing a valuable revenue stream from the local newspaper sector as the industry battles the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic could lead to the closure of many local papers.

Chris Mullany, Southwark Newspapers Ltd owner, said: "Removing planning notices would prove the death knell for so many local papers. As an industry, we are fighting to stay alive, whilst our local audiences tell us we are more valued than ever – informing communities about what is going on during the pandemic.

“Like many industries, our revenues are hugely affected by the current situation. For the Government to threaten to remove a key revenue source at such a time makes no sense – and removing planning notices would deprive local communities of a trusted way of accessing this vital information.”

The deadline to respond to the Planning for the Future consultation is 29 October this year. 

Independent research conducted for the NMA in September by BDA BDRC shows that the public overwhelmingly (48.6 million people, 95 per cent of GB adults) believe that they should be made aware of planning applications in their area.

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 signatories and sponsors of the EDM calling on the Government to keep planning notices in local papers are:

  • Barry Gardiner MP, Labour
  • Jim Shannon MP, Democratic Unionist Party
  • Jonathan Edwards MP, Independent
  • Mike Hill MP, Labour
  • Sir Peter Bottomley MP, Conservative
  • Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP, Labour (Co-op)
  • John Spellar MP, Labour
  • Caroline Lucas MP, Green Party
  • Stephen Timms MP, Labour
  • Richard Burgon MP, Labour
  • John McDonnell MP, Labour
  • Andrew Rosindell MP, Conservative
  • Jon Cruddas MP, Labour
  • Grahame Morris MP, Labour
  • Bob Blackman MP, Conservative
  • John Cryer MP, Labour