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06 August 2020

NMA Urges Government To Keep Public Notices in Local News

Public notices ensure open government and are an integral source of revenue for the local news industry.

The government has launched its planning reform consultation today, following the release of the Planning for the Future white paper earlier this year.

The white paper raises significant concerns regarding public notices in local newspapers. The report states: “We need to modernise the day-to-day operation of the planning system. Residents should not have to rely on planning notices attached to lamp posts, printed in newspapers or posted in libraries.”

The aim is to encourage local planning authorities to use digital tools. But it is not always in the local authority’s interests to shine a spotlight on controversial changes and thereby encourage public objections and delay to the initiatives they have been forced to advertise.

That’s why local authorities have always been obliged to publish this important information in local newspapers and why it would be against the public’s interests to remove this obligation.

Removing the statutory requirement for public notices to be published in local papers is likely to lead to a more secretive, less open government and to many grass roots issues being decided without proper consultation and debate.

Public notices also remain a vital source of revenue for the survival of the local news industry, particularly as advertising revenue has been reduced by up to 80 per cent during the pandemic.

If Government intends to streamline the process, effective means of alerting all those affected to the opportunity to have their say and access planning information will be all the more crucial. Hence local newspapers must remain integral to the system.

Local media provides a vital service in supplying the public with trusted news and information with local news brands reaching 40.6 million readers a month in nearly 1,000 titles across communities in the UK.

The NMA will be responding to the consultation.