NMA: Removing Planning Notices From Local Papers Will Damage Local Democracy
Removing planning notices from local newspapers will weaken local democratic engagement and lead to vulnerable groups being unable to access important information which could profoundly affect their lives, the News Media Association said today.
In a letter to Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick, the NMA pointed to the “potentially grave problems” created by the Government’s proposals for changes to the planning system in 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.”
Innovations like local media publishers’ online public notice portals and website listings can help planning processes keep pace with the digital age by harnessing news publishers’ huge and growing online audiences.
Independent research conducted for the NMA in September by BVA 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.
This group of people consider local news media (39 per cent) to be by far the best place to publicise planning notices, way ahead of council websites or apps (10 per cent). This group are twice as likely to trust local news media (34 per cent) to publicise planning notices properly than council websites or apps, mailouts, or social media (all 17 per cent).
Nearly a third (32 per cent) of people aged 55+ (6.2 million people) would not be able to find planning notices without local printed newspapers. And 41 per cent of those with average or below average digital literacy (6.5 million people) would not be able to find planning notices if they did not appear in printed local newspapers.
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.”