Levelling Up: NMA Welcomes Focus On Community Engagement

The News Media Association has welcomed the focus on importance of community engagement within the government’s levelling up agenda which was announced by Secretary for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Michael Gove earlier this week.

The White Paper, which paves the way for a Planning Bill in the spring, states that changes to the planning system will improve “democracy and engagement in planning decisions.”

“In addition, the development of new planning software for councils and digital agencies is bringing the system into the 21st century,” the White Paper says. “All of this will result in a system that is easier to engage with and works more efficiently, with communities having more of a say and more councils agreeing local plans.”

The NMA is conducting a major project to develop an industry-wide online portal for public notices which, alongside print notices in local papers, will further increase public engagement in planning, road traffic changes and other important information which people need to know as part of the democratic process.”

Funded by £1 million from the Google News Initiative, the project will see the creation of a common online portal offering access to the public notices published in print by regional and local newspapers across the country.

NMA deputy chief executive Lynne Anderson said: “Local news media titles sit right at the heart of the communities they serve and as such as are perfectly placed to help drive the government’s levelling up agenda.

“The local media sector’s Public Notices Portal will be a key part of this. Increasing engagement with public notices will strengthen local democracy and engagement in planning decisions.”

The NMA has said that, while the portal will make public notices more digitally accessible, boosting engagement with the notices on local media’s online platforms, the statutory requirement to publish public notices in printed local newspapers must be maintained to ensure the notices reach as many people as possible.

In October, a DLUHC Minister said that the Government currently has no plans to change the statutory duty on local authorities to advertise public notices in local papers.