Press editor Nigel Burton reports on a Government proposal which could restrict your right to know when massive developments are planned on your doorstep.
YOUR neighbour wants to build a large extension to the back of their home, which could block the sunlight coming into your house. A housing developer wants to turn the playground your kids go to after school into a new estate. The council plans to build a new recycling centre just down the road from your home.
Thankfully, none of these examples are real but they serve to illustrate just how important planning issues are to our daily lives. Any change in our local environment can have profound consequences for us, both good and bad, depending on your viewpoint.
The important principle in our current system is that you are made aware of the proposed changes before they get the green light, so the pros and cons can be debated openly, and everyone can have their say.
This commitment to transparency is underpinned by a longstanding obligation on councils to publish planning notices in local newspapers, which also publish them on their websites to ensure access to this important information is as wide as possible.
As an industry, we are very open to finding new and innovative ways for councils to communicate with the public. But we firmly believe that the obligation to publish public notices in printed local papers is critical to ensuring councils and local papers work effectively together in this way.
When it launched the ‘Planning for the Future’ consultation, the Government unveiled the most significant shake-up to the UK’s planning system since the 1940s. A key part of this, according to the White Paper, will be to enhance democracy and transparency in the planning system; laudable objectives which we wholeheartedly support.
But at least one measure in the consultation would do the exact opposite; the removal of the statutory requirement for councils to publicise planning notices in local newspapers. If this were to go ahead, we fear that the public access to important information would be severely impaired.
Instead of being published in trusted local newspapers and across their digital channels, planning notices would be cast into the void of misinformation and fake news that is social media. Or they would be placed in a little-visited part of a council website. And, what’s more, those of you who prefer to get your news through a printed newspaper would never see the notices at all.
As your local paper, we firmly believe in your right to know and we fight hard for it on your behalf every day of the week.
But removing the obligation to publish in print will damage that collaboration and lead to the notices being hidden from public view.
If you believe in the public right to know, then please contact your MP and ask them to make representations to Government about this on your behalf.
Your local newspaper stands for transparency and fights for your right to know every day. Now, you can help us defend these vital principles which underpin our democratic way of life.
York MPs oppose planning change
York’s MPs both oppose the proposals to remove the need for planning applications to be advertised in local newspapers.
York Outer Tory MP Julian Sturdy said he was concerned about the move, saying: “Transparency and accountability should be front and centre of the planning process in York and elsewhere and I feel that we should be broadening public engagement, not restricting it.
“I have already made my views known to the Government and hope that they will reconsider including this in the proposed legislation.”
York Central Labour MP Rachael Maskell said residents must have access to planning applications: “There must be an opportunity for residents to understand what is happening in their communities and to have a say on this.”
She said she believed The Press had had a role over the years in bringing planning applications to the attention of the public, without which they would go through without any local engagement. She added: “I believe The Press plays a vital role in our local democratic processes by advertising planning applications, and this must continue.”
Thirsk and Malton Conservative MP Kevin Hollinrake said there was a crisis in the housing market that made it so difficult for young people to get onto the housing ladder, largely caused by a lack of supply.
“Contributing to this is a fiendishly complex planning system that also unfairly disadvantages small and medium-sized house builders,” he said.
“As these reforms do seek to provide remedies to these housing market problems I am supportive of the principle behind the changes but we should certainly look at the impact on regional news titles and see what can be done to try and mitigate this unintended consequence.”