Change could end local papers printing planning applications

Your neighbour wants to build a large extension that could block the sunlight coming into your house.

A housing developer wants to turn the playground your kids go to into a new estate.

The council plans to build a new recycling centre just down the road from your home.

These are just examples, but illustrate just how important planning issues are to our daily lives.

Some might welcome that convenient new recycling centre, others might see the additional traffic as a nuisance.

Whatever your view, the important principle in our current system is that you are made aware of the proposed changes before they get the green light.

That way, the pros and cons can be debated openly and everyone gets the chance to have their say.

This Is Local London:

If your neighbour wants to build in their back garden, the local paper may be the first place most people see the plans

This commitment to transparency is underpinned by a longstanding obligation for councils to publish planning notices in local newspapers. As well as publishing these notices in this newspaper, we also publish them on our websites to ensure that awareness and access to this important information is as wide as possible.

But that obligation is under threat.

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 will be to enhance democracy and transparency in the planning system; laudable objectives that 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.

If you combine print and digital reach, local news brands across the UK now enjoy huge audiences – 40.6 million visitors a month, according to Joint Industry Currency for Regional Media Research.

Instead of being published in trusted local newspapers and across their digital channels, planning notices would be placed in a little-visited part of a council website.

This Is Local London:

Publishing planning applications in a local paper is one of the best way to make sure the pros and cons are properly debated

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.

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