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Ruling saves millions in local press ad revenues

A vital source of advertising revenue worth around £15m per year to local newspapers has been safeguarded today.

The government has announced that there will be no changes to rules which oblige councils to advertise planning applications in their local newspapers.

New guidelines also state that local authorities will have to publish information about planning applications on their own websites.

The Killian Pretty Review had recommended in its final report last November that this obligation be removed from local authorities, saying the £15m saving would give them more flexibility to engage with communities.

The move was fiercely opposed by the Newspaper Society who campaigned against any possible changes to the rules.

This latest development comes just days after the Scottish Government revealed it was consulting on a proposal to change the country’s laws which could see local councils no longer obliged to publish public notices in newspapers.

The announcement said: “Following consultation on whether changes should be made to current arrangements, the government has decided not to change current arrangements for certain applications to be advertised in newspapers, and will require information about planning applications to be advertised on local authority websites.”

The review was carried out by Essex County Council chief executive Joanna Killian and former group chief executive of Barratt Developments David Pretty. Ministers commissioned it to look at opportunities for enabling a faster and more responsive planning application process.

Lynne Anderson, communications director with the Newspaper Society, said: “The NS welcomes the government’s announcement that the statutory obligation to publish planning notices in local newspapers will be maintained in order to alert the local community to planning proposals affecting them.

“The proposals would have paved the way for all statutory notices to be removed from local papers, seriously undermining the public’s right to know.

“It is of course important that statutory notices are published in independent local newspapers, unconnected with the local authority and any of its publications.

“Ministers and MPs have been highly critical of what one described as ‘propaganda sheets masquerading as newspapers’, run and funded by councils, which compete with the independent press for readers and advertisers.

“However, we have yet to see the results of the Digital Britain initiatives intended to investigate and address this problem.”