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Weekly wrong to claim ‘all work’ on house did not have permission, IPSO rules

NewIPSOThe press watchdog has rapped a weekly newspaper for wrongly reporting “all work” on a property had been undertaken without planning permission.

The Independent Press Standards Organisation has upheld a complaint against the Milton Keynes Citizen after it made the accusation in a story about an upcoming planning meeting.

The Citizen had reported “all the work in the leafy cul-de-sac was carried out without planning permission”, with a retrospective application being filed the previous year.

But the claim prompted Christopher Bride, the property’s owner, to complain to IPSO about the story.

Complaining under Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice, Mr Bride said it was inaccurate to report all the work had been “carried out without planning permission” because a lot of work on the property had been completed with the relevant planning permission since the house was originally approved to be built in 1987.

Denying a breach of Code, the Citizen said it did not state that all the work on the property had taken place without planning permission, but instead that which it referred to in the previous line: “the development of a four-bedroom house into two dwellings, one with six-bedrooms and one with two, and a one-bedroom annexe in the back garden”, which it believed readers would understand.

It cited a number of planning controversies involving the house and said it was not inaccurate to report that the work described in the story had been carried out without planning permission.

The Citizen noted Mr Bride’s position that the retroactive applications were for change of use, rather than planning permission, but said that this point was simply semantics and that applications for change of use could be described as seeking planning permission.

IPSO found the Citizen had reported as fact that “all the work in the leafy cul-de-sac was carried out without planning permission”, but had accepted that there was planning permission or permitted development for some of the developments, and that retroactive applications had been made for the change of use.

Where the story had not detailed that Mr Bride had gained planning permission or that the developments fell under permitted development, but had then had to apply for a change of use, it was misleading to state that “all of the work” was carried out “without planning permission”.

IPSO found reporting that Mr Bride had developed his property without planning permission was a serious accusation and was significant in a story about the planning application.

The Citizen did not offer to publish a correction, and there was a further breach of Clause 1 (ii) on this point.

The complaint was upheld, and the full adjudication can be read here.