Proposals to extend Permission in Principle (PiP) applications to major developments should see publicity requirements extended to the local press, the Society of Editors has urged.
Writing in response to the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government’s (MHCLG) consultation on Changes to the Current Planning System, the Society said that the system for PiP applications should mirror the obligation for local authorities to publish significant planning applications in local newspapers.
The Society said: “As recognised in the consultation, any widening of the PiP applications system to include major developments is a matter of immense public interest to local communities. It is only right that local communities should have the opportunity to make representations on major developments that might affect them.
“PiP applications must be communicated to the public via the best means possible. Given the significant public interest in the approval process around larger developments, local newspapers would provide a valuable tool to communicate important applications to large audiences.”
The concept of permission in principle (PIP) was introduced in 2017 and acts as an alternative means of planners and landowners obtaining planning consent for housing led development. Currently the system is only open to smaller developments but the MHCLG is currently consulting on whether applications should be extended to major housebuilding. The department is also seeking views on whether, in light of the proposals, the publicity requirements for PiP should be subject to more traditional requirements such as notices in newspapers. At present, councils are only obliged to publish PiP notices via a site notice and on their websites.
The Society said that implementing a similar system to planning notices in local newspapers would only enhance the public’s perception of the PiP process.
It said: “Alongside providing the public with timely news and updates on a range of issues, the requirement for local councils to publish public notices in local titles and websites ensures that the public’s right to know is better fulfilled. This long-established partnership ensures that communities are better informed of proposals that may affect them and it allows the public to play a greater role and participate in the decision-making process.”
The Society has previously expressed concern that proposals in the MHCLG’s ongoing Planning for the Future consultation to scrap the requirement for local authorities to publish planning notices in local newspapers would be detrimental to the public’s right to know. Alongside the maintenance of the existing obligations, the Society called on the government to extend the PiP publicity obligations to the local press.
It said: “At a time when public confidence in how decisions are being made has never been more important, it is essential that the ability of local newspapers to communicate effectively with their audiences is utilised and protected. Alongside the maintenance of public notice planning requirements, any decision to extend the PiP application publicity requirements to local newspapers will only work to enhance the public’s faith in the planning process.”