Government throws regional press £15m a year lifeline

The Government today threw a lifeline to struggling local newspapers by rejecting proposals to relax rules which state that planning applications must be advertised in the local media.

The Newspaper Society had warned that local newspapers could lose up to £15m a year in advertising revenue if proposals to ease the rules on publication of public notices put forward last year were given the go ahead.

At the time the proposals were presented the Newspaper Society’s communications director Lynne Anderson said: “Not only would councils be encouraged to rely on cheaper but less effective information channels, undermining the public’s right to know, such a move would further damage the local media industry, cutting off an important revenue stream at a critical time when it is tackling the worst commercial conditions in memory.

“All those in government who voiced concern about the BBC Local plans should bear in mind that local authorities are in danger of inflicting very similar damage to the industry with their publicly-funded competition for third party advertising revenues on council publications and websites and the removal of public sector advertising.”

The decision over the advertising of planning applications was part of a series of measures aimed at sreamlining the planning system announced by housing and planning minister John Healey which he said are aimed to help businesses deliver projects quickly and drive down costs during the recovery.

In addition to publishing planning notices in local newspaper, the Government announced today that there will be a new requirement that such notices appear online.

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