The Welsh Government has scrapped controversial plans to remove the obligation on councils to advertise traffic orders in local newspapers, which critics warned risked ‘imperilling the future” of the Welsh press.
The plan was dropped following a consultation that found just 12 per cent of respondents said they supported the plans.
According to the Newspaper Society, which led opposition against the proposals, 85 per cent of respondents voted against the plans, with the Welsh Government acknowledging they would leave certain groups ‘disenfranchised”.
Transport minister Carl Sargeant launched a formal consultation on the proposal in December, but it was met with opposition from Plaid Cymru, Labour and Lib Dem politicians.
The Assembly has now published a summary of responses to the consultation.
Many felt the local press was the only way they could keep up to date with road works and traffic orders and said they were not always properly consulted about proposed orders, which they claimed in some instances be a deliberate move by the local authority.
The Government concluded: ‘The Welsh Government also accepts the concerns about the inconsistencies in approach change may bring from authority to authority and the potential difficulties authorities may encounter should they be required to demonstrate due process has been followed.
‘Consequently, on the balance of all responses the Welsh Government accepts the counter arguments that order making authorities should continue to have to place TRO notices in local newspapers for the time being.
‘However, it is also of the view that there is potential scope for streamlining the content of TROs in the future while providing additional points of contact for further information. While reaching this conclusion the Welsh Government would still encourage the use of supplementary forms of publicity to maximise coverage.”
The report also cited independent research conducted by Gfk NOP which found that 64 per cent of adults in Wales were concerned about the plans and just three per cent of the population used council websites to find information on traffic orders.
The NS said: ‘Independent research has consistently demonstrated that local newspapers and their websites are by far the best media channel for public notices such as TROs, local papers are the first place that people look for such notices, and placing them on local authority websites will severely restrict the public’s access to them.”
Comments included in the consultation included:’Notification in the press is something we rely on to keep us up to date, on what we can legally drive on. Take this valuable resource of information away from me, and it is going to make my usage very difficult. I need to be in the know of restrictions of use before I arrive at the lanes, not when I get there.”
Another said: ‘I often find out about proposed changes to the status of legal roads from the press notifications, not having to notify proposed changes in the press will make it easier for local councils to remove legal byway status to existing routes as less people will be aware of the proposed changes and will not object to these changes being made.
The Department of Transport is currently considering responses to a separate consultation over similar proposals for England. The Government’s response is expected in the autumn.