Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, is not everyone’s cup of tea, but now and again, he makes a pronouncement that would be difficult not to welcome:
Local Government Secretary, Eric Pickles, today (22 August 2013) warned that freedom of speech and independent journalism were under attack in local government, following local residents being threatened with arrest for filming and reporting meetings.
In response, Mr Pickles upped the stakes, as he will be publishing new guidance which formally opens up planning appeal hearings to be filmed, tweeted and reported. He laid down a challenge to councils to open up their planning committees and other meetings in return.
As part of the government’s review of planning practice guidance, new guidance by the Planning Inspectorate will make clear the rights for members of the press and public, including local bloggers and hyperlocal journalists, to report, film and tweet planning appeal hearings. Ministers hope this will open up a previously mysterious and rarely seen side of the planning process.
The Planning Inspectorate determines 20,000 appeals a year, of which roughly 2,000 are via hearings or inquiries, compared to almost half a million planning applications considered by councils. The number of applications going to appeal has fallen since 2010.
In June, Mr Pickles published clear guidance to councils asking them to open up to overt filming and social media Read on…
One might even conclude he is on our side, when it comes to rights of bloggers and citizen journalists to hold their local authorities to account!