Monday, 6 March 2017

The Northumberland County Council refusal to publicise planning / statutory notices in the Hexham Courant is illegal, morally wrong and a "punishment beating" as it does not like the coverage

The law is clear that Local Authorities must publicise statutory and planning notices in a local paper so as to ensure that the local community are properly put on notice of what is happening or what could happen locally. The NCC have stopped this.
Because they don't like the coverage the Courant are giving them. Sadly there is no other explanation. To be fair to the NCC they accept the statutory obligation as they are spending money - by putting the notices in the Northumberland Gazette. The problem is that only someone who has ever left Morpeth or Ashington would know that no one buys the Northumberland Gazette in Tynedale or Ponteland. Why? Because it is an Alnwick and North Northumberland paper that sells barely 1-2 copies a week in Hexham, and not at all in Haltwhistle or Allendale. The argument that has to follow is that this is a decision taken to punish the Courant - who clearly lose revenue - for daring to challenge the NCC in their paper. Sadly this is the sort of madness that we see every night on the TV with Donald Trump banning everyone from the BBC to CNN from his press conferences.
If you do not want to face public scrutiny don't do public service is the answer. It is only the totalitarian regimes or the very ill advised that think they can control a free press.
And we have not even started to assess the potential cost of overturned planning applications not properly notified, decisions not properly communicated and the wider impacts on the local community. It also ties in with the apparent disinterest of the NCC in the west of the County. Lord knows we are trying to deal with the proposed move from Morpeth to the new build at Ashington, but this approach really does not help. I question why the 2 Labour Councillors in Prudhoe or the 2 "independent" councillors in Bywell and Riding Mill have not stopped this action which amounts to a deliberate blocking of the Hexham Courant, or at the very least pointed out the illegality and consequences of this action
The Story is reported in more detail here, but the NCC should reflect and change their mind. They are shooting themselves in the foot in so many ways at the moment. But this approach really does reflect badly on them.