‘Newspapers are the best place for traffic regulations’

POLITICIANS from East Sussex are asking the Government to look again at proposals to no longer publish traffic regulation orders in local newspapers.

The Department of Transport (DofT) regularly publishes these legal orders in the media, including the Observer, to inform the public about plans to control or restrict the movement of traffic in the area.

This can involve designating double or single yellow lines, appointing loading bays and defining one-way streets.

Now the DofT is proposing to remove the requirement for traffic orders to be published in a local newspaper and instead leave it to the discretion of traffic authorities to decide how these should be publicised.

The Newspaper Society, which represents the UK regional and local media industry, has written to Norman Baker MP, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, to express their concern over the plans.

They insist that the most appropriate and effective place for publicising traffic orders is in the local and regional press, which plays a crucial role in informing the local community of matters which affect readers’ daily lives.

In her letter to Mr Baker, Lynne Anderson, the Newspaper Society’s communications and marketing director, said that they believed the proposal appeared to be driven entirely by cost saving, with little regard for ensuring that the notices are brought to the attention of the greatest number of people affected.

Hastings MP Amber Rudd said that she would be writing to the Secretary of State for Transport to raise the issue with her. She said: “I feel very strongly that the status quo should remain as it is. Not only does it provide support for local newspapers, which are good for local communities and democracy, but it also allows all residents to see the announcements whether they have access to the internet or not.

“We must not assume that information is in the public domain just because it is online, many of my constituents do not use the internet. The fairest way and most appropriate place for publicising traffic regulation orders is in the local and regional press.”

Eastbourne MP Stephen Lloyd said he would also be writing to the Secretary of State. Norman Baker, who is MP for Lewes, insisted that under the proposals there was nothing to stop councils from using newspapers and the media to inform people about road changes.

He explained: “Under our proposals, local councils will still have to tell residents and businesses about any changes to their roads and in some cases this may well mean placing adverts in local newspapers.

“However, we believe that councils (and the Highways Agency) should have the freedom to use their local knowledge to decide how to keep people informed rather than being told by central Government how they must do this.

“I completely understand that the Newspaper Society has concerns about how this will impact on their industry and I have said I am happy to meet with them to discuss the issue. I am, in fact, also due to meet with representatives of Sussex Newspapers to do so.”

In 2009, similar proposals on planning notice were rejected by the Government.

Members of the public and community groups said they relied on notices in local papers to learn about developments in their area.

Concerns were raised over access to notices for those without internet access as well as threats to community cohesion and democracy. It was agreed that statutory notices in newspapers are an effective means to publicity which should be retained.