Planning & Environment

So according to Eric Pickles, it’s a good thing for all planning meetings (including appeal hearings) to be open to reporting, recording and filming.

This has already had an impact. When the Mid Wales (Powys) Conjoined Wind Farm Public Inquiry reopened to hear site specific evidence, the inspector indicated that unobtrusive recording was permitted, provided any recording was used responsibly.

I’m not convinced about allowing filming. Yes, I loved “The Planners” on BBC. Yes, I found the Channel 4 documentary on the Nat Fraser murder trial fascinating. But editing of footage is driven by the need to entertain, not the need to portray accurately the proceedings.

Satire has an honourable history (did anyone see the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs Park Authority on Harry Hill’s TV Burp?), but filming by campaign groups could be used for controversial campaigning tactics.

There’s also the risk that some participants may “show off” for the cameras and the wider audience; others may be put off from speaking because of the cameras, and not have the confidence to request the cameras are switched off during their presentation.

But – why should a public meeting only be open to people who can actually attend in person? Several local authorities in Scotland use webcasts for their planning committee meetings (I wonder if there are any viewing figures available?). Dart Energy’s coal bed methane planning appeal would make a great pilot scheme for a DPEA webcast, given the very high level of local interest in that case.

Neil Collar

Latest posts by Neil Collar (see all)