Local government secretary Eric Pickles has compared municipal statutory notices to a famous scene from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and criticised the ‘sterile debate’ of the complete abolition of statutory notices.
He compared the current approach to that of the demolishing of Arthur Dent’s house, where the planning notice is displayed "in the basement; in a disused lavatory; without a light; in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet; with a sign on the door, saying: ‘Beware of the Leopard’.”
Speaking at the Local Government Association annual conference, Mr Pickles announced plans to involve the newspaper industry which could see paid digital advertising and location specific mobile technology. He defended the need for statutory notices as an important way of ensuring local residents were informed of decisions affecting their properties and lives.
Pickles said: 'Both the private and public sector need to embrace the technology and the internet and changing public demand, otherwise they will fall by the wayside. That’s why local government is now at the forefront of the open data agenda with the new local government Transparency Code.
'We are opening up council meetings to new rights to film, tweet and blog - in a digital age, we cannot cling to analogue interpretations of rules on public access. Statutory notices also need to change.
'To take this forward, I want to bring councils and the newspaper industry together to work together on some pilots to show the case for innovation. Newspapers need to embrace new technology to survive. But they should not face unfair competition from council newspapers. And 21st century independent media offer councils the chance to reach out, inform and engage - an alternative to the depths of obscurity in a council website or lavatory without a light.'