Planning teams under threat as cuts dilute specialist work.
Figures obtained [via the Freedom of Information Act] by the National Trust show widespread cuts to planning teams at a time of increased workload
Britain’s planners are under more pressure than ever before. Since the publication of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), planning teams are changing the way they work to help local communities play a greater role in the planning process. Meanwhile, the rush is on to draw up local plans before the end of a government-imposed “transition period” to implement the NPPF.
More is required of planners at exactly the time when there are fewer skilled staff available to take on the burden of work. Figures gathered by the National Trust under the Freedom of Information Act show that the number of planners working in local authorities has dropped as councils strive to cut costs.
Almost half (47%) of 227 councils surveyed in late 2011 had suffered a cut in the number of planning staff since 2008, with only 7% seeing more staff employed to deal with the extra work. More than a third (37%) have also had their overall budget for planning activities reduced.
Hannah Fearn | The Guardian | 10th May 2012
Pirate stomping by Google et Cie won’t work, says expert
Plans developed by search engines that would define how rights-holders engage with them over the removal of links to copyright infringing content seek to introduce new thresholds over notice and takedown standards that EU law does not require, an expert has said.
Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft have drawn up a series of “principles” to guide how rights-holders should act when issuing them with requests for the removal of infringing content from search indexes as well as the responsibilities to which search engines themselves should be required to conform.
The plans were published (4-page/43KB PDF) by digital rights campaign group the Open Rights Group (ORG) who obtained details of the proposals via a freedom of information (FOI) request to the government.
The Register | 10th May 2011
Results of Post-conviction DNA testing to be released.
Reports on 78 convicted people whose DNA was excluded in Virginia’s post-conviction testing project — and whose identities have largely been kept secret by the state — will be released under the Freedom of Information Act after July 1.
An amendment in the state budget, passed by the General Assembly last month, directs the release of the reports unless prosecutors deem them critical to a current investigation.
Gail Jaspen, chief deputy director of the Virginia Department of Forensic Science, told the Board of Forensic Science on Wednesday that the amendment appears to have been a response to FOIA requests for the information from the Richmond Times-Dispatch and the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project.
Frank Green | Richmond Times Dispatch | 10th May 2012
The UK’s biggest housebuilders have been lobbying cabinet ministers to introduce a planning clause that would boost their business prospects, The Guardian reports.
Documents revealed under the Freedom of Information Act, exposed the chiefs of housing firms, including Barratt, Bovis and Redrow, who put the pressure on ministers to introduce a planning policy that would mean the default answer to applications would be “yes”.
Ministers did indeed include the “presumption in favour of sustainable development” in the draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which is due to come into force next spring, the Guardian’s Robert Booth says.
The newspaper reports that in June 2010, the Home Builders Federation (HBF) demanded the presumption in a letter that was read by Chancellor George Osborne, the communities secretary Eric Pickles, the business secretary Vince Cable and the ministers for housing and planning, Grant Shapps and Greg Clark.
The builders stressed that the letter was “private” and that they had no intention to “release it to the press”.
While the government says the planning reforms will drive economic growth and increase housing supply, conservationists claim the clause represents a green light for development at almost any cost.
Now the government faces criticism not just because of the fact that it let builders shape policy but also because three of the four people appointed to an advisory panel on the NPPF had links to the house construction.
Police forces invest thousands of pounds in PR
Data released under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that while police budgets are being slashed, ten police forces have invested an extra £400,000 on spin doctors and PR officers. The Daily Mirror reports the biggest increase in media spending came from the West Midlands Police that from £151,000 went on to spend £1,437,000.
One camera for every seven students in the most surveillance-intense UK School
The Sunday Times reports King’s Heath Boys’ maths and computing college in Birmingham is by far the school with the most cameras in the country. The comprehensive school has 86 cameras – one for every seven students – installed in classrooms and corridors, to combat burglaries and vandalism.