COMMUNICATIONS NEWS: Rural body campaign wins record response

KIRSTEN DOWNER

A campaign by the Council for the Protection of Rural England opposing the Government's Planning Green Paper has won it more than hundred members and helped generate the largest-ever public response to a DTLR consultation.

After the publication of the Green Paper in December, the organisation wrote to every parish council in the country warning them that the new legislation threatened to freeze them out of the planning process.

More than a thousand parish councils formally responded to the consultation, and around a hundred joined their local Rural England branch.

In total, around 16,000 responses were received by the DTLR consultation, which ended in March.

However, the effectiveness of the campaign has also worked against the organisation, according to its head of planning and local government Henry Oliver. "The Council for the Protection of Rural England was linked to significant chunks of the responses in the subsequent analysis by the department. The form people sent in was compared with the form on our web site and those that tallied directly they rather dismissively referred to as arising from a 'campaign'. You can't win. 'Organised' responses are not viewed as equal to individual responses. It seems that if you enable people to feed in to the political process then the result is devalued.

Given the problems we have engaging people in the process, this seems perverse."

According to the government-commissioned analysis, almost a third of responses analysed tallied with the template document on the organisation's web site. However, the rural body believes it was responsible for a far greater number of these.

It was also pleased with the concessions made in the paper announced by Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott two weeks ago.

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