A HERITAGE campaigner has called changes which make it harder to object to planning applications a “big brother” abuse of power.

Valerie Paynter was told by Brighton and Hove City Council it will no longer accept emails to the planning department, and that she must instead use a new online form.

But the form has a 2,000- character limit for comments, about two thirds the length of this story, and cannot be accessed from many older smartphones.

The council told The Argus the policy had been changed to comply with the new GDPR data protection legislation.

So we checked if that was the case elsewhere.

A spokeswoman for Nottingham City Council, another unitary authority, said: “We’re still accepting emails.

“We have to accept any way a citizen wishes to send us information, that’s a legal requirement.

She said Nottingham council had changed its data handling systems to comply with GDPR but added: “If they want to send [an objection] by Harry Potter owl, they can.”

A spokeswoman for Liverpool City Council said: “We do accept emails. In fact we understand there’s a GDPR exemption for that.”

Valerie Paynter said the changes were “big brother” in nature and said: “Are they hiding behind the GDPR?

She criticised the character limit, pointing out heritage groups such as the Brighton Society often put many hours of research and work into planning matters their objections, and could not squeeze their comments into 400 words.

She said: “And when it comes time for the King Alfred that’s going to be totally inadequate, totally unacceptable.”

She said the change would disenfranchise older people, pointing out: “Some people are comfortable with email, but aren’t comfortable with registering on a website.

“Every change the council makes is about pushing us away. They want to get rid of us,”

A spokesman for Brighton and Hove City Council said: “We have updated our online planning register to make it easier for residents, businesses and developers to comment on and view planning applications.

“As part of this process, we have made the register compliant with the introduction of the new national General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR).

“One of these is a requirement that residents must henceforth submit their comments through the planning register, rather than by email.

“We are sorry if any residents find this inconvenient.

“However, we have a legal duty to meet the new requirements GDPR imposes on us.”

Visit planningapps.brighton-hove.gov.uk/online-applications for further information.