ANYONE who wants to comment on a planning application by email can still do so after the council reversed its position.

Brighton and Hove City Council has apologised to resident Valerie Paynter, who was told emails would not be accepted and she must log in online and use a character-limited web form.

Dozens of other residents, including city councillors, had been infuriated by receiving the same notification.

The council told The Argus it was due to new GDPR data protection legislation but other councils we spoke to rubbished that suggestion.

Nottingham and Liverpool councils both said they were legally bound to accept submissions from the public in any form.

Brighton and Hove City Council has now backtracked and council leader Dan Yates sent a personal note to Ms Paynter.

He wrote: “I said that I believed in being a more open and transparent council – sometimes that will mean putting up our hands and admitting that we have made mistakes or got things wrong. This is one of those times.

“There was a genuine mix up in communications between the departments mentioned in the statement that led firstly to the error in trying to stop accepting emails and secondly to the council issuing a public statement defending this decision.

“I’ve stepped in today to get to a proper solution and this statement and the steps within it is one of the outcomes of that process.

“As a council we will learn from this sort of thing and try to do better in the future. But in the meantime, until we can win back your confidence, please accept my sincere apologies for our mistakes and our promise that we will start learning from them immediately.”

Ms Paynter told The Argus: “It says something very sad about the low standards in civic life, that this letter stands out.

“This elegant ‘mea culpa’ stands out because our standards are so low.

“We don’t expect politicians to behave well, we don’t expect them to do the right thing and we certainly don’t expect them to apologise.

“It takes guts to be honest. It takes confidence and humility, and I’d like to thank Councillor Yates.

“But however wonderful that is, problems do remain with the new planning system and they’ll have to be addressed.”

The council issued a public statement on the matter, saying: “We’d like to apologise to Ms Paynter for giving her incorrect information about contacting us regarding planning applications.

“We would like to reassure her that she can continue to have her views taken into account if she contacts our planning team by email.

“The mistake was due to a misunderstanding between our planning team and our data protection team.

“We have updated our online planning register to make it easier for residents, businesses and developers to comment on and view planning applications.

“We encourage residents to fill in our online forms. This offers significant benefits that include receiving regular updates on planning applications you have expressed an interest in. The new system also makes it easier to look for particular types of application such as ‘change of use’ and view details of the agents submitting applications.

“As long as residents give us their views on planning applications in writing we will make sure they are taken into account as part of the planning process.”

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