Saturday, June 22, 2024

87% of planners say social media fuels misinformation on local planning issues

A SURVEY conducted by the Royal Town Planning Institute’s (RTPI) magazine The Planner found that 87% of planners feel social media is fuelling misinformation around local planning issues.

Planners are finding themselves the targets of online trolls as a result of this misinformation. Survey respondents highlighted the role of local Facebook groups and pages in creating an environment for misinformation and allowing negative campaigners to skew discussion around planning applications.

Insults, harassment, and violent threats have also been exacerbated online. Nearly a quarter of planners said they have ‘regularly’ or ‘occasionally’ been targeted through social media because of their role. A further 20% said they had been targeted, but ‘rarely’.

41% of respondents from Local Planning Authorities said social media is impacting their well-being. Some respondents report leaving the public sector or deleting social media accounts as a result.

Sue Bridge, President of the RTPI in 2023, said: “Social media can help raise community awareness around the benefits of local planning decisions. But all too often we are seeing the opposite effect, with the spread of misinformation bleeding into public opinion.

“The survey suggests that misinformation often begins with a lack of understanding of the planning system from outside of the profession. I have made educating the public a central pillar of my presidency, to help communities understand that planning decisions are not done to them, but with and for them.”

Victoria Hills, Chief Executive of the RTPI, said: “In January, our Big Conversation report found that three-quarters of Local Planning Authority officers in Wales felt overstretched in their work. In our latest survey, we wanted to take the pulse of the entire planning profession. The results paint an alarming picture of the harassment that planners are facing online today.

“Our concern is that the spread of misinformation about local planning issues is leading to further stress for Local Planning Authorities and the wider public sector, who are already struggling to deliver services after a decade of cuts.”

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