Hurried planning reforms will not be sustainable and risk causing damage to the physical environment, the Law Society has warned.

The Law Society today submitted its response to the government’s Planning for the Future consultation which proposes a widescale change to the current planning system including simplifying the role of local plans and reforming developer contributions.*

“We welcome the opportunity to engage with the complex and much-needed task of planning law reform,” said Law Society of England and Wales president David Greene.

“We have been closely monitoring the recent changes in planning legislation and guidance and we applaud the speed with which the government has responded to the current unprecedented situation. The Law Society supports action to boost the economy following the Covid-19 pandemic.

“However, hurried reforms will not be sustainable and would risk uncertainty and damage to both the physical environment and the overarching principles of planning. Making sure that new laws are good laws will take time and thorough consultation is needed.”

“However radical planning reforms are, they should also be carbon net-zero compatible,” he added.

“Planning law can and should play an essential part in achieving the UK’s climate change goals.”

Concerns raised in the Law Society’s consultation response include:

  • Ensuring the planning system is adequately funded and resourced with the right people.
  • Reforming the whole planning system at once carries a risk of uncertainty, especially given the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic and the end of the transition period for leaving the European Union.
  • Lack of clarity and detail provided makes it difficult to anticipate at this stage how positive or negative some of the changes might be. For instance, more clarity is needed on the implications of allocating an area for growth or protection.
  • Whilst welcoming the prospect of simplifying local plans, any such reform should not overlook the inherent complexities of the planning process. An overly simplistic new system could lead to unintended consequences.
  • In relation to developer contributions, we believe there could be better ways of achieving the purpose of s106 than by replacing it with a levy. Our experience from both private and public sectors is that s106 enables flexibility in decision making to achieve better planning outcomes.

“We look forward to working with the government to develop effective new laws that will deliver recovery in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, without unintended consequences,” David Greene concluded.

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