Hurried reforms to planning laws will risk causing damage to the physical environment, the Law Society has warned. Responding to the government’s Planning for the Future consultation which proposes widescale change to the current planning system, the Society said it supports action to boost the economy. 

’We applaud the speed with which the government has responded to the current unprecedented situation,’ said Law Society president David Greene. ’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.’

Greene also stressed that planning reforms should play a 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 pandemic and the end of the transition period for leaving the EU
  • Lack of clarity and detail provided makes it difficult to predict 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
  • On developer contributions, the Society believes there could be better ways of achieving the purpose of Section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act than by replacing it with a levy. 

'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,' Greene concluded.