Planning reform must not come at a cost – Law Society

Planning changes announced in today’s Queen’s speech are welcome, but hurried reform must not end up with damage to the physical environment or the construction of unsuitable housing, the Law Society of England and Wales has warned.

Planning reform

The government unveiled proposals to modernise the planning system so more homes can be built.

“While planning reform is much needed, hurried reforms will not be sustainable and would risk uncertainty and damage to both the physical environment and the overarching principles of planning,” said Law Society president I. Stephanie Boyce.

“More clarity is needed on the implications of allocating an area for growth or protection, for example.

“Meeting housing delivery targets must not come at the expense of people (likely the most vulnerable in society) living in unsuitable accommodation – any attempts to mitigate the planning process must ensure that the protections it offers aren’t lost.

“Making sure that new laws are good laws will take time, and thorough consultation is needed. Any reform should not overlook the inherent complexities of the planning process.

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

Building safety

“We welcome the announcement of a new building safety regulator to ensure tragedies of the past are never repeated,” said I. Stephanie Boyce.

“We have previously called on the government to protect leaseholders from the costs of making their homes safe from potentially deadly cladding.

“It is crucial to ensure tragedies such as Grenfell are never repeated, that leaseholders faced with significant and unavoidable costs through no fault of their own are protected, and that clarity on building safety is provided to avoid further disruption in the property market.”

Leasehold reform

“We welcome the government’s announcement that they will end ground rents for new leasehold properties,” said I. Stephanie Boyce.

“But ending ground rents only deals with part of the leasehold problem and we hope wider reforms the government is working on, including on enfranchisement – making it easier for people to extend their lease or buy a share of the freehold of the building containing their flat – can be brought forward soon.

“Additionally, if commonhold is to develop as an alternative to leasehold, then the government must encourage its creation on a much wider basis. Incentives will need to be considered for developers, lenders and buyers if this is to happen.”

Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE)

“The law offers a rewarding career to talented individuals in all parts of the country,” said I. Stephanie Boyce.

“The SQE will only achieve greater social mobility if those without access to the necessary finance are no longer disadvantaged.

“In order to level up access to the profession, we urge the government to provide access to funding for those wishing to take the SQE to ensure everybody has the same opportunities and choices available to them.”

Mental Health Act

I. Stephanie Boyce said: “We welcome efforts made by the government to tackle such a complicated area of the law. However, it must ensure the system works for those it is trying to help.

“The white paper proposes arbitrary distinctions between patients who have capacity, those who lack capacity, and those who are and are not in the criminal justice system. This sets a dangerous precedent for different ‘classes’ of people within the same system of mental health services.”

Notes to editors

Our earlier release focuses on the rule of law aspects of the Queen’s speech including the balance of power between the courts, the legislature and the executive, the Sovereign Borders Bill, and safety of citizens.

About the Law Society

The Law Society is the independent professional body that works globally to support and represent solicitors, promoting the highest professional standards, the public interest and the rule of law.

Press office contact: Nick Mayo | 020 8049 4100

Maximise your Law Society membership with My LS