Here's what the Secretary of State said yesterday:
There is no doubt in my mind that when I became Secretary of State, the single biggest drag anchor on growth was the planning system - it's expensive, bureaucratic and it doesn't work. But we've recently launched the planning guarantee, ensuring that the journey from application to decision takes less than a year. We're also working to reduce the over 7,000 pages of planning guidance down to 70 - and we'll be consulting on that. I intend that you should be able to work out planning issues without needing to seek advice from leading Counsel. This is good news for communities; good news for growth but likely to be bad news for the legal profession. If your planning silk has to think twice about that third week in Tuscany or whether to buy the Lamborghini after all, that's certainly a price I'm prepared to pay.
Of course, you shouldn't have to bring in planning lawyers to understand planning guidance, policy and issues. But I don't think that's what we are brought in for. The policy is easy enough to understand, if incredibly repetitive and often leaving something to be desired in terms of readability. My hope is that lawyers help clients to achieve their aims, for example managing legal risk (of which there is no shortage - e.g. 20 years of ingenious third party challenges on the implementation of the Environmental Assessment Directive), getting planning agreements right, despite the unhelpfully drafted s.106 itself, and putting the client's case persuasively.