The votes have been counted; the nation has spoken. With a majority of approximately 1.2 million votes, the United Kingdom has voted to leave the European Union. Many involved in the planning system will be wondering what this means for the development industry and in particular whether EU-derived regulatory requirements (EIA, the Habitats Directive etc.) will be unpicked.
Whilst EU derived legislation is undeniably woven through the planning system, the key message is that, for now, it is "business as usual". As a result of the vote, there will now be a period (of at least two years) for the UK to negotiate exit terms. It is during this time that details will emerge of exactly what form Brexit will take, and whether this will be an "EU light" option (similar to Norway and Switzerland) or a complete and comprehensive breakaway under a freshly negotiated trade agreement.
For many in the planning industry, the most obvious example of EU requirements written into the planning system comes in the form of environmental regulation. Whilst it may be the case that moving forward we see a divergence from the EU in this regard, it is likely that key features of the planning system such as Environmental Impact Assessments and Strategic Environmental Assessments will be retained in some shape or form. Indeed, these are currently incorporated into English law, so any change would require further legislation to be made. Businesses should start to consider now whether there are features of the system that warrant change or deserve preserving and start engaging to ensure that these are priority issues for the government in any negotiations and/or regulatory review, something that we can help with.
For now, the most keenly felt impact for many in the industry will be economic. Over the coming weeks both businesses and individuals will feel the effects of changes in the value of sterling, movements in property prices and adjustments in the stock market that will inevitably follow this vote. Irrespective of the currently unchanged legal position, these adjustments will have an impact on the market in which we all operate and the delivery of projects going forward.
The one issue on which we can offer certainty is that we will be monitoring the impact of this vote closely, and as soon as we have further clarity on the impact to the planning system we will update you.