Planning Bill’s Lords reading promises to be another moment of truth for Labour

Labour’s controversial Planning Bill, which is aimed at speeding up the planning process for big projects such as airports and nuclear power stations, is likely to transform the role of lawyers in the planning process.

The bill, which could still be picked apart by the House of Lords, has met with a mixed response from UK planning lawyers.

Under the terms of the bill, which was drawn up to introduce a new system for the evaluation of major infrastructure projects, planning decisions will be taken by a new non-elected Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) and will be based on national policy statements drawn up in advance by the Secretary of State – a process that has sparked concerns among some lawyers.

Barrister Richard Harwood of 39 Essex Street told The Lawyer: “The legal concern is how hearings will be conducted. Will promoters and objectors be able to present their case orally?

“You need to hear experts live and they need to be questioned thoroughly on their evidence. The fact that there are severe restrictions on the ability to cross-­examine is a concern.”

Lovells head of planning Mike Gallimore also sees the proposed decision-making process as far from ideal.

“It’s clear that the Government has had the desire to curtail debate and shut legal repres