Is the market showing any signs of turning? A question I am regularly asked. After a number of years of significant headcount growth within the planning and environment sector, it is inevitable that the relentless hunt for candidates will slow down at some point. The key question is when? As I write this, the volume of planning vacancies still exceeds the number of candidates in the market especially at the key 0-5year qualified level and sourcing good candidates remains as challenging as ever. Another interesting trend is that some law firms without an in-house planning and environment capability are considering entering the market. Partner movement and vacancies have also picked up in the last 12 months which is again a sign of busy market. I expect this to continue for at least the rest of the year and into 2023.
I speak to people in this sector, on a regular basis and the current consensus is that workflows are strong with many saying “we have never been as busy”. Without a crystal ball, it is difficult to predict if this is likely to continue, but I am hoping that these signs will give us confidence. The recent change of Prime Minister and Cabinet can often lead to changes in policy, especially bearing in mind her views on solar energy. Every single regime promises that they are going to simplify the planning system. However, in my view, any change will lead to increased work levels across the board as clients ask their advisers to interpret new policies and any impact that this is likely to have on their projects.
To me, it seems the only certainty amongst the uncertainty is the need to improve the UK’s energy sustainability through a combination of investment in areas such as renewables and nuclear. The return of shale gas is also sure to create work, especially on the environment side. Then, there is the ever-present need for affordable housing and development opportunities, not to mention numerous transport schemes and logistics hubs. So long as the finance for projects remains in place, I think the planning sector is likely to remain robust for the foreseeable future and remains a great career option for any lawyer wishing to enter the sector.
What is your view? I would love to hear.