Environmental Law

Established over 20 years ago, Carson McDowell’s Environmental Law Team provides both contentious and non-contentious advice to clients on all aspects of environmental risk and regulation. The team provides environmental law advice from the formulation of planning applications and environmental statements, to post permission Pollution Prevention and Control Permits and ultimately, the defence and instigation of environmental judicial reviews. The team is also responsible for bringing the first challenges to area plans of its type in Europe, premised on the requirements of the Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive and the first Habitats Directive judicial review in Northern Ireland.

Specialist areas of expertise include environmental due diligence, waste law, contaminated land, integrated pollution control and the defence of environmental prosecutions.

What we do:

  • The instigation and defence of judicial review proceedings in relation to environmental decisions;
  • Defence of environmental proceedings brought by the NIEA regarding contamination and compliance with licensing and permit conditions;
  • Negotiation of warranties and indemnities to minimise environmental risk exposure;
  • Advice on the content and lawfulness of environmental statements;
  • Advice on the content and lawfulness of Strategic Environmental Assessments;
  • Advice on environmental permit and compliance issues;
  • Environmental due diligence – including due diligence pursuant to the acquisition of waste industry companies, energy from waste plants, and the financing of such acquisitions of business operating in NI for local and international investors;
  • Environmental due diligence pursuant to the acquisition and financing of wind energy developments in NI;
  • Drawing up contacts to provide for allocation of environmental risk;
  • Advice on the acquisition and disposal of brownfield sites;
  • Advice on contaminated land and remediation issues;
  • Waste law including the acquisition of Waste Management Licenses, Waste Management Exemptions and Pollution Prevention and Control Permits;
  • Incineration projects;
  • Anerobic digestion projects;
  • Material recovery facilities;
  • Energy from Waste projects;
  • Advice on recycling legislation;
  • Advising on air pollution control; and
  • Advising on noise pollution control including the defence of noise abatement notices issues.

What Others Say About Us

​Chambers and Partners UK 2017

What the team is known for

Excellent team advising a number of high-profile companies on the full spectrum of environmental law. Regularly handles large-scale disputes, as well as advisory work relating to significant projects. Highly experienced in the environmental aspects of renewable energy schemes.


"They are premier, not just in Belfast and Northern Ireland, but in Great Britain."

Work highlights

Represented Lough Neagh Sand Traders in an appeal against an enforcement notice relating to sand extraction at Lough Neagh, and in a judicial review instigated by Friends of the Earth in regard to the same activity.

Assisted Belfast International Airport with an objection to Belfast City Airport's application to remove a restriction on the number of flight seats that the organisation can sell in a year. The case involved issues of traffic impact as well as noise.

Notable practitioners

Gary McGhee is known to be "technically very good" as well as "very personable and very approachable." He has a broad practice encompassing numerous areas of environmental law and is particularly adept at handling judicial review proceedings. He is also well versed in the environmental aspects of solar and wind farm developments.

Grant McBurney is known for his expertise in the waste sector and regularly advises clients on the regulatory and enforcement issues relating to waste management schemes. He has experience of handling public inquiries, as well as judicial reviews.

Significant clients Port of Belfast, EirGrid, System Operator for Northern Ireland, Gaelectric, Tesco.

The Legal 500 2016

What the team is known for

Leading environment practice in Northern Ireland. Advises a range of high-profile clients on both contentious and non-contentious mandates. Notably acts for clients on environmental matters relating to wind farm and other renewables projects.

What's new? New client wins include Gaelectric and ABO Wind.

Work highlights

Advised Elgin Energy Esco on the environmental aspects arising out of the proposed development of a 60 MW solar farm.

Represented System Operator for Northern Ireland in its planning application for a 34 km grid connection that will connect the Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland electricity grids.

Notable practitioners

Gary McGhee has a long-standing reputation in the Northern Irish market. Clients note that his "breadth of knowledge is second to none." He has particular expertise on wind farm matters.

Significant clients Tesco, Belfast International Airport, The Port of Belfast, Rathlin Energy, ABO Wind.