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, 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
  • Advising on noise pollution control including the defence of noise abatement notices issues

What Others Say About Us

Chambers UK 2021

What the team is known for

Excellent team advising a number of high-profile companies on the full spectrum of environmental law. Regularly handles significant projects and disputes work, with notable expertise in judicial reviews and representing clients in public inquiries and appeals. Also highly experienced in advising on the environmental aspects of renewable energy schemes. Further expertise in drafting supporting environmental statements for planning applications.


One client says: "The team provide an exceptional service, get back to us very quickly and have an excellent knowledge of the market."

"They are well resourced, have specialist knowledge and are accessible," another client reveals.

Work highlights

Continued to advise John Hogg Operational on the environment and planning aspects of a proposed studio tour attraction based on the Game of Thrones television series at Linen Mill Studios near Banbridge in County Down.

Notable practitioners

Gary McGhee

Grant McBurney

Sarah Dunlop

Faye Phillips

The Legal 500 2021

Carson McDowell has "unrivalled strength in providing planning and environment advice in NI", and the team is described as having "set itself apart in the planning litigation sphere." Practice head Gary McGhee has a primary focus on planning and environmental law, with extensive experience in planning applications, appeals and inquiries. Grant McBurney is another key name and is particularly strong in on waste and contaminated land matters. Associate Sarah Dunlop is also highly recommended.


A client reports: "This practice has unrivalled strength in providing legal planning and environment advice in NI. All the lawyers we have used in this practice are extremely professional and have an exceptional level of expertise."

Another source added: "Our partner at the firm has been a breath of fresh air. Their associates are always helpful and available whenever he is not and their levels of knowledge and competence are of a very high standard."

Key clients

  • John Hogg Operational Limited
  • Odyssey Trust
  • Northern Ireland Electricity Networks
  • Ards & North Down Borough Council
  • Nutts Corner Circuit Limited
  • Southern Regional College
  • SONI Ltd
  • Lough Neagh Sand Traders
  • Port of Belfast
  • Belfast International Airport