Established over two decades ago, Carson McDowell’s Planning Law Team exists in recognition of the need amongt its diverse client portfolio to deliver specific and tailored advice in the specialist area of Northern Irish planning law. With national and European jurisprudence and legislation on planning issues emerging on a near daily basis, the provision of planning law advice in NI requires the expertise of lawyers specialising in this increasingly complex area.
The Planning Law Team in Carson McDowell is the largest team of specialist planning lawyers in NI, with each of the five team members practising exclusively in the fields of planning and environmental law.
What We Do
Set out below are just some of the areas in which Carson McDowell's Planning Law Team provides specialist, practical and strategic advice:
- The instigation and defence of judicial reviews of planning decisions;
- The co-ordination of major planning applications;
- Advice on the form, content and lawfulness of Environmental Statements;
- Advice on the form, content and lawfulness of Strategic Environmental Assessments;
- Advice on the form, content and lawfulness of Habitats Regulations Assessments;
- The preparation of planning and roads agreements;
- Representation of clients at area plan inquiries, roads inquiries and planning appeals;
- Advice on comprehensive development legislation;
- Advice on planning conditions and lawful amendment of applications;
- Making, opposing and monitoring of applications for planning permission;
- Advice on areas of special control including legislation and case law relating to conservation areas, listed buildings and historic monuments;
- Advising on all aspects of planning legislation, jurisprudence and planning process;
- Planning due diligence pursuant to the acquisition and financing of renewable energy developments in NI; and
- Planning due diligence - including due diligence pursuant to the acquisition of real estate development companies and assets, energy from waste plants, and the financing of such acquisitions of business operating in NI for local and international investors.
What Others Say About Us
Chambers and Partners UK 2019
What the team is known for
Continues to be a go-to team for clients facing complex planning law challenges, including judicial reviews and appeals, as well as planning inquiries. Able to handle the planning aspects of sizeable infrastructure projects such as port and airport developments. Advises both public and private sector groups. Recent work includes handling the planning aspects of large energy infrastructure projects, including renewable energy projects.
Clients say: "They're excellent in tailoring their legal advice to being absolutely practical to what we need. They're generous with their knowledge and time, and go a lot further than just giving out legal advice."
Another client says: "They're very good: they are proactive, quick to respond, and have good knowledge and credentials."
Acted for the System Operator of Northern Ireland in co-ordinating its planning application for a 34 km project to connect the electricity grids of the Republic of Ireland with Northern Ireland. The project is valued at more than £120 million.
"Star performer" Gary McGhee continues to serve as head of the firm's planning team. He acts on both contentious and non-contentious matters, including major infrastructure and energy projects. An impressed client says: "He's extremely thorough and detailed, but also an excellent strategist. He's fully engaged with the work he does and is great fun to work with."
Grant McBurney acts on significant infrastructure projects and mixed-use developments. He is experienced in handling contentious work and has recently represented clients in judicial reviews and inquiries. Clients appreciate that he has "great knowledge and a lot of experience locally."
Chambers and Partners UK 2018
What the team is known for Continues to be a go-to team for clients facing complex planning law challenges, including judicial reviews and appeals, as well as planning inquiries. Able to handle the planning aspects of sizeable infrastructure projects such as port and airport developments. Advises both public and private sector groups.
Strengths "I rate them extremely highly," says a client, continuing: "I am full of praise for their work. They performed excellently, and I felt in safe hands, getting very concise advice."
A source calls the team a "very good judicial review and contentious planning practice with big, high-profile cases."
Work highlights Advised Lagan Group, Northstone (NI) and other companies on the appeal of an enforcement notice relating to the extraction of sand from Lough Neagh. The firm also successfully defended a judicial review brought by Friends of the Earth in relation to the same issue.
Co-ordinated a planning application by the System Operator for Northern Ireland for a 34 km project consisting of 104 new electricity pylons and a new substation connecting the electricity grids of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Significant clients Elgin Energy, Galantas, Tesco, SGN Gas, Belfast International Airport.
Planning team leader Gary McGhee regularly represents clients in planning judicial reviews and is well known and respected in the market. One interviewee describes him as "an excellent planning and environmental lawyer with acute technical knowledge and strong commercial sense." A client adds: "He is very flexible, engaging and available."
Grant McBurney has a broad practice, which includes advising clients in the transport and port sectors, as well as local government bodies. "He is very personable and easy to work with," say sources.
Sarah Dunlop has recently assisted the team's clients with several planning judicial reviews and earns praise for her "extremely diligent" approach.
Chambers and Partners UK 2017
What the team is known for
Continues to be a go-to team for clients facing complex planning law challenges, including judicial reviews and appeals. Able to handle the planning aspects of sizeable infrastructure projects such as port and airport developments. Advises both public and private sector groups.
Work highlights Advised Elgin Energy on all planning matters relating to the development of a 50 MW solar farm near Ballymena.
Achieved planning permission for a private visitors' centre next to Dunluce Castle in County Antrim.
Grant McBurney attracts praise for "the work he does and the time he devotes" to his clients. Sources know him to be "a very strong associate" in this area, as demonstrated by his expert handling of renewable energy and waste project planning matters.
Sarah Dunlop works on an array of planning and environmental matters. Sources say: "She is a phenomenally hard worker and has a real grasp of the issues." Another impressed interviewee notes that "she is red-hot on the detail."
Gary McGhee maintains a strong market reputation for his excellent planning practice. He is regularly instructed to advise on high-profile planning matters, including renewable energy projects. He is also an expert in retail and housing planning.
Significant clients Port of Belfast, Belfast International Airport, EirGrid, System Operator for Northern Ireland, Gaelectric.
The Legal 500 2016
What the team is known for
Outstanding reputation for Northern Irish planning expertise. Retained by private and public sector clients to assist with a range of complex mandates. Excellent choice for renewable energy developments and major infrastructure projects.
Strengths (Quotes mainly from clients)
"An excellent team, very dedicated and thorough. I have no qualms in continuing to use them myself or referring them to other people. Their expertise is unsurpassed."
"The lawyers have a good knowledge of specific details of the law. They barely ever have to go and find it out, they just know it."
Assisted the System Operator for Northern Ireland with its planning application for a £120 million energy infrastructure project connecting the electricity grids of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Advised the Port of Belfast on all planning law aspects of a major mixed-use development at Belfast Harbour.
Gary McGhee is a market-leading specialist with notable work in wind farm planning, infrastructure and retail planning. He is a strong advocate and has a wealth of experience in planning inquiries and judicial review proceedings. One market commentator says: "He is hugely strategic and technical when it comes to planning matters; he is really able to see the big picture for clients, and delivers results."
Grant McBurney is establishing himself in waste planning and contaminated land issues in addition to general planning matters. One source comments: "His preparation is thorough and his background work is the best. He's so tenacious and looks into things in such detail that we are never stumped when the opposition brings up a question."
Significant clients Tesco, Belfast International Airport, Northern Ireland Electricity, ESB, Rathlin Energy.