Planning Law

Established over two decades ago, Carson McDowell’s planning law team exists in recognition of the need amongst 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 Northern Ireland requires the expertise of lawyers specialising in this increasingly complex area.

The planning law team at Carson McDowell is the largest team of specialist planning lawyers in Northern Ireland, with each of the team members practising exclusively in the fields of planning and environmental law.

What we do

  • 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 Northern Ireland
  • 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 Northern Ireland for local and international investors

What Others Say About Us

Chambers UK 2021

What the team is known for

Continues to be a go-to team for clients facing complex planning and environmental 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 appreciate that "they provide clear and concise advice."

Work highlights

Acted for Odyssey Trust on an application for planning permission for a mixed-use development project in Belfast.

Notable practitioners

Gary McGhee

Grant McBurney

Orla Kelly

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.


"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."

"The practice has set itself apart in the planning litigation sphere in Northern Ireland – particularly in the quarrying and minerals sector. Their knowledge and expertise have brought great insight into our cases."

"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