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One of the leading planning law firms in Scotland’, Brodies LLP attracts praise for its ‘very thorough knowledge of planning law’, ‘clear advice’ and its ability to ‘keep clients and other consultants informed of legislation changes’. The ‘hugely experiencedNeil Collar leads the team, which provides strategic planning advice on projects and also features heavily in large planning inquiries and appeals. The group acts for a wide-ranging client base, including housing, transport, minerals and renewable energy. Onshore oil and gas and aquaculture are growth areas of the practice. A particular strong suit is drafting section 75 planning obligations, including new statutory provisions on continuing liability and modification and discharge. In a recent highlight, Collar represented Park of Keir Partnership (a partnership between Judy Murray, Colin Montgomerie and the King Group) at a public inquiry into the proposed ‘Murray legacy’ project in Dunblane. The pair also assisted APG Asset Management with the planning aspects of the mixed-use St James Quarter regeneration project in Edinburgh. Brookfield, Meygen and Infinis are other clients. Also recommended is ‘experienced inquiry advocateKaren Hamilton, whose ‘public sector background provides her with a helpful insight into the local authority perspective’. Associates Alison Polson and Lee Murphy together have more than 40 years of planning law experience. Kevin Graham is another name to note.

According to clients, Burness Paull LLP has ‘one of the best planning practices in Scotland’. It is particularly highly regarded in the housebuilding sector, where it handles the planning aspects of large-scale residential development projects for clients such as Stewart Milne Group, Springfield Properties and Dandara. Although the planning practice has historically been weighted towards work for private sector entities, mandates from public sector bodies are on the increase; Craig Whelton is acting for North Lanarkshire Council at a planning appeal concerning a proposed development to build 600 new homes. Student accommodation schemes are another area of activity. Elsewhere, another pillar of the planning practice is the work undertaken for clients in the energy sector, both in oil and gas and renewable energy. Whelton and senior associate Emma Dewar are assisting Ecotricity with the planning aspects of a proposed 58MW wind park at Dulater Hill in Perthshire, including a forthcoming public local inquiry. In another highlight, Whelton is acting for Clyde Gateway on the compulsory purchase of more than 800 land interests for a redevelopment scheme in Dalmarnock, Glasgow. The firm also acts for parties whose land is being acquired. Practice head Elaine Farquharson-Black is ‘a great team player and leader’, with ‘exceptional depth of knowledge’ and ‘a strong pedigree’.

Pinsent Masons LLP’s group covers a full range of contentious and non-contentious planning matters arising from high-profile Scottish projects, as well as matters across the UK. In the energy and infrastructure space, Gordon McCreath is leading a team advising Beatrice Offshore Wind Farm Limited on the consenting aspects of its 750MW offshore wind farm in Scottish territorial waters. In another matter, McCreath and senior associate Fiona MacGregor represented Millennium & Copthorne Hotels in a public local inquiry to its objection to the redevelopment of Queen Street Station in Glasgow. Kendra Lennox (who joined from Brodies LLP in 2016), Jennifer Ballantyne, Gary McGovern and Rodney Whyte are assisting Aberdeen Harbour Board with all planning and marine licence applications in connection with the Aberdeen Harbour expansion project. In addition to its track record handling planning appeals and planning agreements in the residential and commercial development sectors, Jacqueline Harris and MacGregor represented Barratt Homes in an appeal against the refusal by East Lothian Council to grant planning permission for a 120-unit residential development at Ormiston, East Lothian. The group also plays a key role in UK new town projects, including those in Manydown and Ebbsfleet Garden Village. Mineral-sector clients include Aggregate Industries, Kier Infrastructure and Patersons Quarries. Craig Connal QC, who is experienced in planning inquiries and court litigation, is aslso recommended.

Shepherd and Wedderburn’s ‘collegiate, responsive, thoughtful’ team is ‘a pleasure to deal with’. Jointly led by Colin Innes and Ewan MacLeod, the group handles contentious and non-contentious matters for clients in high-profile projects in Scotland and across the UK, with particularly strong specialisms in the residential development, retail and energy sectors, making it a go-to firm for clients such as Taylor Wimpey, City of Edinburgh Council and Sainsbury’s Supermarkets. MacLeod is currently acting for Murray Estates in its planning application for consent to build 1300 houses in West Edinburgh, representing the largest-ever proposed housing development in the Edinburgh green belt. In another matter, MacLeod is representing Hallam Land Management in its appeal against the refusal by East Dunbartonshire Council to grant permission for 140 homes to be built in Torrance. Innes and Emma Paton recently acted for Engie in its section 36 application for the construction and operation of a wind farm at Crossburns in Perth and Kinross. Dual-qualified partner Scott McCallum, who splits his time between the Glasgow and London offices, acted for DONG Energy in a six-month examination of the environmental issues associated with the 1.8GW Hornsea Two Offshore Wind Farm. Senior associate Fraser Mitchell manages housing and retail developments, compulsory purchase, planning appeals and development policy.

Alastair McKie leads the team at Anderson Strathern; his recent work has spanned projects involving transport and infrastructure, public sector, regeneration and strategic housing developments, as well as energy, infrastructure and waste. McKie is leading on the planning aspects of a multimillion-pound development in Woking town centre for Bandstand Square Developments. In another highlight, McKie, senior associate Kirsty Slee and others are acting for Ross Estates Company (which is owned by Mohamed Al Fayed) at a public local inquiry, which relates to the client’s opposition to a proposed waste-to-energy CHP plant in Invergordon. Audrey Cameron was formerly head of legal at Strathclyde Partnership of Transport, where she handled consenting and compulsory purchase matters for infrastructure projects, and also has previous experience working in-house at local authorities. Fiona Stephen is another key contact.

The team at CMS combines extensive knowledge of all areas of the planning process with a breadth of expertise in projects spanning a number of sectors, including mining and minerals, waste, retail and housing. Practice head Ann Faulds has a wealth of experience in transport consenting projects in Scotland, and also acts for public and private sector clients in projects across a number of other sectors. Robin Hutchison, who has a particular specialism in energy and infrastructure projects, is advising Pilot Offshore Renewables on all consenting aspects of the Kincardine Offshore Wind Farm development. In another matter, Hutchison, who is ‘very good at articulating and negotiating his points’, is the lead adviser to Inch Cape Offshore Limited on consenting matters associated with the Inch Cape offshore wind farm. Senior associate Mark McMurray handled all planning and compulsory purchase matters in relation to the Edinburgh St James redevelopment for TH Real Estate. Senior associate Joanna Waddell is particularly knowledgeable about the environmental aspects of planning, and is working with Hutchison to advise Orkney Council on the Scottish government’s proposals to designate large areas of Orkney waters as Special Protection Areas under the Wild Birds Directive. Trudi Craggs departed the firm to become a Reporter at the Scottish government’s Planning and Environmental Appeals Division.

DLA Piper Scotland LLP’s team undertakes a significant amount of work in the housebuilding sector, where it advises developers and planning authorities on development plan examinations, appeals and challenges. The group also assists public sector bodies and developers with negotiating planning obligations. Sandy Telfer is assisting Aggregate with negotiating a section 75 agreement for a minerals development across two local authority areas. The group also advises on the planning aspects of wind farm developments, with emphasis on acting for the funders of such developments. In addition, Telfer has particular cross-border experience of onshore gas development, and was instrumental in the firm recently being appointed to INEOS’ planning and environmental law panel, which involves assisting with its push to explore for shale gas in the UK. Legal director Michael Greig, who has more than 20 years of planning experience, is working with Telfer to advise Hallam Land Management and Commercial Estates Group in an appeal against the refusal of planning permission for a housing development at Cambusbarron, Stirling. Consultant John Watchman is another name to note.

MacRoberts LLP excels in advising public and private sector clients on all aspects of large-scale and contentious planning applications and appeals. Led by consultant Martin Sales, the team undertakes work across a broad cross-section of industries, particularly areas such as renewable energy, minerals, retail and commercial property. Sales’ worked with senior associate Keith Campbell to advise MI Drilling Fluids on its planning application for a deep barite mine in the Loch Tummel National Scenic Area, which included assisting the client with an environmental impact assessment and advising on consenting strategy. Another highlight involved Sales acting as the lead solicitor and advocate for Partnerships for Renewables in its section 36 application (and related appeal) to develop a wind farm in Cloich Forest, Peeblesshire. Jamie Grant and Neil Amner departed for Shepherd and Wedderburn and Anderson Strathern, respectively.

Morton Fraser has a first-rate reputation in public inquiries, and is particularly highly regarded by public sector clients. The firm was recently reappointed to act for the Scottish and UK governments, and in a notable highlight, practice head Douglas Milne led a team which represented Transport Scotland it a public inquiry concerning the dualling of the A9. Milne also acted for the same client in inquiries into the Dalry bypass, Maybole bypass and Berriedale Braes improvements. Planning-related challenges and litigation are another pillar of the practice; Kenneth Carruthers has represented Tesco in a number of planning challenges, including against Aberdeen City Council. The firm also has notable strength in the housebuilding sector; Stewart Milne Group is a longstanding client of the practice. Rory Alexander and Caroline Docherty are experienced in assisting public and private sector clients with negotiating section 75 and other planning agreements for major developments in Scotland. Docherty advised Persimmon Homes on an agreement for a development consisting of 512 homes within the Glasgow and Clyde Valley City deal area, and is acting for Green Town (Heartlands) in the Heartlands development. Associate Ursula Currie is also recommended.

Addleshaw Goddard merged with HBJ Gateley in 2017, taking on a planning team led by Sarah Baillie, who joined from Anderson Strathern in 2016. She acts for Aldi in planning matters associated with its store acquisition and development programme in Scotland, and recently represented the client in a judicial review brought by Asda. Other key figures include Paul Minto, who specialises in planning and environmental issues in renewable energy projects and acts for onshore and offshore wind developers, banks, public sector bodies and investors. Former head Craig Adamson left the firm.

DWF’s team has experience of environmental impact assessments, negotiating section 75 obligations, consenting strategies, compulsory purchase orders, judicial reviews of planning decisions and litigation. The group has a particular specialism in energy and infrastructure projects; key clients include ScottishPower Renewables (UK), Travis Perkins and Greggs. In a recent highlight, Moray Thomson and Steven Stewart successfully represented Aldi Stores in a judicial review arising from objections to planning permission that had been granted to the client for the development of a new store in Drumchapel. Thomson also acted for SP Transmission on a compulsory purchase order in order to create an extension to the 400kV Crystal Rig substation near Dunbar. Magdalena Urbanowska is recommended.

Davidson Chalmers LLP assists with planning issues across a wide range of sectors, including renewable energy, retail, residential and mixed-use developments, as well as roads and other infrastructure projects. Practice head June Gilles, who is dual-qualified in English and Scottish law, has more than 30 years of public and private sector planning experience. Gilles assists a national client base with obtaining planning consents, judicial reviews and planning appeals, among other matters. A recent highlight involved acting for Stamford Student Investments LLP on all planning matters associated with the acquisition, development and subsequent sale of a student accommodation site at St James Road in Glasgow, as well as those connected with the sale of a similar property in Edinburgh. Other clients include Chris Stewart Group, Peel Energy, Norse Stone Limited, ABO Wind and Dunrobin Highland Distillery Limited. Caroline Court is also recommended.

Gillespie Macandrew LLP’s team handles advisory work and contentious matters for landowners, housebuilders, developers and public sector bodies. Its diverse workload covers all aspects of the planning process, including advice on development plans, planning obligations and compulsory purchase orders. The group also manages public inquiries, appeals and objections. Fiona Cameron leads the team, which combines planning expertise with real estate, construction and commercial litigation experience. John Stirling and recently promoted partner Colin Hamilton represented Seagreen Wind Energy in relation to the RSPB’s opposition to the construction of two Forth and Tay offshore wind farms. Isobell Reid joined from DWF in 2016.

Harper Macleod LLP is particularly well known for advising public sector bodies; it acts for eight of the 34 planning authorities in Scotland, including The Highland Council and Dumfries & Galloway Council. It also acts for the National Park Authorities for Scotland’s only two national parks: Cairngorms and Loch Lomond & the Trossachs. Rod McKenzie and Jennifer Jack are representing Scottish Natural Heritage in a public inquiry into a proposed large-scale wind park at Dulater Hill in Perth and Kinross. The firm also acts for a number of developer clients on renewable energy and mining projects. Other areas of sector expertise include retail, industrial and residential development. Peter Ferguson acted for Flying Scott (Edinburgh) Limited in an appeal against the refusal by City of Edinburgh Council to grant permanent planning permission for a car park serving Edinburgh Airport. Sandy Hastie is experienced in judicial reviews and statutory appeals.

Ledingham Chalmers LLP’s work covers development plans, planning agreements and compulsory purchase (and compensation), as well as public inquiries. David Scott is handling a compensation claim for two landowners who were affected by a compulsory purchase order in relation to the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route. Scott has a particular interest in wind farms and housing developments. Senior associate Rebecca Walker is experienced in planning inquiries and appeals. Other client include Kirkwood Homes, Bancon Developments, John Gordon & Son and Veitchi Homes. Graham Cooper joined Raeburn Christie Clark & Wallace.

Maclay Murray & Spens LLP’s team has experience of planning issues arising from projects involving transport and infrastructure, renewable energy and residential/commercial/mixed-use development. The team covers every aspect of the planning process for investors, developers and landowners. Department head Gillian Simpson, who mainly acts for developers of residential and mixed-use developments, has particular expertise in drafting and negotiating planning agreements, as well as all aspects of compulsory purchase. In 2016, Simpson advised Robertson Homes and Avant Homes (Scotland) in their interests in a residential development site in Dunbar, which involved negotiating a section 75 planning agreement that dealt with the provision of affordable housing, and the payment of contributions towards education and infrastructure. Triple Point, Muirden Energy, Network Rail and Catesby Properties are among other clients. Associate Fiona Gordon rejoined the firm from Pinsent Masons LLP in 2016.

Wright, Johnston & Mackenzie LLP advises developers and landowners on all planning and consenting issues of renewable energy developments, which include wind farms, hydro schemes and solar projects. In 2016, team head Fraser Gillies and recently promoted associate Nicola Martin acted for 2020 Renewables in a public inquiry into the proposed 50.4MW Whitelaw Brae Wind Farm, which was the first combined battery and wind energy project to be considered at a public inquiry in Scotland. Gillies is also handling planning and consenting advice for RES UK & Ireland Limited on its Scottish wind farm portfolio.

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Legal Developments in Scotland for Planning

  • Parking rights: here to stay? Consent might be the surprising answer 


    In the field of the acquisition of easements by prescription, little has caused more consternation over the last decade or so than the question of whether a right to park cars can be acquired by twenty years user as of right. The types of property capable of being adversely affected range from individual residential units all the way up to major development sites. The establishment of such a right can have a devastating impact on the value of the burdened land.

    - Falcon Chambers

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