Leading Individuals

Next Generation Partners

Planning and environment in Northern Ireland

Carson McDowell

Carson McDowell fields a large team of planning specialists, with experience in planning applications, judicial reviews, and public enquiries for a broad range of major planning and environmental matters. Team lead Gary McGhee, who has almost 30 years’ experience, and initially founded the department in 1994, is a recognised expert in the field, and covers both contentious and non-contentious matters. Grant McBurney is a key name for waste and contaminated land matters. Also prominent within the team are senior associate Sarah Dunlop, who has experience in infrastructure developments, and senior associate Faye Phillips, who specialises in renewable energy.

Practice head(s):

Gary McGhee

Other key lawyers:

Grant McBurney; Sarah Dunlop; Faye Phillips; Orla Kelly


‘The planning and environment team is widely regarded as the leading planning team in Northern Ireland. This is a long-established specialist team with a very loyal client base in the property and residential development sector. The judicial review specialist lawyers are particularly sought after for planning judicial reviews.’

‘Gary McGhee – superb planning lawyer with unrivalled specialist experience in his field. Extensive and invaluable contacts in various planning chambers in London.

Grant McBurney – excellent partner in the planning team. Has worked alongside Gary McGhee for many years and is highly competent in his specialism.’

‘This is the best planning legal team in Northern Ireland and would rank very well in the comparison to legal teams in the UK generally. They have considerable experience, skill at advisory work and litigation tactics and provide an excellent service to their clients. They are also a great team to deal with and to work with.’

‘Gary McGhee is an outstanding planning lawyer – very experienced, quick thinking, tactically shrewd and with great client skills. His teamwork is outstanding, and he is always very easy to deal with.’

‘Grant McBurney is also excellent, though a more junior planning partner than Gary. Also excellent, both in terms of good legal advice and sound tactical thinking, client care and communication. As with all the Carson McDowell planning team, the teamwork is excellent.’

‘Highly-capable and experienced team. Always willing to work to demanding timescales.’

‘Gary McGhee and Sarah Dunlop are the staff I engage with most. Both are excellent legal professionals, and experts in their field.’

Key clients


Belfast International Airport

The Port of Belfast

Island Magee Energy Limited

Northern Ireland Electricity Networks

System Operator Northern Ireland

Breedon Group

Southern Regional College

Ards and North Down Borough Council

Elgin Energy

Work highlights

  • Defended consents granted to Island Magee Energy Limited to construct and operate underwater gas caverns to store circa 500 million cubic metres of gas off the coast of County Antrim.
  • Instigated legal proceedings challenging the lawfulness of a decision to grant planning permission for a new ASDA food superstore in North Belfast. The permission was granted by Antrim and Newtownabbey Council and was the subject of a High Court hearing in 2021.
  • Obtained planning permissions for the Northern Ireland element of the proposed North-South electricity interconnector development. The permissions authorise the construction of 34km of pylons and the largest infrastructure project in Northern Ireland.

A&L Goodbody Northern Ireland LLP

A&L Goodbody Northern Ireland LLP fields a rapidly growing team with diverse sector expertise. The group is particularly strong in contentious matters, and handles planning disputes for prominent public and private sector clients. Team lead Micaela Diver has particular expertise in the intersection of planning and public law, and is highly experienced as a Judicial Review practitioner. Key names at the associate level include Deirdre StJohn and Stephen Geoghan.

Practice head(s):

Micaela Diver

Other key lawyers:

Deirdre St John; Stephen Geoghan


‘This firm brings a particularly acute commercial focus to the practice of planning and environmental law, with a strong appreciation of how developer client needs intersect with market forces and policy and legislative constraints.’

‘A&L Goodbody is an experienced law firm with first class capabilities in terms of its people and use of technology. Its ability to deliver its services throughout COVID times and since, without exception or compromise, has been noted.’

‘Micaela Diver is a confident solicitor with a good knowledge of planning law and legislation. She is responsible for a number of high value clients in Northern Ireland, where her skills relating to complex planning matters are put to test.’

‘The lawyers in this firm are commercially aware and offer expert advice. They are approachable, responsive and down-to-earth.’

‘This firm offers practical, commercial, relevant advice. As a client, you always feel valued.’

Key clients

Causeway Coast & Glens Borough Council

Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council

Renewable Heat Association, Northern Ireland


NIE Networks Ltd

Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council

Irish Football Association Stadium Development Company

Benmore Octopus

Castlebrooke Developments Ltd

NI Water Ltd

Work highlights

  • Appointed by way of a competitive tender process to act for Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council on all land and environmental issues surrounding the closure and aftercare of Drumaduff landfill site.
  • Advising Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council in relation to a wind turbine located on a site of historical importance at Knock Iveagh.
  • Advised ASDA on its application for a £17.5 million proposed superstore in Newtownabbey, which was approved by Antrim & Newtownabbey Borough Council in February 2021 despite significant objection from Tesco and others.

Cleaver Fulton Rankin

Cleaver Fulton Rankin fields a team with expertise in environmental law, planning law, and public law, noted for its work on high profile projects such as the multibillion Dalradian Gold Limited mining project. The practice is led by firm chairman Karen Blair, a highly experienced practitioner with particular strength in the energy and waste sectors. Brendan Martyn, who is triple-qualified in Northern Ireland, England and Wales, and the Republic of Ireland, acts for prominent clients in both the public and private sectors.

Practice head(s):

Karen Blair

Other key lawyers:

Brendan Martyn; Stephen Masterson


‘Specialised practice in planning and environment, covering renewable energy, aviation, mining and quarrying. Cover council/planning authority work to appeals/public inquiries and judicial review.’

‘Karen Blair and Brendan Martin are outstanding practitioners. Commercially astute and tactically aware. Capacity for hard work and commitment to client care.’

‘We use CFR exclusively for planning work and have done for many years. We have always found the service excellent along with extensive knowledge of the subject.’

Key clients

Dalradian Gold Limited

Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council

Choice Housing Ireland Limited

Assured Energy LLP

Belfast City Airport

Belfast City Council

Antrim & Newtownabbey Borough Council

Cornerstone Telecommunications Infrastructure Limited

Don Holdings Limited

Leitrim County Council (Republic of Ireland)

Work highlights

  • Advising Dalradian Gold Limited on all consenting and operational aspects of its proposed gold mine development in Co Tyrone, representing an investment to date of over £160 million.
  • Advising Assured Energy LLP in relation to two anaerobic digestion sites which have attracted enforcement notices and abatement notices from two local councils – all of which have been appealed to the Planning Appeals Commission and the courts.
  • Advising and representing Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council in relation to the Independent Examination of its Local Development Plan before the Planning Appeals Commission, and defending a number of concurrent judicial reviews representing over 25% of all judicial reviews in Northern Ireland in 2022.


TLT is particularly prominent in the energy industry, acting on major matters such as the redevelopments projects at the Kilroot and Ballylumford power stations, valued at over GBP 600m. The group has further expertise in the residential, retail, and infrastructure sectors, and cover all stages of the planning process. Team lead Andrew Ryan, who specialises in renewable energy development and environmental law, is dual-qualified in Northern Ireland and England and Wales. Associate Sarah Mulholland instigates and defends judicial reviews in the High Court, and has experience conducting her own advocacy.

Practice head(s):

Andrew Ryan

Other key lawyers:

Sarah Mulholland

Key clients

Braidwater Ltd.

No Arc 21

Euro Auctions

RGM Construction Ltd

Cloghan Point Holdings Limited / LCC

ABO Wind NI Ltd.

Hyde Air Park Ltd.

EP UK Investments

Energia Group


Ayr Power Ltd

Callan Renewables Ltd

Work highlights

  • Advising the new owners of Kilroot and Ballylumford power stations on a series of projects at both sites – the two largest power stations in Northern Ireland and a key part of NI’s energy generation infrastructure.
  • Advising LCC, a major fuel distribution and supply company on their multi-million-pound redevelopment of Northern Ireland’s only deep-water oil storage facility.
  • Advising on two high profile judicial review proceedings relating to wind farm development and battery storage development, both of which have provided significant precedent for future planning applications and generated significant industry interest.


Tughans is a prominent name in infrastructure, with expertise in the energy and utilities sectors. The group acts for both public and private clients, and has experience handling both contentious and non-contentious matters. The team is led by consultant Maria O’Loan, who specialises in the waste and energy industries. Associate solicitor Jonathan Ross is noted for his work in the retail sector.

Practice head(s):

Maria O’Loan

Other key lawyers:

Jonathan Ross; Emma McKee


‘A relatively small planning team, but one that punches way above its weight in terms of impact. Tughans LLP is involved in many of the leading planning and environmental cases in Northern Ireland.’

‘Maria O’Loan heads up the environment and planning practice. She is exceptionally well regarded in the market, especially amongst non-governmental organisations and interest groups. She is very active in the market and commercially aware.’

‘Depth of experience and commercial acumen in supporting infrastructure development projects.’

‘Tughans has a reputation as a solid, experienced and diverse law firm which is always up-to-date with the most recent case law and legal practices. Its core strength is its people.’

‘Maria’s “tour de force” is her combined knowledge of other complimentary licensing regimes and legislation which often cuts into and extends across planning matters, such as waste permitting, electricity law and marine licensing etc. ‘

‘Tughans provides the “dream team” for any development, drawing upon a stellar roster of lawyers, comprised of industry leading legal experts in planning, environmental, public law, real estate, construction, litigation and health and fafety.’

‘Maria O’Loan has nearly two decades of experience practising as a specialist in planning and environmental law – and it shows. Maria regularly draws upon previous work for local government, environmental NGOs, regulatory agencies and other clients to plot a strategy and course of action.’

‘The planning & environmental team has a broad range of experience locally within N.I., but has also brought in resources with a national view of the current issues and strategic direction.’

Key clients

Northern Ireland Transport Holding Company T/A Translink

Friends of the Earth and No Gas Caverns Limited

Indaver Limited

Ardagh Metal Packaging

Greencoat Capital

Work highlights