Planning and environment in Northern Ireland

Carson McDowell

Carson McDowell's first-rate practice is led by one of the few planning specialists in the area, Gary McGhee, who has ‘an encyclopaedic knowledge of planning and environmental law’. His recent workload has spanned matters connected with the energy, infrastructure, housing, education and tourism sectors. In 2020, a highlight for the team involved acting for Linen Mills Studios on the planning and environmental law aspects of an application for a Game of Thrones Studio Tour attraction. McGhee works with Grant McBurney, who acts for clients such as Belfast International Airport and Belfast Harbour Commissioners. Senior associate Sarah Dunlop is another key figure, as is associate Faye Phillips.

Practice head(s):

Gary McGhee

Other key lawyers:

Grant McBurney; Sarah Dunlop; Faye Phillips


‘Very good practice with excellent team who fully understand the workings of our system here in Northern Ireland. They have a great network of contacts who are able to provided expert advise on a vast range of subjects.’

‘They are very focused and approachable with great interpersonal skills.’

‘The team at Carson McDowell are the most formidable in NI. They have a wealth of experience and the largest team which other firms in NI simply can’t compete with. ’

‘Gary McGhee is the partner you want on your side. He has an encyclopaedic knowledge of planning and environmental law. A great strategist on large complex cases but is also incredibly personable.’

‘We found the practice to be extremely proactive throughout the process. they were easy to engage with, highly knowledgeable in all aspects of the industry. We were able to carry out all our meetings in these difficult times with ease and they had very good use of technology to ensure that the processes ran smoothly.’

‘Gary McGhee is extremely knowledgeable in the area of planning and has excellent communication skills. He was very assured in all aspects of the case.’

‘They have a flexible approach and are available when needed, they can also flex their approach based on our needs and the needs of our clients, which is invaluable to us as a business.’

Key clients

Linen Mill Studios


Northern Ireland Electricity Networks


Curley Properties Limited

Tesco Stores

Ards & North Down Borough Council

Belfast Harbour Commissioners

Belfast International Airport

Royal Portrush Golf Club

Neptune Group

Lough Neagh Sand Traders

Work highlights

  • Advised Linen Mill Studios on its planning applications for a proposed “Game of Thrones” studio tour.
  • Advised a consortium of construction companies on their requests to extract 1.5 million tonnes of sand per year from Lough Neagh.
  • Assisted System Operator Northern Ireland with obtaining planning permissions for the Northern Ireland element of the proposed North-South electricity interconnector development.

A&L Goodbody

A&L Goodbody’s public and regulatory team has experience of advising on planning and environmental issues involving the energy, manufacturing, hospitality and waste industries. Leading the team is Micaela Diver, who has expertise in both planning disputes and advisory work. Another key figure is associate Deirdre St John, who focuses on planning, enforcement and judicial reviews, and acts for local councils and private companies.

Practice head(s):

Micaela Diver

Other key lawyers:

Deirdre St John; Stephen Geoghan


‘The planning and environment team at A&L are a very credible team – they have the knowledge and ability to successfully advise but they are also straightforward to deal with. They are our ‘go to’ advisers.’

‘Deirdre St John grasps the relevant issues very quickly and is a safe pair of hands on complex matters. She is incredibly knowledgeable about planning and environmental law, especially in an NI context, and she has her finger on the pulse about what is going on in the courts on such matters.’

‘The team’s ability to get to grips with key issues in a timely manner and to produce highly practicable and well thought out advice off the back of the same is second to none.’

‘Lawyer Deirdre St. John has been very helpful to our company in tackling key issues in environmental and planning law. Her willingness to engage and think outside the box when dealing with highly complex issues and scenarios has helped us overcome some key challenges over the past number of years.’

Key clients

Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council


CD Consulting

Irish Football Association



Greencoat UK

Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council

Andras House Limited

Benmore Octopus


RG Developments Limited

O’Hare McGovern

Renewable Heat Incentive Association Northern Ireland

Work highlights

  • Advised local councils on the proposed Game of Thrones studio tour.
  • Advise Benmore Octopus on the development of Kings Hall Health and Wellbeing Park as a healthcare hub in Belfast.
  • Advised the Renewable Heat Association Northern Ireland on changes to the green energy scheme.

Cleaver Fulton Rankin

Cleaver Fulton Rankin draws upon its strengths in planning, environment and public law to advise key stakeholders on a full range of intricacies associated with significant projects in Northern Ireland. Noted for its particular capability in judicial reviews, the practice is led by Karen Blair, who ‘remains a benchmark for excellence in the field’. Blair has worked on some of the most noteworthy mandates in the market, which includes advising Dalradian Gold on the consenting and operational aspects of its gold mine development in County Tyrone. Associate director Brendan Martyn assists Blair with most matters and also separately advises Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council.

Practice head(s):

Karen Blair

Other key lawyers:

Brendan Martyn


‘In-depth knowledge of the area of expertise and attention to detail. The capacity for hard work and attention delivers outstanding benefit and value to clients. The firm has engaged in highly complex and multi-faceted planning and environmental maters that requires very considerable tactical awareness.’

‘Karen Blair remains a benchmark for excellence in the field. Brendan Martyn has been a critical addition to the senior team and that has added significantly to the strength of the group. He has proved cool under pressure, providing sound direction and advice.’

‘All team members encountered were friendly, professional and had the ability to discuss matters in terms that were understandable to someone that does not have full knowledge of the law and its reference terms. Billing was clear concise and accurately laid out.’

Key clients

Dalradian Gold Limited

Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council

Choice Housing Ireland Limited

Assured Energy LLP

Belfast City Airport

Glasgiven Contracts Limited

Antrim & Newtownabbey Borough Council

Cornerstone Telecommunications Infrastructure Limited

Translink (Northern Ireland Transport Holdings Company)

Don Holdings Limited

Compañía Logística de Hidrocarburos CLH S.A.

Work highlights

  • Advising Dalradian Gold Limited on all consenting and operational aspects of its proposed gold mine development in Co Tyrone.
  • Advising Assured Energy LLP on two controversial anaerobic digestion sites, which have attracted enforcement and abatement notices from two local councils.
  • Advising Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council on the defence of an unprecedented number of concurrent judicial reviews representing over 20% of all judicial reviews in Northern Ireland in 2020.


Led by Andrew Ryan, TLT focuses on planning and environment issues concerning energy, waste management, retail and real estate. Ryan has a particular specialism in handling renewable energy projects. Real estate partner Judith Allen is noted for her experience of the planning aspects of development projects, and she is well-known among local councils and property developers.

Practice head(s):

Andrew Ryan

Other key lawyers:

Judith Allen


‘A detailed knowledge of relevant local case law and the individuals that advocated such. Applicable guidance on all options available to the client, including a willingness to weight the likely outcomes. I have personally found that their suggested time scales for bring planning issues forward have been uniquely accurate.’

‘The team at TLT are very strong in our field of environmental planning. They have considerable expertise which they use to great effect. They consistently provide a high quality service, based on thorough preparation, sound advice and good strategy.’

‘I find Andrew to be extremely professional, approachable and knowledgeable about this field. He offers a user-friendly service that clients appreciate, whilst still maintaining a high level of professionalism resulting in clear legal direction in dealing with challenging cases.’

Key clients

Braidwater Ltd.

No Arc 21

The Lotus Group.

Wills Bros Ltd.

Cloghan Point Holdings Limited / LCC

ABO Wind NI Ltd.

Hyde Air Park Ltd.

EP UK Investments

SSE Renewables

Brookfield Renewable

RGM Construction Ltd.


Work highlights

  • Advising EP Kilroot Ltd. on its £600m “energy park” redevelopment of the Kilroot Power station site.
  • Advising LCC, a major fuel distribution and supply company on its redevelopment of a deep water oil storage facility.  
  • Advising Brookfield Renewable on the management and further development of multiple windfarm sites across Northern Ireland.


At Tughans, consultant Maria O’Loan heads up the practice, which is focused on the energy, waste and utilities sectors. She has particular strengths in advising on judicial reviews and public inquiries. In one mandate, O'Loan is advising Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council on a planning appeal against the refusal of an application for a 96-acre cemetery. Another notable individual is associate director Emma-Rose Rooney, who is adept at advising on planning appeals involving the recycling sector.

Practice head(s):

Maria O’Loan

Other key lawyers:

Emma-Rose Rooney


‘My experience with Tughans is very positive, with Maria O’Loan showing genuine enthusiasm for the campaign and she appreciates the knowledge and input from the community.’

‘I have only worked with Maria O’Loan, with the phrase “worked with” giving a hint as to how great she is.’

‘The team are well organised, diligent, professionals with specialisms in all the appropriate areas. There is a complementary mix of lawyers who assist in providing an effective, efficient and quality service to me and my organisation.’

Key clients

Ulster Council of the Gaelic Athletic Association

Northern Ireland Water

Apple Inc


System Operator of Northern Ireland (SONI)

Londonderry Port and Harbour Commissioners

Natural World Products

Heron Bros

Vanden Recycling

Bryson Recycling

Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council

Tenants Consolidated Limited

Randox Laboratories

Work highlights

  • Advising the Ulster Council of the Gaelic Athletic Association on the planning, environmental and procurement aspects of the redevelopment of the Casement Park Stadium.
  • Advising Northern Ireland Water on a planning application near to a waste water treatment works.
  • Advising Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council on a planning appeal against the refusal of an application for a 96-acre cemetery.