Leading Individuals

Next Generation Partners

Planning and environment in Northern Ireland

Carson McDowell

Carson McDowell‘s ‘dedicated, insightful team‘ is the largest in Northern Ireland and acts on contentious and non-contentious matters across myriad industries. Team head Gary McGhee founded the department in 1994 and has since built a reputation for major planning applications, high-profile judicial reviews, and public enquiries. Grant McBurney is another key name, and alongside McGhee is advising Islandmagee Energy Limited on the development of a gas storage project expected to provide 25% of the UK’s capacity. Senior associate Sarah Dunlop has been active on infrastructure developments, while associate Faye Phillips has been developing a specialisation in energy planning.

Practice head(s):

Gary McGhee

Other key lawyers:

Grant McBurney; Sarah Dunlop; Faye Phillips


‘Dedicated, insightful team.’

‘Gary McGhee has a wealth of knowledge and experience in environmental planning. He has a fantastic work-rate and ethos. He works long days to make sure our milestones are hit.’

‘Sarah Dunlop showed brilliant attention to detail, and excellent knowledge of the subject area in reviewing our documentation – a highly capable and motivated solicitor.’

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

JD Sports

Elgin Energy

Work highlights

  • Defended consents granted to Islandmagee Energy Limited to construct and operate underwater gas caverns to store circa 500 million cubic metres of gas off the coast of County Antrim.
  • Challenged the decision to grant planning permission of a new ASDA food superstore in North Belfast.
  • Obtained planning permissions for the Northern Ireland element of the proposed North-South electricity interconnector development.

A&L Goodbody

A&L Goodbody has a multidisciplinary offering and works for private and public sector clients across multiple sectors, including energy, retail, hospitality and waste. Team head Micaela Diver advises on a range of contentious and non-contentious matters, with experience in all areas of public and administrative law. She has advised numerous local government clients on matters related to planning law and associated enforcement matters, and works closely with associate Deidre StJohn, who advises both public and private clients across a number of industries.

Practice head(s):

Micaela Diver

Other key lawyers:

Deidre St John; Stephen Geoghan


‘A&L has a very (very) strong planning and environmental practice. The team is incredibly experienced and knowledgeable in these areas, but most importantly, for me the client, they are insightful, pragmatic and commercial in the advice they provide and the approach they recommend we take.’

‘The turnaround for producing quality work, especially when urgent, is second to none.’

‘Deirdre St John is exceptional. It goes without saying that Deirdre has an encyclopedic knowledge of planning and environmental law.’

Work highlights

  • Advised Armagh, Banbridge & Craigavon Borough Council on a variety of matters, including the Game of Thrones Studio Tour and the Southern Regional College development.
  • Represented Asda as notice party in judicial review proceedings challenging the grant of permission for a proposed £17.5m superstore.
  • Advising AJ Capital on the £40m acquisition of the Slieve Donard hotel from Hastings Hotels.

Cleaver Fulton Rankin

Cleaver Fulton Rankin‘s ‘well-informed and well connected’ practice advise public and private clients on contentious and non-contentious matters, frequently complex and high-value in nature. The team is able to cover a broad range of industry sectors, including infrastructure, energy, and housing. Practice head Karen Blair is a well-known figure in the field, with more than 25 years’ experience in the practice area, and is the lead partner on the multi-billion development Dalradian Gold mining project in County Tyrone. Associate director Brendan Martyn is triple-qualified in Northern Ireland, England and Wales and Ireland, and acts as lead legal advisor to Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council on planning matters.

Practice head(s):

Karen Blair

Other key lawyers:

Brendan Martyn


‘The planning team has successfully managed one of the longest-running and most protracted planning appeals of the last few years.’

‘A top Northern Irish planning and environmental law team led by Karen Blair. Brendan Martyn has added to the strength of the team. The ability to work across multi-disciplinary applications of immense complexity is an invaluable skillset.’

‘Karen Blair and Brendan Martyn are the stand-out members of the team.’

‘The capacity for commitment and hard work, often under time pressure occasioned by time limits for action, is invaluable.’

‘Each of their temperaments is very calming and reassuring and all seem to have the effect of calming and reassuring us as clients. Their billing is certainly not by the absolute minute as some other firms are.’

‘Karen Blair keeps a very even keel and never loses focus of the law on everything and all that she does, emotion never plays a part – she keeps all our feet on the ground and has far sight into matters that may bring problems in the future.’

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

DKV Euro Service GmbH

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 two highly controversial 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 Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council on the defence of an unprecedented number of concurrent judicial reviews representing over 25% of all judicial reviews in Northern Ireland in 2021.


TLT‘s practice is highly active in the energy sector, acting on a diverse range of matters, including high-value residential, retail, and leisure work. Andrew Ryan, who leads the team, was specifically recruited in 2015 to build the practice, and has particular expertise in renewable energy, environmental impact assessment, and environmental law. Ryan is dual-qualified in Northern Ireland and England and Wales and conducts his own advocacy in the Magistrates Court and before the Planning Appeals Commission. Real estate partner Judith Allen is also noted.

Practice head(s):

Andrew Ryan

Other key lawyers:

Judith Allen

Key clients

Braidwater Ltd.

No Arc 21


RGM Construction Ltd

Cloghan Point Holdings Limited / LCC

ABO Wind NI Ltd.

Hyde Air Park Ltd.

EP UK Investments

Energia Group


Work highlights

  • Advising the new owners of Kilroot and Ballylumford power stations on a series of major upgrade projects at both sites.
  • Advising LCC on its multi-million-pound redevelopment of Northern Ireland’s only deep-water oil storage facility.
  • Advising Brookfield Renewable on the management and further development of multiple windfarm sites across Northern Ireland.


Tughans‘ team has a primary focus on the energy, utilities, and waste sectors, and services both public and private clients. Consultant Maria O’Loan leads the team and advises on judicial reviews and public enquiries. Her recent work included advising the Ulster Council of the Gaelic Athletic Association (UCGAA) on the planning and procurement elements of the £120m Casement Park Stadium redevelopment. Associate solicitor Jonathan Ross provides key support.

Practice head(s):

Maria O’Loan

Other key lawyers:

Jonathan Ross


‘The key strength is Maria O’Loan. Her experience in planning and environmental law are exceptional, as is her commitment and client care.’

‘Tughans delivers an exceptional level of service, expertise and most importantly client care.’

‘Maria O’Loan delivers an exceptional standard of service and advice to my organisation in what has been an incredibly complicated matter.’

‘Maria O’Loan has managed to distill complex environmental legal principles down to deliver understandable and relatable advice – this is crucial for my organisational needs.’

‘Maria O’Loan is extremely knowledgeable in environmental law and highlights other cases to help explain possible outcomes and the legal process.’

‘Overall I am very happy with Maria O’Loan and the service she has provided and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend her.’

‘Maria O’Loan stands out as an excellent practitioner who provides sound advice & direction providing quiet reassurance to planning & environment teams grappling with complex and challenging legal matters.’

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

Indaver Limited

Westland Horticulture

Work highlights

  • Advising Ulster Council of the Gaelic Athletic Association in respect of the planning, environmental and procurement aspects of the redevelopment of the Casement Park Stadium.
  • Advising the System Operator of Northern Ireland (SONI) in respect of a series of planning applications.
  • Advising Northern Ireland Water across a range of matters, including its role as a statutory consultee in planning applications and its powers and duties under the Water and Sewerage Services Order.