Planning and environment in Northern Ireland

Carson McDowell

Carson McDowell advises on a range of high-profile planning and environment matters, including planning applications for large developments, judicial reviews of planning decisions, and public inquiries. The team is highly active advising major Northern Irish companies in relation to projects in the energy and infrastructure sectors, as well as residential and commercial developments. Gary McGhee leads an experienced team, which includes Grant McBurney and associate Sarah Dunlop. The practice was strengthened by the arrival of associate Kate McCusker from Cleaver Fulton Rankin.

Practice head(s):

Gary McGhee


Carson McDowell is the leading practice in Northern Ireland. The team offers timely, informed advice, supported by its extensive knowledge and experience. Advice is not just given, but is delivered in a transparent, concise fashion. The team clearly take a pride in their work and seek at all times to deliver the best for their clients.

What makes the staff stand out is their passion for the work at hand and desire to deliver. In particular, Gary McGhee leads the team with an assured manner and clarity of purpose that infuses the team and clients with confidence. His knowledge of the local market and relevant legislation and case law is exceptional.

Solicitor Faye Phillips also exudes confidence that matches her knowledge and capabilities. Faye co-ordinates clients and experts with a clear focus on the delivery of quality product and results.

Key clients

Belfast Harbour Commissioners

Belfast International Airport

Northern Ireland Electricity / SONI


Ards & North Down Council

Elgin Energy

Southern Regional College

John Hogg Operational Limited

Lough Neagh Sand Traders

Swinford (Sirocco) Limited


Work highlights

  • Advising John Hogg Operational on obtaining planning permission for the new Game of Thrones studio attraction in Banbridge, County Down.
  • Advising SONI in relation to the development of the cross-border North-South electricity interconnector project.
  • Advising Indaver on judicial review proceedings challenging the lawfulness of planning permission granted for a waste incinerator in Newtownabbey.
  • Advising Southern Regional College on the successful acquisition of planning permission for a new £45m college in Craigavon, County Armagh.
  • Advising Swinford on the planning application for a £400m mixed-use development on a riverfront site in Belfast city centre.

Cleaver Fulton Rankin

Cleaver Fulton Rankin has particular expertise in judicial review, as well as advising on planning applications and environmental impact assessments for high-profile local developments, particularly in the infrastructure, natural resources, energy and waste sectors. In addition to major Northern Irish companies, the team counts several local planning authorities among its clients. Karen Blair leads the team, which was bolstered by the arrival of associate Brendan Martyn from Pinsent Masons Belfast LLP in February 2018.

Practice head(s):

Karen Blair

Other key lawyers:

Brendan Martyn


The team stands out for its professionalism and expertise, coupled with the capacity for very hard work.

Karen Blair presents calm and focused advice in high-pressure, high-value cases. Her commitment serves as the benchmark for the team, and is an exceptionally high standard to aim for.

The addition of Brendan Martyn is a significant plus that will pay dividends. He  is demonstrating the same high standard that is expected of this firm.

Solicitor Jane McManus is a recent addition showing promise in complex case work.’

The in-depth knowledge that the team has in the relevant sector is second to none. It would possibly be seen as one of the leaders, if not the leader, within planning and permitting legal advice within Northern Ireland.

Karen Blair particularly stands out; she has a great ability to articulate any issues and risks and the mitigation in relation to planning and permitting in a really clear, concise manner.

Key clients

Dalradian Gold Limited

Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council

Choice Housing Ireland Limited

Assured Energy LLP

Belfast City Airport

C&V Developments Limited

Antrim & Newtownabbey Borough Council

The Old Bushmills Distillery Co Limited

Intu Properties

Mid Ulster District Council

Natural World Products Limited

MJM Group Limited

Work highlights

  • Advising Dalradian Gold Limited on all consenting and operational aspects of its proposed gold mine development in Co Tyrone, the largest development of its type ever undertaken in Northern Ireland.
  • Advising Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council on all aspects of its powers as a planning and enforcement authority, including advising its planning committee and defending numerous judicial reviews in the High Court.
  • Advising the client in relation to judicial review proceedings in respect of the decision of the Department  for Infrastructure (DFI) to accept its planning application.
  • Advising Belfast City Airport on its controversial proposal to vary the planning agreement which controls operations at the airport.
  • Advising Intu in relation to its redevelopment of the Sprucefield Retail Park outside Lisburn.


TLT has 'particularly good knowledge of domestic and European environmental law and waste law'; the team advises on planning applications and environmental impact assessments relating to major developments, and represents clients in judicial review proceedings and planning appeals. The renewable energy sector is a particular focus, with the team advising on energy-from-waste, wind and anaerobic digestion projects, but recent instructions have included advising on retail, housing and student accommodation developments. Andrew Ryan leads the practice.

Practice head(s):

Andrew Ryan


Andrew Ryan is a fount of knowledge of planning and environmental law, being particularly adept in identifying points of challenge for objectors.

Key clients

Brookfield Renewable

Braidwater Ltd

The Lotus Group

ABO Wind NI Ltd

Lynwood Homes Ltd

Granville Ecopark Ltd

Organic Fertilisers Ltd

Greenbelt NI Ltd

Hyde Air Park Ltd

Braidwater Ltd

SSE Renewables Developments (UK) Limited

Work highlights

  • Advising Braidwater and its joint venture partner Coredale in relation to the planning application for a housing development outside Derry.
  • Advising ABO Wind NI Ltd on a number of planning applications for wind farms in Northern Ireland, including a major infrastructure application for a proposed wind farm in the Mourne Mountains.
  • Advising Brookfield on a number of planning applications for wind farms in Northern Ireland.
  • Advising B9/Granville on a number of issues in relation to the ongoing development and operation of a large-scale AD plant in Dungannon.
  • Advising community group NoArc21 on judicial review proceedings relating to the grant of planning permission by the Department for Infrastructure for the Arc 21 energy-from-waste plant in North Belfast.


Tughans advises on planning applications for major developments, including infrastructure, residential and student accommodation projects, as well as high-profile judicial review proceedings. The team is also active in the energy sector. The firm's wide-ranging client base includes utilities, public sector bodies and private developers and investors. The practice is led by consultant Maria O’Loan, who specialises in judicial review matters and is praised for her 'experience and dynamism'.

Practice head(s):

Maria O’Loan


Maria O’Loan has tremendous attention to detail with clear advice. Her client care and responsiveness are superb.

Key clients

Vanden Recycling

Ulster Council GAA

Systems Operator of Northern Ireland

Invest Northern Ireland


Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council

Northern Ireland Water Limited

Apple Distribution International

Car Park Services Limited / Slaney Developments

Work highlights

  • Advising Translink in respect of the planning and environmental aspects of the redevelopment of a major city centre brownfield site to deliver an integrated transport hub for Belfast.
  • Acting for Apple as a notice party to judicial review proceedings brought in respect of planning permission granted for the development of Apple’s EMEA data centre in Athenry, Co. Galway.
  • Advising the UCGAA in respect of the planning and environmental aspects of the redevelopment of the Casement Park Stadium.
  • Advising Slaney Developments in respect of its application for planning permission of a purpose-built student accommodation block in Library Street, Belfast.
  • Advising Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council in relation to a judicial review challenging the design of a major public works scheme to regenerate Lisburn city centre.

A&L Goodbody

A&L Goodbody advises public and private sector clients, including local councils and developers, on contentious and non-contentious planning and environmental law matters, and is noted for its 'exceptionally strong support for local government planning authorities'. The team also advises clients in the energy, retail and waste sectors, among others, on planning applications and represents clients in high-profile judicial review proceedings. The 'extremely able and astute' Micaela Diver leads the team.

Practice head(s):

Micaela Diver


A&L Goodbody stands out for its commitment to cases and timely responses to consultations.

The solicitors on the team clearly have an impressive understanding of the relevant law and the courts in which they appear. They are experienced and knowledgeable in planning and enforcement. Furthermore, they are keenly aware of any policy considerations which must be borne in mind when representing a public body.

Solicitors Deirdre St John and Eimear Digney show competitiveness and wisdom when dealing with difficult opponents and concerned clients. Each of them is personable and easy to work with.

The team has the ability to serve public sector needs with a commercial awareness.

Key clients

Renewable Heat Association Northern Ireland

Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council

Viridian Power & Energy Limited

Brookfield Renewables

Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council

CD Consulting


B9 Energy

First Trust/ AIB Bank

Greencoat UK Wind

Work highlights

  • Providing complex planning advice to the Planning and Regulatory Services Committee of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council.
  • Advising RHANI in respect of its judicial review of the decision of the Department for the Economy to implement the Renewable Heat Incentive Scheme (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2017.
  • Advising Viridian Power & Energy Limited on the planning and environmental law aspects of the acquisition of Huntstown Bioenergy Limited.
  • Advising Brookfield on the project financing of the Elginny wind farm immediately post acquisition.
  • Advising Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council on an appeal against a noise abatement notice issued by the council concerning the playing of Lambeg drums.