MY DAY JOB
This blog was never intended to be a vehicle for advertising or marketing my professional services, but people are naturally curious, and so in order to satisfy that curiosity I have reproduced below a note of the Planning Law services that KEYSTONE LAW is able to offer. This note also includes the areas of work covered by my colleagues David Evans, Ben Garbett, Oliver Goodwin, Andrew Hignett and Gareth Hughes. Some of us specialise on particular planning law topics, which enables the team to offer a comprehensive service covering pretty well any development and infrastructure project.
KEYSTONE LAW is one of Britain’s fastest growing and most dynamic law firms, which has expanded rapidly since it was founded in 2003. From its central office in London (where the firm's accounts and admin are dealt with) the firm operates throughout Britain, using modern technology to enable its lawyers to work efficiently and economically from their own satellite offices. This has greatly reduced KEYSTONE LAW’s overhead expenses and enables the firm to charge very competitive fee rates.
Solicitors in the firm (who now number over 250) have an average of 22 years’ post-qualification experience each. This means that clients’ work is always handled at a senior level and never delegated to junior staff as it often is in other law firms. All the lawyers working for KEYSTONE LAW have come from well-known commercial law firms and are by their very nature commercially and client-focused.
KEYSTONE LAW has a very capable property law department, numbering more than 70 lawyers, covering all aspects of property acquisition, disposal and management, and secured lending. As well as acknowledged experts on planning law and environmental law, we have leading experts on agricultural law, property taxation, all aspects of property disputes and litigation (including the conduct of professional negligence claims), as well as commercial and high end domestic conveyancing, both on behalf of landowners and on behalf of developers and end users, including option agreements, leases and licences and all the contractual elements of development schemes.
THE PLANNING LAW TEAM
(in alphabetical order)
David is an experienced planning lawyer with particular expertise of residential, mixed-use, office and leisure projects in London and the South East. David advises on a strategic and detailed basis on all types of planning applications and appeals; the negotiation of planning and highways agreements; managing court challenges and advising on blight and compulsory purchase issues. He has a proven track record in obtaining valuable planning permissions, securing costs awards, advising on environmental statements and resisting village green applications.
Before joining KEYSTONE LAW, David had been a partner in the firm of Geoffrey Searle Planning Solicitors, and joined forces with us following Geoffrey Searle’s retirement, having worked with him for some eight years.
Ben was formerly a Partner and Head of Planning at Charles Russell LLP. He is an experienced planning law specialist who is highly rated in Chambers UK and Legal 500, and was recently named in Planning Magazine’s annual survey of top-rated planning solicitors. Ben has considerable experience in dealing with judicial review and other High Court challenges to planning decisions.
Martin is a specialist planning lawyer with more than 35 years’ continuous experience in this area of the law. He was formerly Solicitor to the Council and Deputy Borough Secretary at Waverley Borough Council in Surrey and headed the planning law team at Sisman Nichols, Solicitors in Bristol. He is a member of the Law Society’s Planning Panel and a Legal Associate of the Royal Town Planning Institute. Martin is also a popular writer and speaker on planning law topics.
Oliver is a Barrister, who was previously with Squire Sanders, and has more than 25 years’ experience as a specialist planning lawyer. He has been given favourable mentions in Chambers’ Directory, where clients described him as "highly experienced and good to work with."
Gareth is a skilled barrister who acts for an impressive portfolio of clients in the hospitality and entertainment sectors on both licensing and planning matters. He regularly acts as an advocate on behalf of clients before licensing committees all over the country and on appeal to the Magistrates’ Court, having dealt with cases right up to the Court of Appeal and the House of Lords on major points of law.
With over 25 years’ experience acting for many of the leading companies and individuals in the hospitality sector he has built up a significant network of relationships with elected councillors, council officers and police as well as residents groups particularly in the City of Westminster.
OUR PLANNING LAW SERVICES
Planning applications and appeals
Advice on preparation of applications
We handle a wide variety of applications, especially those which are complex or require careful formulation and presentation. This work is often carried out in conjunction with other planning professionals (planning consultants, architects, traffic engineers and other disciplines).
Negotiations with local planning authorities / formal representations on behalf of applicants and/or third parties both for and against development proposals
We are frequently involved in both formal and informal contact with local authority planners and elected members, seeking to secure either the grant or refusal of planning permission, or to dissuade them from enforcement action, and thereby avoid the need for clients to resort to appeal procedures, as well as resolving problems that have arisen in the course of development.
We advise on and conduct appeals against the refusal of planning permission, or other forms of consent and against enforcement notices, including all types of appeal procedure. Our service includes advocacy in all types of appeal.
Interpretation of planning conditions and consents
Advising by written legal opinion or in conference on points of difficulty in relation to all kinds of planning issues.
We are often instructed to deliver written opinions in much the same way as Counsel. We can usually offer a faster turn-round than Counsel for a fee that is likely to be lower in most cases.
High Court proceedings (including judicial review)
High Court challenges to planning appeal decisions and the judicial review of other actions and decisions by local planning authorities, the Department for Communities and Local Government (in England), the Welsh Assembly Government (in Wales) and other public bodies and authorities.
We have had considerable experience in the conduct of cases in this highly specialist area of planning law and procedure and can offer a first opinion on adverse planning decisions, before clients commit themselves to the cost of a High Court challenge.
Planning obligations, and infrastructure agreements (s106, s278 etc.)
Drafting and negotiation of agreements and undertakings
This is a real minefield for the unwary. Our practical experience in this area of work ensures that our clients’ interests are properly protected. There is also scope for significant commercial gain in respect of the way that detailed provisions are drafted.
We can advise on current issues, including the reform of planning obligations and the introduction of the Community Infrastructure Levy.
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)
We provide a “health-check” by vetting Environmental Statements prior to their submission. We also advise on all aspects of the EIA process, which if not handled properly can give rise to costly legal challenges.
Compulsory Purchase and compensation
Advice on CPO process / statutory objections
We advise on all aspects of the CPO process. This includes giving advice to statutory objectors faced with the threat of compulsory acquisition on ways of protecting their interests through making tactical CPO objections.
We advise clients on ways of maximising their compensatory award including steps through to a determination by the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) [formerly “the Lands Tribunal”].
Advising on strategic development plan allocations
We give advice to landowners and other promoters of development, as well as advice to public authorities, on preparation of evidence for public examinations under the new Development Plan regime. This includes advice on common legal risks relating to issues such as Sustainability Appraisal and Strategic Environmental Assessment.
Advice on the threat of enforcement action and appeals.
We advise on strategies to avoid potential unwanted enforcement action being taken in ways which can help save both time and money. We undertake the conduct of appeals against Enforcement Notices, including advocacy at hearings and public inquiries
Specialist advice on Listed Buildings, Conservation Areas, Tree Preservation Orders, Advertisement Control
Advice on specialist consent regimes where particular risks arise
Giving detailed advice, negotiation with statutory authorities, and the conduct of appeals
Town and village greens
We advise developers how to avoid development delays caused by applications for new town and village greens, as well as advising objectors on legal issues and tactics surrounding this complex area of the law.
Highways and footpaths
Advice and appeals
We advise on legal powers and methods for diverting and/or stopping up footpaths and highways as part of the development process, including negotiations with local authorities. We also have experience of dealing with Inquiries into highways closures and diversions, modifications to the Definitive Map, etc.
Our planning lawyers take a practical common-sense approach to their work, always seeking to secure our client’s wider commercial interests. They do not pursue technical legal points unless they will positively help in achieving clients’ commercial objectives.
Our Planning law Team is an integral part of KEYSTONE LAW’s Commercial Property Department, which offers expertise on site assembly and disposals, development funding, commercial leases, all types of secured lending, construction law (including contentious matters) and taxation, among many others.