John Steel QC

Year of call:

+44 (0)20 7832 1111

“an incisive decision-maker who inspires confidence within clients”
Chambers & Partners

John Steel QC’s main areas of practice are planning, environmental, aviation, and compulsory purchase law. He specialises in public inquiries and judicial review. He is cited as a recommended leader by Chambers and Partners, The Legal 500 and UK Legal Experts.

His planning and environmental law practice has encompassed the full range of development and major infrastructure projects, including housing, employment and industrial land development, energy, minerals and waste, retail, highways and transportation, noise and emissions, ecology, engineering, architecture and historic buildings, economics, sports stadiums, racecourses and racetracks. He has represented central government departments, local authorities, regulators, major companies, landowners and developers as well as private individuals. He is an acknowledged expert with specialist knowledge in airport and aviation development, as well as aviation and aerospace regulatory law.

He is joint head of the Planning, Environment and Property law group in Chambers, head of the Aviation and Aerospace law group, is a qualified international arbitrator and CEDR accredited mediator, and practices through Chambers’ offices in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. He is also a Recorder, Bencher of Gray’s Inn, instrument rated pilot, honorary Fellow of Law of Durham University Law School, board member of Durham Global Security Institute and honorary legal adviser to the Air League.

Click here to view John’s full Aviation & Aerospace CV.


Environment, Planning & Property

Compulsory Purchase, Transport & Works orders:

  • Highways, listed building, environmental, planning, regeneration and land assembly, public inquiries and High Court cases.
  • Major Infrastructure projects including expansion of airports, rail, nuclear power stations and IPC related matters.
  • Barnsley BC – Town Centre CPO.
  • Birmingham CC – City Centre and Road CPOs.
  • Department of Transport – Roads and Motorway CPOs.
  • Gateshead BC – Metro Centre, Housing and clearance CPOs.
  • Leeds CC – River Aire and City Centre CPOs.
  • London – Olympic CPO for Newsfax.
  • Luton BC – Luton–Dunstable Guided Busway.
  • Middlesbrough BC – Land Assembly, Housing and Town Centre CPOs.
  • ONE North East – Darlington, Newcastle.
  • Newcastle CC – Grainger Town, City Centre, Grey Street Conservation Area and Listed Buildings, and River Tyne CPOs.
  • Redcar BC – Town Centre CPO.
  • Stockton BC – Town Centre CPO.
  • Yorkshire Forward – Barnsley Town Centre CPO.

Environmental Cases & Public Inquiries cases:

  • Air Pollution (e.g. aviation emissions control, opencast coal mines, and chemical plants).
  • Carbon trading (e.g. aviation offset – advice to TAG).
  • Chemical plants erection, safety and risk assessments, use and demolition.
  • Ecology (e.g. Llanishen SSSIs, public inquiries and High Court cases for WPD).
  • Entertainment and other licensing (e.g. Reading Rock Festival, Royal Albert Hall, residents’ association Islington London).
  • Storage, transportation and disposal of hazardous waste.
  • Noise nuisance, licensing and control under EPA 1990, planning and licensing legislation (e.g. Royal Albert Hall licensing JR).
  • Recycling, control and minimisation of waste (e.g. advice to Worcestershire Waste Collection and Disposal authorities).
  • Waste Incinerators and Waste Disposal (Newcastle, Middlesbrough, Liverpool Knowsley, Telford – adviser to private clients and public sector authorities).

Planning Inquiries, Planning Advice & High Court cases:

  • Acted for numerous private and public sector clients and cases from large to small size.
  • Casinos (e.g. Stanley Casinos Earls Court Kensington and Chelsea).
  • Education (e.g. development of new Pathfinder schools for Bromley LBC + JR).
  • Employment development (e.g. Ashford extension, CB1 and CUP sites Cambridge, Leeds regeneration sites, Newcastle City Centre and River Tyne, for private developers and public authorities).
  • Housing – North of England (e.g. Durham, Spennymoor, Sunderland, Newcastle, Middlesbrough, for Barratt Newcastle), Wales (e.g. Llanishen Cardiff for WPD), Southern England (Ashford for GRE, Bognor Regis for Berkeley Homes, Newbury for West Berks Council, Newbury Racecourse Ltd), East Anglia () and individual private clients).
  • Heritage and culture (e.g. Listed Buildings, Conservation Areas, Ancient Monuments and World Heritage Sites).
  • Major Infrastructure projects including expansion of airports, rail, nuclear power stations and IPC related matters.
  • Minerals (e.g. coal, sand and gravels, rock, fullers earth and other minerals extraction and recycling).
  • Regeneration (e.g. for Councils listed under CPOs above).
  • Sports and leisure and tourism development (e.g. stadia and academies for Chelsea FC, Derby County FC, Sunderland FC, golf courses and holiday parks, indoor and outdoor leisure development).
  • Retail (Asda, J Sainsbury, Morrisons, Waitrose and other food superstore developments, retail warehouses, and other forms of retail development).
  • Transportation (e.g. road orders, Luton guided busway).

Other cases of note include:

  • RAF Northolt Airport (R (London Oxford and Biggin Hill Airports) v Secretary of State for Defence, Secretary of State for Transport and Civil Aviation Authority) – 2013 Judicial Review brought on behalf of London Oxford and Biggin Hill Airports against MoD, DfT and CAA concerning Minister’s decision to increase commercial movements.
  • Dunsfold Park ltd v (1) Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government (2) Waverley Borough Council (2013) – July 2013, Planning – Aviation- Airports : Ancillary use : Certificates of Lawful Use : Planning Permission.
  • Long, R (on the application of) v Monmouthshire County Council & Anor – Nov 2012, Planning appeals – High Court.
  • Dunsfold Park – Jul 2012, Planning inquiries.
  • Trad Scaffolding Co Ltd (R on the application of) v London Thames Gateway Development Corporation – Nov 2011, Judicial review.
  • The London Thames Gateway Development Corporation (Bromley By Bow)(South) Compulsory Purchase Order – Sep 2011, Planning inquiries.
  • Corporation of the Hall of Arts and Sciences v The Albert Court Residents’ Association – Apr 2011, Licensing, Planning appeals – High Court, Judicial review.
  • TAG Farnborough Airport Ltd – Jul 2010, Planning inquiries.
  • Albert Court Residents Association & Ors, R (on the application of) v Corporation of the Hall of Arts & Sciences – Mar 2010, Judicial review.
  • R (on the application of The Governing Body of the Langley Park School for Girls) v Bromley LBC and The Governing Body of the Langley Park School for Boys – Feb 2009, Planning appeals – High Court, Judicial review.
  • J. Mawle and others v West Oxfordshire District Council – May 2007, Planning appeals – High Court.
  • Western Power Distributions Investments Ltd, R (on the application of) v Countryside Council for Wales – Jan 2007, Judicial review.
  • Regina (Bushell and Others) v Newcastle upon Tyne Licensing Justices and Another – Feb 2006, Licensing.
  • Coventry Airport Inquiry – Jan 2006, Planning inquiries.
  • R (Persimmon Homes (South East) Ltd and another) v Secretary of State for Transport – Jan 2005, Judicial review, Aviation.
  • Morbaine Ltd (2) Roberts (Abigail) v (1) First Secretary of State (2) Stoke on Trent City Council (3) Lear Management Ltd (2004)
    Jul 2004, Planning appeals – High Court.
  • R (on the application of Bushell & Others) v Newcastle Licensing Justices & Others – Jul 2004, Licensing, Environmental impact assessment.
  • R (on the application of I’m Your Man Ltd) v North Somerset Council – Feb 2004, Planning appeals – High Court.
  • Coppergate II retail development – Jan 2004, Planning inquiries.
  • Stevenage West – Jan 2004, Planning inquiries.
  • R (Jones) v Mansfield District Council – Oct 2003, Environmental impact assessment, Judicial review.
  • R (on the application of Mount Cook Land Ltd and another) v Westminster City Council – Oct 2003, Judicial review.
  • Sunderland Football Club Academy of Light – Sep 2003, Planning inquiries.
  • R (on the application of Crichton and another) v Wellingborough Borough Council – Dec 2002, Environmental impact assessment, Judicial review.
  • Sullivan v Warwick District Council – Dec 2002, Planning inquiries, Judicial review.
  • R (on the application of Medway Council and others) v Secretary of State for Transport – Nov 2002, Planning appeals – High Court, Judicial review, Aviation.
  • Hithermoor Waste Disposal Inquiry – Oct 2002.
  • London International Exhibition Centre, ExCel – Aug 2002, Planning inquiries.
  • Derby County Football Club Academy – Feb 2001, Planning inquiries.

Aviation & Aerospace

John is recognised as a leading practitioner in aviation, aerospace, planning, transport and environmental law.

His clients include airports, airlines, aerospace companies, major utilities and industrial companies in the UK and elsewhere, as well as banks, insurers, Government departments and agencies, local authorities, NGOs and individuals.

He has been involved in some of the leading cases in matters such as major airport development, aviation law, planning and environmental law, noise and key infrastructure projects including new roads, motorways, railways, tramways, ports, guided busways, power stations and waste to energy plants.

In aviation and aerospace, high-profile cases have included the development of London Heathrow, London Gatwick and London Stansted airports, as well as the development and use of regional and other airports at London Luton, Birmingham, Bournemouth, Coventry, Farnborough, London Oxford, Biggin Hill, Southend, Newcastle, East Midlands, Liverpool John Lennon, Sheffield, RAF Northolt, Dunsfold, Fairoaks, Plymouth, and a number of smaller General Aviation aerodromes and proposed heliports. He is the joint author of one of the key papers submitted to the Davies Commission on UK Airport Capacity in 2014 and has been appointed the legal adviser to the All Party Parliamentary Group on General Aviation in the UK Parliament. He is also the Chairman of The Air League, the voice of the aviation and aerospace sectors in the UK.

John is a well-known senior practitioner probably uniquely with detailed knowledge of the design, workings and regulation of airports and aerospace both in the civil/airline as well as military/defence sectors, involving the UK CAA, Ministry of Defence, Department for Transport, NATS, Eurocontrol, EASA, ICAO, airport operators and airlines, on the use and regulation of airports and aircraft, including the three dimensional aspects of air traffic control, radar, aircraft safety and accidents, airport design and surface access.

He has represented and advised or been involved with major international and other airlines both in the courts, at public inquiries and in government commissions and consultations. He has been a contributor on behalf of the airline industry to aviation policy documents including the UK Aviation and Airport Policy published by the UK Government.

Clients have included various Airport Operators and Authorities, Airlines and Aircraft Operators, Cargo Operators and Aviation and Aerospace Organisations and Companies including BAA, British Airways, BMI, BAE Systems, Farnborough International, Cathay Pacific, Dragonair, Low Cost Airlines including Ryanair and EasyJet, Flybe, TAG Aviation, Gama Aviation, Hangar 8, BBGA, and AOPA. Private individuals have included the Reuben Brothers, Dial Partners, banks and other airport owners, investors and operators.

John has been elected a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society, a member of the Aviation Club of the UK, with affiliation to the Aerospace Forum Asia, The Aero Club of Washington and The International Aviation Club, also in Washington. John was for a number of years the honorary legal adviser to The Air League and is now Chairman.  Within its membership and Council are a number of the UK’s foremost aviation and aerospace companies and organisations. Membership of the Aviation Club and or the Air League includes Airbus, Boeing, Rolls Royce, CFM International, British Airways, Emirates, Bombardier and CASCO, as well as a number of leading members of the UK Parliament.

His practical knowledge as an instrument rated fixed wing (aeroplane) pilot, a qualified rotary (helicopter) pilot, and his regular flying both in the UK and abroad is an invaluable addition to his skills when involved in aviation and aerospace matters professionally.



John is a recommended leader in Chambers & Partners, Legal 500 and Legal Experts for Aviation, Planning and Environmental Law.

He was awarded Acquisition International UK Aviation Law QC of the Year 2012/2013.


Chambers & Partners, 2018:

Recommended leader in Planning Law and Aviation Law: “an incisive decision-maker who inspires confidence within clients”, “(he) is particularly rated for his fantastic knowledge of airports and aircrafts-related work, he is a master of planning law tactics who is very good at managing clients expectations. Diplomatic and effective in style” (2008), “generates acclaim for his client-friendly attitude and nose for the best strategy… [he is a] terrier in court and really quick on his feet” (2009), “an excellent silk-particularly when it comes to cross- examining and a really superb team player” (2010) and “outstanding … [he] is an impressive lateral thinker who offers innovative legal and commercial solutions” (2011); “an impressive lateral thinker who offers innovative legal and commercial solutions” and is “great with clients.” (2012). “He thinks outside the box and challenges himself, clients and others to think in a different way which is refreshing” (2015),“A real expert in planning and aviation law; he is very impressive on that and on the crossover between the two areas” (2016), “Knowledgeable and tactically aware, particularly on CPO matters, “Has a good grasp of the issues and provides excellent advice on tactics and procedures.” (2017), “His technical nous enables him to tackle complex cases, whether they are in relation to engineering, environmental or compulsory purchase complications.” “He is a highly experienced advocate and specialist in aviation and planning issues,” “He is great to get advice from, as he’s very responsive and considered, but more commercial than the average silk” (2018).

Local Government Law: “his advice on planning and environmental law is particularly prized” (2009), “robust yet user-friendly approach” (2010), “He has great clarity of thought and displays enthusiasm for his cases.” “Reasonable in terms of both his fee and his approach, he really takes the time to try and understand what it is the client wants to achieve.” (2014),

Legal 500, 2017:

Recommended leader in Aviation Law “Recommended for his airport development expertise” (2010 and 2011); Environmental Law: “very impressive environmental specialist” (2008) and “a results-driven focus” (2010), “very enthusiastic and can think his way through complex problems to provide very practical outcomes” (2011), “An innovative and creative problem solver” (2015), “Major infrastructure projects, airport noise and pollution controls are his forte” (2016), ‘He provides robust and strategic advice, which provides clear guidance.’ (2017),  “a heavy hitter” (2017);

Planning Law: “good for no- holds-barred planning appeals, especially in the retail sector” (2008) and “results-driven” (2010), “(he is) able to think outside the box and come up with approaches to tackle novel and unusual issues” (2011), “ A very experienced practitioner”(2015), “There is nobody stronger for issues surrounding major infrastructure projects” (2016), “Recommended for his expertise in the aviation sector and his wider industry knowledge” (2017)

John's Practice Areas

    John's Sectors

    Call +44 (0)20 7832 1111 for more information

    Barrister portfolio


    Click the + icon next to any barrister to add their profile to this portfolio.