James Burton

Year of call:

+44 (0)20 7832 1111

“He is very impressive, very good on his feet, easy to work with and very personable; he has got everything.”
Chambers & Partners 

James specialises in environmental and planning law, related areas (such as CPO, Part I Land Compensation Act 1973, energy, aviation and traffic regulation) and civil liability.  His work often involves the overlap between his practice areas (e.g. nuisance and Part I claims).

James’ work is both domestic and international. Internationally, he has specific expertise in large scale toxic torts.

He appears regularly at public inquiry and in the High Court and Court of Appeal. He is equally comfortable working alone or as part of a large team in heavier disputes. In addition to major planning, CPO and Part I matters, James has substantial experience of very heavy group litigation (he was part of the counsel teams in the Abidjan Group Litigation and, more recently, the Jalla Litigation (both toxic tort dumping/spillage claims), the Accident Group Litigation (insurance) and the criminal proceedings into the Hatfield Rail Disaster).

James’ administrative law experience includes appointments as an investigating officer in respect of matters relating to allegations of misconduct in public office. He also has considerable Parliamentary experience, having appeared for various petitioners before both the Commons and Lords’ Select Committees for the High Speed 2 Bill.

James was awarded Environmental & Planning Junior of the Year at the Chambers UK Bar Awards 2015.

Bar Awards_Enviro&Plan_junior_2015_72dpi


Planning & Environmental

Cases, inquiries and hearings


General Planning Court work

James appears regularly in the Planning Court, on both sides of the argument. Recent cases of note include R (Fiske) v Test Valley Borough Council (2021) (challenge to grant of planning permission on novel legal ground, permission for judicial review granted at oral hearing December 2021); Keep Bourne End Green v Buckinghamshire Council & ors [2020] and Cranwell & ors v Guildford BC & ors [2019] (s.113 challenges to Local Plan allocations of land released from Green Belt, challenges refused); R (Bent) v Cambridgeshire County Council [2017] EWHC (challenge to a minerals planning permission on noise grounds, successfully resisted); R (Hill) v Stroud District Council [2016] EWHC (challenge to a major residential development on heritage grounds – misapplication of NPPF [14] tilted balance – successfully quashed); R (Palmer) v Herefordshire [2016] EWCA (important case re. impacts on setting of designated heritage asset and the correct approach to officers’ reports).

Earlier cases include R (Macrae) v Herefordshire [2012] EWCA (LPAs’ statutory duty to give reasons for a grant of permission and ‘paperchase’); R (Godfrey) v Southwark [2012] EWCA (substantive legitimate expectation); R (Street) v Cardiff City Council [2010] EWCA (successful challenge to grant of permission for a large balloon to be stationed by Cardiff Bay).

Planning inquiries

James regularly appears as sole or lead advocate in heavy planning inquiries.

Recent substantial planning inquiries include: mixed-use proposals for the iconic Tolworth Tower Complex site in Kingston-upon-Thames (a c.500 unit residential led scheme in the town centre, with a range of heavily contested issues, some novel) (2021); a greenfield resi. scheme in Vale of White Horse, entirely concerned (as between the main parties) with affordable housing viability and s.106 contributions (2021);  the conversion of listed Heythrop College, Kensington, into an extra care facility (2020); the proposed residential conversion of the historic London Electricity Board headquarters on Bethnal Green Gardens (2020); the (called in) public inquiry into the proposed Waterbeach (Levitt’s Field) Energy From Waste facility (2019); proposed residential redevelopment of the prominent corner site on Mile End Road/Burdett Road involving the celebrated Backstreet Club (2019); and the Surrey House, Kingston inquiry. Consideration of heritage assets is a speciality.

James has specific experience involving equestrian development, in particular high goal polo proposals. Notably, he secured permission (on appeal) for a major high goal polo facility in Green Belt and AONB at Barfold Farm (40 loose boxes, six tack rooms, yard, menage and change of use agricultural to equestrian, permission successfully secured – 2015) and has subsequently advised/appeared on a number of equestrian and high goal polo proposals.

James’ planning inquiry experience includes niche environmental work (such as the “Wightlink” ferries inquiry concerning the Lymington saltmarshes, where James appeared (successfully) for Natural England at an inquiry that marked a watershed for the concept of adaptive management as part of lawful mitigation within Art.6(3) appropriate assessment  – 2011) and a body of work involving on onshore wind energy (when it was still more encouraged by Government policy), such as at Truthan Barton and Dover North.

James also deals with the full range of planning enforcement work.

Development plans and policies and EiP

James has appeared at a number of examinations in public, including the EiP into the Wycombe Local Plan (for objectors), the EiP into the Guildford Local Plan (for objectors) and the EiP into the Breckland Local Plan (for the plan-making authority).

James has also advised on various neighbourhood plans and appeared (successfully) for the Claimant in R (RWE Npower Renewables Ltd) v. Milton Keynes Council [2013] EWHC 751 (Admin), for some time the leading case on the meaning and extent of “Local Development Documents”, “Development Plan Documents/Local Plans” and “Supplementary Planning Documents” (and see also R (Miller Homes) v Leeds City Council [2014] EWHC 82 (Admin)).


James regularly advisers developers, local planning authorities and third parties in relation to heritage matters, and they are a frequent feature of his planning inquiry work.

For cases of particular heritage note, in addition to R (Palmer) v Herefordshire [2016] EWCA and R (Hill) v Stroud [2016] EWHC, see also R (Miller) v North Yorkshire County Council and Tarmac [2009] EWHC 2172 (Admin).


James has considerable experience of energy from waste (the Waterbeach (Levitt’s Field) Energy From Waste called-in inquiry was a particularly heavy one), wind energy and solar energy (the R (Fiske) v Test Valley BC litigation, which is now in its third iteration, concerns solar energy). In addition to inquiries into wind energy developments (Truthan Barton and North Dover), and R (RWE Npower Renewables Ltd) v. Milton Keynes Council (noted above, re separation distances), Tegni Cymru Cyf v Welsh Ministers [2010] EWCA was challenge to a decision to refuse planning permission for a wind farm on noise grounds, and is important re. the scope of ETSU R-97.


James’ environmental works spans permitting issues, greenhouse gas reporting, common law nuisance, statutory nuisance, claims under Part I of the Land Compensation Act 1973, challenges to decisions under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, the Environmental Damage Regulations, the EIA (Agriculture) Regulations, general environmental crime and waste. This is in addition to the ‘environmental’ aspects of his planning work.

Nuisance and Part I Land Compensation Act 1973

James has appeared in most of the recent reported Part I cases and successfully guided others to favourable settlement.

Recent Part I cases include the claims against Aldridge & ors v London Southend Airport Co.Ltd : [2021] UKUT 0008 (LC) (lead cases successfully fought to trial); Mann & ors v Transport for London [2016] UKUT 0126 (LC) (successful appearance for claimants in claims arising out of Coulsden bypass – all 12 contested claims won at trial); Johnston & ors v TAG Farnborough Airport [2015] UKUT 534 (LC) (200+ claimants sought compensation in claims arising out of works to expand and upgrade nearby Farnborough Airport, trial of preliminary issues saw a split result); Barber & ors v Highways England (2017) successful settlement for all claimants in contested proceedings arising out of improvements to Dockspur roundabout, Felixstowe.

James’ common law nuisance and statutory nuisance practice includes physical discharge, odour and noise. He recently appeared (successfully) for the claimants in a heavy case in the Technology and Construction Court concerning flooding from a historic pipe, for which the local authority eventually accepted responsibility and ultimately settled (halfway through trial).

Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981: the SSSI regime

James has specific experience of inquiries into SSSI consents/refusals of consent (he appeared successfully for Natural England at the Benty Grange inquiry in 2017) and related litigation, including concerning the Environmental Damage Regulations.

EIA (Agriculture) Regulations

James appeared (successfully) for Natural England in one of the first cases to reach the High Court: R (Chanter) v Natural England [2015] EWHC 1221 (Admin).

Areas related to Planning & Environment


James appears (at inquiry, in the courts on challenges and in tribunal in relation to compensation) and advises on a range of CPO matters. His most notable case is Grafton Group v Secretary of State for Transport and Port of London Authority [2016] EWCA, where he appeared, with Peter Village QC, for the landowner and succeeded in quashing the CPO of Orchard Wharf in Tower Hamlets.


James’ most notable case is Tunneltech v Reeves (valuation officer) [2015] EWCA (concerning the agricultural exemption, which the Government has announced will lead to legislative change).

Highways cases and traffic orders

Notable cases include a successful claim for public nuisance brought against Cornwall County Council for closure of the highway under a purportedly lawful traffic order (2016).

Recent traffic regulation work includes advice on challenges to traffic orders in Chichester, Putney, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Wimbledon.


Civil Liability & Toxic Torts

James has a long-established civil liability practice, in which he is regularly instructed to deal with cases of significant value and complexity. His work includes professional negligence and general matters.


James has a particular specialism in claims arising out of alleged breach of public authorities’ statutory duties, particularly concerning heritage assets, claims with an environmental element, particularly international personal injury work, and catastrophic injury.

Recent notable cases include Liddle v Bristol City Council [2018] EWHC 3673 (QB), a fatal accident claim in which allegations were levelled against the Council in relation to the historic Princes Wharf outside the M-Shed Museum (successfully defended); Oliva v (1) Mahmoud (2) Liverpool Victoria [2014] (catastrophic brain injury suffered by a young Brazilian woman whilst working in London. The first known example of a periodical payments order tied to a foreign index (the index being a basket of Brazilian healthcare products and services, an approximation of ASHE 6115) (settled) and Metcalf v Audley Travel (2017) (fatal accident whilst on package tour in Brazil) (settled). James also dealt with all matters up to trial for the (successful) Claimant in Turska v Compensa [2016] EWHC.

Group litigation

Aldridge & ors v London Southend Airport Co. Ltd (2021) (Part I claim – see above).

Mann & ors v Transport for London (2016) (Part I claim – see above)

Secretary of State for Trade and Industry v Stuntbrand Line and others (2011) (heavy litigation between the Secretary of State and the shipping lines/P&I Clubs that stood behind them, arising out of the Rice and Thompson asbestos litigation).

Motto & Ors v Trafigura (2009) (a 30,000 claimant class action seeking damages for alleged environmental contamination in the Ivory Coast.

The Accident Group Litigation (2007) (professional negligence action on a grand scale. Brought by insurers to The Accident Group (“TAG”), against TAG Panel Solicitors

R v Balfour Beatty and Railtrack (2005) (prosecutions arising out of the Hatfield rail crash).


James has a sub-specialism here.

He has represented and advised the CAA in relation to a number of airspace change decisions.

Most recently, see R (Lasham Gliding Societ)y v Civil Aviation Authority [2019] EWHC 2118 (Admin). James, led by Gordon Nardell QC, successfully defended the CAA’s decision to approve an airspace change at Farnborough Airport. The judgment (of Thornton J) is the lead authority for interpretation of the CAA’s duties regarding airspace change.

Elsewhere, in addition to Part I work involving aerodromes (see above), James has advised on a range of aviation town and country planning matters. The North Dover windfarm inquiry also turned on aviation issues.


In addition to the planning cases and inquiries noted above, James deals with greenhouse gas emissions trading cases, advising and representing clients facing action from the Agency in relation to e.g. underreporting.

See also R (Homesun, Solar Century, Friends of the Earth) v Secretary of State [2012] EWCA (the much publicised solar feed-in tariff litigation, where James appeared successfully alongside the Claimants on behalf of two Interested Parties).


James was awarded Environmental & Planning Junior of the Year at the Chambers & Partners Bar Awards 2015.

He is ranked in Chambers and Partners as a leading junior in Planning Law and Environment and in The Legal 500 as a leading junior in Planning Law, Environment and Personal Injury.

James is also regularly ranked as one of the Top Rated Planning Juniors in Planning Magazine’s Annual Survey.


“He is very precise and thorough, extremely user-friendly and always enthusiastic.” “He has a keen eye for detail.” Chambers & Partners 2022
A very senior junior who always steps up to the mark and has the ability to understand, interpret and explain massively complicated statutes.” The Legal 500 2022
“Very approachable and technically accurate.” The Legal 500 2022
“I am impressed by his breadth of knowledge, efficiency and thoroughness. He is extremely committed and hard-working, as well as personable, always approachable and patient in explaining complex matters to clients.” Chambers & Partners 2017
“An excellent planning barrister, with strength in associated areas, who is a good all-rounder.” Chambers & Partners 2017
“He is very personable and puts a lot of time and effort into cases.” Chambers & Partners 2017
“Very thorough and intellectually bright,” “he demonstrates meticulous preparation and has a keen eye for detail.” Chambers & Partners 2017
“Produces work of impeccable quality.” Legal 500 2016
“Highly motivated, and has an excellent sense of strategy and tactics.” Legal 500 2015
“He is very impressive, very good on his feet, easy to work with and very personable; he has got everything.” Chambers and Partners 2014
“He is a brilliant planning junior and one to watch.” Chambers and Partners 2014
“He is always very clear and decisive.” Chambers and Partners 2014

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

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