“He is very impressive, very good on his feet, easy to work with and very personable; he has got everything.” Chambers and Partners
James specialises in environmental law, planning law and linked compulsory purchase order (CPO)/compensation work (including Part I Land Compensation Act 1973), related areas (including energy, aviation, traffic regulation and highways/public rights of way (PRoW)) and also civil liability. His work often involves the overlap between his practice areas (e.g. environmental law, common law nuisance and Part I claims; planning protection for heritage assets and occupiers’ liability).
James’ work is primarily domestic, but internationally he has specific expertise in large scale toxic torts.
James 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 team.
In addition to major planning, CPO/Part I and high-value catastrophic civil claims, James has substantial experience of very heavy group litigation (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 considerable work petitioning parliament (HS2) and also appointments as an investigating officer into allegations of misconduct in public office.
James was named Environmental and Planning Junior of the Year at the Chambers UK Bar Awards 2015.
Areas of expertise
“… very precise and thorough… extremely user-friendly and always enthusiastic." (Chambers and Partners 2022)…has a keen eye for detail” (Chambers and Partners, 2022)
“Very approachable and technically accurate” (The Legal 500, 2022)
James’ planning work ranges from advice on applications, to representation at inquiries (s78 Town and Country Planning Act 1990 appeals, enforcement appeals and examinations in public (EiP)), and advocacy in the High Court and beyond.
James has a particular interest, and experience, in planning matters involving heritage, viability, habitats/biodiversity and environmental assessment, low carbon technology/climate change and, also, equestrian proposals.
James practices in complimentary areas, including: environmental law, CPO/compensation work (including Part I, Land Compensation Act 1973), aviation, traffic regulation, highways/PRoW, and parliamentary petitioning work (where James has substantial experience regarding HS2).
James is instructed for developers, local planning authorities (LPAs) and third parties.
James has represented and advised the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in relation to a number of airspace change decisions. Most recently, see R (Lasham Gliding Societ)y v Civil Aviation Authority  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 Mrs Justice Thornton) is the lead authority for interpretation of the CAA’s duties regarding airspace change.
James has appeared on and advised in relation to several claims under Part I of the Land Compensation Act 1973 concerning aerodromes (see CPO/compensation section).
James also regularly advises on aviation town and country planning matters.
-- Compulsory Purchase and Compensation
James regularly deals with public inquiries into CPOs and compensation claims in the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber), and where necessary related litigation in the High Court and beyond. James is instructed as an independent expert to determine disputed CPO compensation. He has a particular specialism in claims under Part I of the Land Compensation Act 1973 (diminution in property value by reason of use of public works).
Recent cases of note include:
- Aldridge & ors v London Southend Airport Co.Ltd  UKUT (LC) - lead cases in Part I claim successfully fought to trial.
- Grafton Group v Secretary of State for Transport and Port of London Authority  EWCA - James appeared, with Peter Village QC, for the landowner and succeeded in quashing the CPO of Orchard Wharf in Tower Hamlets, which followed a five-week public inquiry.
- Mann & ors v Transport for London  UKUT (LC) - successful appearance for claimants in Part I claims arising out of Coulsdon bypass.
- Johnston & ors v TAG Farnborough Airport & Dandy & ors v same  UKUT (LC) - 200+ claimants sought compensation in Part I claims arising out of works to expand and upgrade nearby Farnborough Airport, trial of preliminary issues saw a split result.
- Substantial parliamentary petitioning work for public authorities and landowners affected by HS2.
- Many other cases have been pursued to successful settlement before trial/hearing.
James also undertakes rating work. He appeared in Tunneltech v Reeves (valuation officer)  EWCA - concerning the agricultural exemption.
-- Examination in Public
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  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  EWHC 82 (Admin)).
-- High Court Planning Challenges
James appears regularly in the Planning Court, on both sides of the argument.
Cases of note:
- R (Fiske) v Test Valley Borough Council  EWHC - challenge to grant of planning permission based on novel legal ground, permission for judicial review granted at oral hearing December 2021, final decision awaited.
- Keep Bourne End Green v Buckinghamshire Council & ors  EWHC and Cranwell & ors v Guildford BC & ors  EWHC - s.113 challenges to Local Plan allocations of land released from Green Belt, challenges refused.
- R (Bent) v Cambridgeshire County Council  EWHC - challenge to a minerals planning permission on noise grounds, successfully resisted.
- R (Hill) v Stroud District Council  EWHC - challenge to a major residential development on heritage grounds – misapplication of National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)  tilted balance – successfully quashed.
- R (Palmer) v Herefordshire  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  EWCA (LPA’s statutory duty to give reasons for a grant of permission and ‘paperchase’); R (Godfrey) v Southwark  EWCA (substantive legitimate expectation) and R (Street) v Cardiff City Council  EWCA (successful challenge to grant of permission for a large viewing balloon to be stationed by Cardiff Bay).
James also appeared in various cases concerning onshore wind energy development, when onshore wind policy was more favourable, such as Coronation Power Ltd v (1) Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (2) Too Big Too Close  EWHC (s.288 challenge to refusal of permission for wind farm successfully seen off) and Tegni Cymru Cyf v Welsh Ministers  EWCA (a challenge to a decision to refuse planning permission for a wind farm on noise grounds, and important re. the scope of ETSU R-97).
-- Highways, Footpaths and Rights of Way
James is regularly instructed in relation to highways issues, including definitive map issues, and traffic regulation.
Recent traffic regulation work includes advice on challenges to traffic orders in Chichester, Putney, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Wimbledon, Croydon and elsewhere.
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).
-- Planning Appeals, Hearings & Inquiries; Planning Enforcement & Planning Application
James regularly appears as sole or lead advocate in heavy planning inquiries, for both appellant and LPA. These frequently involve highly technical disputes over issues such as viability or low carbon technology. Consideration of heritage assets is a speciality. James also has specific experience involving equestrian development, in particular high goal polo proposals.
Recent planning inquiries of note 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, including viability and climate change matters) (2021)
- the proposed conversion of listed Heythrop College, Kensington, into an extra care facility (2020) (with a focus on heritage and loss of a community facility)
- the proposed residential conversion of the historic London Electricity Board headquarters on Bethnal Green Gardens (2020) (with a focus on heritage)
- the (called in) public inquiry into the proposed Waterbeach (Levitt’s Field) Energy From Waste facility in Cambridgeshire (2019, decision 2020) (concerning low carbon technology/climate change with a focus on heritage impacts)
- proposed residential redevelopment of the prominent corner site on Mile End Road/Burdett Road involving the celebrated Backstreet Club (with a focus on agent of change and noise, plus heritage) (2019)
- the Surrey House, Kingston inquiry (2019) (with a focus on heritage and viability), and
- major high goal polo facility in Green Belt and Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) at Barfold Farm (40 loose boxes, six tack rooms, yard, menage and change of use agricultural to equestrian, permission successfully secured – 2015).
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). It also encompasses energy development (in addition to Waterbeach energy from waste (EfW) noted above, James has considerable experience of inquiries into wind energy developments, e.g. Truthan Barton and North Dover).
James also deals with the full range of planning enforcement work.
“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) “… a keen eye for detail.” (Chambers and Partners 2022)
James’ environmental work spans permitting issues, greenhouse gas reporting, nuisance, trespass, contaminated land, decisions concerning sites of special scientific interest (SSSIs) under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, the application of the Environmental Damage Regulations, waste, unauthorised discharge and general environmental crime. This is in addition to the ‘environmental’ aspects of his planning work, and other complementary areas (such as claims under Part I of the Land Compensation Act 1973, aviation, traffic regulation/highways/PRoW and large-scale toxic torts).
James is instructed for operators/alleged offenders and also for regulators (the latter including many instructions for Natural England).
Cases that fought to trial/hearing/inquiry of note include:
- Patels v Barnet LBC  EWHC - a heavy case in the Technology and Construction Court (TCC) concerning flooding from a historic pipe, successfully pursued for the claimants, with whom the local authority ultimately accepted responsibility for the pipe and then settled on excellent terms (halfway through trial).
- The Benty Grange public inquiry (2017) - into an appeal against Natural England’s decision to vary a consent for farming activities on a SSSI under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (appeal successfully seen off for Natural England).
- Environment Agency v Mick George Ltd (2015) - Crown Court sentencing of company following discharge to waters in breach of permit and guilty plea (submissions regarding basis of plea and mitigation accepted and favourably reflected in sentence).
- R (Chanter) v Natural England  EWHC - successful appearance for Natural England in one of the first cases to reach the High Court concerning the EIA (Agriculture) Regulations.
- R (Heath & Hampstead Society) v City of London & Environment Agency  EWHC - challenge to the decision making of the City of London regarding works to the ponds to address flood risk.
Personal Injury and Civil Liability
James has a long-established civil liability practice, in which he is regularly instructed to deal with cases of significant value and complexity, including catastrophic personal injury. His work spans civil claims in nuisance, employers' liability, occupiers’ liability, road traffic and international injury, and includes group litigation.
James has a particular specialism in claims arising out of alleged breach of public authorities’ statutory duties, including claims concerning heritage assets, or those with an environmental element.
Cases of note:
- The Jalla litigation concerning an oil spill off the Nigerian coast.
- Barrow v Merrett  EWHC (QB) - a catastrophic personal injury claim.
- Liddle v Bristol City Council  EWHC (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  - 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);
- Metcalf v Audley Travel (2017) - fatal accident whilst on package tour in Brazil (settled).
- 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 (settled).
James was named Environmental and Planning Junior of the Year at the Chambers and 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.
- “He is very precise and thorough, extremely user-friendly and always enthusiastic.” “He has a keen eye for detail.” Chambers and 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
[QUOTES FROM 2021 TO 2017?]
- “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 and Partners 2017
- “An excellent planning barrister, with strength in associated areas, who is a good all-rounder.” Chambers and Partners 2017
- “He is very personable and puts a lot of time and effort into cases.” Chambers and Partners 2017
- “Very thorough and intellectually bright,” “he demonstrates meticulous preparation and has a keen eye for detail.” Chambers and Partners 2017
- “Produces work of impeccable quality.” The Legal 500 2016
- “Highly motivated, and has an excellent sense of strategy and tactics.” The 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