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John Steel KC

"John's attention to detail and his ability to distil that into actions and focus is very impressive”.

John is an experienced advocate in all areas of planning, environmental, property and real estate law. He acts in many types of cases including major infrastructure cases, especially those regarding airports and renewable energy and is also well versed in all aspects of leisure, transport, retail, equine, sports, education, residential, heritage and compulsory purchase cases. He also has specialist knowledge of aviation and airspace matters.

John acts for and advises developers and landowners, local planning authorities, and government authorities, groups and individuals. He presents cases in the High Court, Court of Appeal, at inquiries and hearings, local plan examinations and development consent order (DCO) examinations. He is also a qualified mediator and international arbitrator. 

Areas of expertise

Planning and property

John has been practising in planning and property law since 1978 and has wide experience in all aspects of the subject. He is a leading member of the planning Bar and appears on a regular basis in the High Court as well as at planning inquiries and examinations. 

John is particularly well known for his knowledge and experience in aviation and aerospace matters, including the development of airports, acting for clients in regulatory matters including airspace changes as well as advising airports, airlines, the Civil Aviation Authority, the Department of Transport and local authorities.

Cases of note

  • M42 Motorway Service Areas Appeals - Represented Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council local planning authority and local highway authority. Combined public inquiry into appeals by Extra and Applegate for motorway service areas (MSAs) on the M42 motorway south of Solihull in the Metropolitan Green Belt.
  • Development Consent Order (DCO) Sunnica, Newmarket - Represents the racehorse industry and others opposing DCO application for 1200 ha solar energy development north-east of Newmarket.
  • Cheltenham, Epsom and Sandown Racecourses - Advises the Jockey Club concerning matters relating to racecourses, including their use expansion and development. Recently obtained injunctions in a leading case concerning touts (persons unknown). 
  • Luton and Stansted Airports Airspace Change Procedure - Advising on airspace changes to Luton and Stansted airports.
  • Manston Airport Development Consent Order (DCO) - Advises the Minister and Secretary of State on the decision concerning the DCO for expansion of Manston Airport.
  • Harrow School Sports and Science development - Acts for Harrow School obtaining planning permission for major new sports centre in the Metropolitan Open Land (MOL) with a new science department.
  • Barnsley Local Plan - Acts for Barnsley Council throughout the local plan process including at hearings.


John has many years of experience in sports law. He has acted for developers, owners, individuals and others in relation to sports development, commercial contracts and disciplinary disputes. These have ranged widely from cases involving football (development of major stadia and academies), Rugby (Twickenham Stadium), Tennis (development of indoor courts), University and Schools (development of sports centres, indoor facilities and grounds), Racecourses (Cheltenham, Newmarket, Epsom, Sandown and other JCR Racecourses), aviation (development of helicopter landing pads and runways), London Olympics (Compulsory Purchase Order), to disputes involving individuals in sport concerning disciplinary action and commercial contracts. 

His clients include individual sports personalities, Premier Division Football Clubs such as Chelsea, Arsenal and Sunderland FCs, the Rugby Football Union, Dukes Meadows Tennis Centre, The Hurlingham Club, Harrow and John Lyon Schools, Jockey Club Estates, Tattersalls Equestrian Auctioneers, Godolphin Thoroughbred Racing, HRH The Aga Khan, individual landowners establishing equestrian stables and centres, and a number of governmental departments, bodies and local authorities. He has advised and represented Jockey Club Racecourses for a number of years including in successfully obtaining a ground-breaking injunction in the High Court to prevent touts selling tickets on land owned by JCR at Cheltenham Racecourse.

His practice includes judicial review, public and regulatory law, planning, aviation, property and environmental law, noise controls, public entertainment licensing, nuisance and trespass, footpaths and rights of way. He is a trained mediator and a qualified arbitrator.


  • "John's attention to detail and his ability to distil that into actions and focus is very impressive." (Chambers and Partners 2022)
  • "He is incredibly hard-working and tenacious." (Chambers and Partners 2022)
  • “His strengths include attention to detail, a commercial approach and outlook, insightful inputs, legal expertise and the fact he is readily approachable.” (The Legal 500 2022)
  • “He is very much a team player.” (The Legal 500 2022)
  • “John has a vast amount of knowledge in both aviation and planning Law. Very helpful and honest advice given on a range of different issues.” (The Legal 500 2022)
  • “An incisive decision-maker who inspires confidence within clients.”
  • (Chambers and Partners 2021)
  • “He is great to get advice from, as he’s very responsive and considered, but more commercial than the average silk.” (Chambers and Partners 2020)