Planning Law

Established over two decades ago, Carson McDowell’s planning law team exists in recognition of the need amongst its diverse client portfolio to deliver specific and tailored advice in the specialist area of Northern Irish planning law. With national and European jurisprudence and legislation on planning issues emerging on a near daily basis, the provision of planning law advice in Northern Ireland requires the expertise of lawyers specialising in this increasingly complex area.

The planning law team at Carson McDowell is the largest team of specialist planning lawyers in Northern Ireland, with each of the team members practising exclusively in the fields of planning and environmental law.

What we do

  • The instigation and defence of judicial reviews of planning decisions
  • The co-ordination of major planning applications
  • Advice on the form, content and lawfulness of environmental statements
  • Advice on the form, content and lawfulness of strategic environmental assessments
  • Advice on the form, content and lawfulness of habitats regulations assessments
  • The preparation of planning and roads agreements
  • Representation of clients at area plan inquiries, roads inquiries and planning appeals
  • Advice on comprehensive development legislation
  • Advice on planning conditions and lawful amendment of applications
  • Making, opposing, and monitoring of applications for planning permission
  • Advice on areas of special control including legislation and case law relating to conservation areas, listed buildings and historic monuments
  • Advising on all aspects of planning legislation, jurisprudence and planning process
  • Planning due diligence pursuant to the acquisition and financing of renewable energy developments in Northern Ireland
  • Planning due diligence - including due diligence pursuant to the acquisition of real estate development companies and assets, energy from waste plants, and the financing of such acquisitions of business operating in Northern Ireland for local and international investors

What Others Say About Us

Chambers and Partners UK 2020

What the team is known for

Continues to be a go-to team for clients facing complex planning and environmental law challenges, including judicial reviews and appeals, as well as planning inquiries. Able to handle the planning aspects of sizeable infrastructure projects, such as port and airport developments. Advises both public and private sector groups. Recent work includes handling the planning aspects of large energy infrastructure projects, including renewable energy projects.


Clients describe the team as "very diligent and committed - the best planning firm in Northern Ireland."

One client says: "I have always been extremely impressed with their drive, commitment and professionalism."

Work highlights

Assisted John Hogg Operational in obtaining planning permission for a new Game of Thrones studio attraction in Banbridge.

Notable practitioners

Gary McGhee leads the planning law team and is known to be "a real expert in the field." Interviewees characterise him as "incredibly diligent, hardworking and committed," adding that he is "excellent to work with, very personable and collegiate." He is noted for his work on judicial reviews.

Grant McBurney has significant experience in judical reviews of planning decisions, as well as advising on planning applications. Clients describe him as "highly professional and very efficient."

The Legal 500 2020

What the team is known for

Carson McDowell advises on a range of high-profile planning and environment matters, including planning applications for large developments, judicial reviews of planning decisions, and public inquiries. The team is highly active advising major Northern Irish companies in relation to projects in the energy and infrastructure sectors, as well as residential and commercial developments.

Notable practitioners

Gary McGhee leads an experienced team, which includes Grant McBurney and associate Sarah Dunlop.

Work highlights

Advising John Hogg Operational on obtaining planning permission for the new Game of Thrones studio attraction in Banbridge, County Down.

Advising SONI in relation to the development of the cross-border North-South electricity interconnector project.

Advising Indaver on judicial review proceedings challenging the lawfulness of planning permission granted for a waste incinerator in Newtownabbey.

Advising Southern Regional College on the successful acquisition of planning permission for a new £45m college in Craigavon, County Armagh.

Advising Swinford on the planning application for a £400m mixed-use development on a riverfront site in Belfast city centre.

Significant clients

Belfast Harbour Commissioners, Belfast International Airport, Northern Ireland Electricity / SONI, Tesco, Ards & North Down Council, Elgin Energy, Southern Regional College, John Hogg Operational Limited, Lough Neagh Sand Traders, Swinford (Sirocco) Limited, Indaver.