Carson McDowell has unrivalled experience in the retail sector acting for some of the largest shopping centre developers and investors in Northern Ireland and a whole host of household brand name tenants including Tesco, Top Shop, Burtons, Bhs, Fat Face, Jack Wills, Waterstones, Ikea, and Argos.

We provide a full service package for new developments from site assembly, planning and environmental advice, development agreements, construction and regulatory advice, and commercial leasing. Once retail developments are up and running we offer asset management assistance, property litigation support, and a full debt collection service. In the current, volatile economic climate, our insolvency team has proven invaluable by providing sensible advice for both insolvent tenant clients and their landlords. In addition, retail clients often need support from other specialised departments within the firm such as the employment or corporate teams.

The team works closely with many of the leading retail surveying and consultancy practices in Northern Ireland and beyond, often hosting joint briefings, and the team is also actively involved in many retail organisations such as the British Council of Shopping Centres. The depth and breadth of our retail experience and our profile within the sector, helps us appreciate the unique pressures and issues faced by retail clients and assists us to find the best and most cost effective solutions.

What we do

  • Site assembly for retail developments
  • Planning and environmetal law advice for retail developments including the instigation and defence of judicial reviews of retail planning decisions
  • Development agreements
  • Construction contracts/warranties
  • Commercial leasing
  • Employment advice
  • Debt collection
  • Insolvency advice
  • Asset management support

What Others Say About Us

Chambers and Partners UK 2015

Rosemary Carson - Real Estate:

Rosemary Carson heads the retail team and is noted for her expertise and lectures in the education sector. Sources praise her "technical expertise and commercial desire to get the deal done."

Gary McGhee - Planning:

Gary McGhee maintains an undisputed position as a leading figure in the sector, acting across the spectrum of complex, high-profile planning work. Sources call him "a master tactician," "forensic, responsive and client-focused," and "without doubt a planning lawyer through and through."

Stuart Murphy - Construction:

Stuart Murphy's skills are recognised by market commentators. He heads the department and has more than 20 years' experience of construction matters. One client comments: "We go to him for advice on which course of action would get the best result. He knows his subject matter inside out."

Orlagh O’Neill - Employment:

Orlagh O'Neill is the head of department and an "exemplary lawyer" who handles a variety of employment-related cases, with a focus on contentious matters. Variously described by clients as "practical, pragmatic and knowledgeable," and "down to earth and sensible", she is praised as "one of the best client-focused lawyers in Belfast."

​The Legal 500 2020

What the team is known for

Carson McDowell has 'comprehensive knowledge' and a 'client-friendly approach'. The team advises on local and international investments and major developments in the region, and is noted for its extensive experience in the retail sector, acting for a significant number of retail tenants as well as the landlords of shopping centres and retail parks


One source says: "The team has outstanding knowledge of commercial property law."

Another states: "They offer very professional, down-to-earth advice."

Notable practitioners

Dawson McConkey took over as head of the practice in 2018, following Rosemary Carson's move to a consultancy role; both he and Emma Cooper have particular expertise in the energy sector.


Advised the shareholders of the Lagan Group on the sale of the entire building materials group to Breedon Holdings (Jersey) Limited, a member of Breedon Group Plc.

Advising Belfast Harbour Commissioners on the acquisition of the Obel Office Block, one of the landmark buildings in Belfast, which was the year's largest standalone commercial property acquisition in Belfast city centre.

Advised Northern Ireland Investment Fund on the financing of the development of one of Belfast's largest city centre office blocks, the client's first loan into Northern Ireland.

Advised Valero Logistics UK on a significant multimillion-pound acquisition of a fuel terminal.

Acted for the Israeli-based Fattal Hotels Group in its £800m acquisition of a leading chain of hotels across the British Isles for £800m.

Significant clients

Belfast Harbour Commissioners, Belfast International Airport, McAleer & Rushe Group, Northstone, Bywater Group, Northern Ireland Investment Fund, Royal Mail Group, RES Group, Sports Direct Group, Turkington Group.