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 Planning, environment & climate law

Planning, environment & climate law

We operate across both the public and private sectors, advising clients ranging from planning authorities, regulatory bodies, advisory bodies and developers of renewable energy, commercial, industrial and residential projects.


Specialist planning and environmental law advice

Planning and environmental issues are becoming increasingly complex and ever more subject to dispute and challenges. They can be the deciding factor in the success or otherwise of any development proposal and can consume extensive resources and time if not handled professionally.

We operate across both the public, and private and third sectors, advising clients ranging from planning authorities, regulatory bodies, advisory bodies, consultatory groups / individuals and developers of renewable energy, commercial, industrial and residential projects.

Our breadth of experience – which includes some of Scotland’s most high-profile planning projects – allows us to offer our clients a comprehensive perspective on the issues they face, and offer practical, commercially driven advice on how to overcome them.

We work closely with our clients at the leading edge of progress on the key environmental law topic of climate change: working on renewables projects; advising on evolving government policies and dealing with legal challenges on everything from peat preservation/restoration and flora/fauna management to licencing for exploration and extraction of new oil.


Meet the team

Our specialist team of lawyers, with more than 20 years’ experience advising on all aspects of planning and environmental law, can guide you from the earliest stage of your development proposal through to appeals and inquiries where required.


Our services

We advise on planning strategy for projects on all scales. Crucially, we are also able to interpret the full implications of development plans and planning policy – allowing your projects the best chance of success.

Compulsory purchase orders and compensation


We represent all parties involved in compulsory purchase projects, including acquiring authorities, landowners, tenants and objectors.

We provide advice at all stages of the project, including written submissions, representation at hearings and negotiating compensation claims.

We advise acquiring authorities on how best to achieve the proposed development while avoiding the potential legal pitfalls. As well as representing traditional acquiring authorities such as planning authorities, we have also advised renewable energy operators who may benefit from compulsory purchase powers under generating licences.

We have experience in compulsory purchase projects involving road schemes, bridges, energy infrastructure, and urban renewal.

Development support


The success of all development projects is dependent on planning. We provide planning law advice to developers, landowners and other interested parties at all stages of the development process. The most common services we provide include:

  • Making representations on and participating in hearings and inquiries concerning emerging local development plans.
  • Advising on the availability of permitted development rights.
  • Objecting to planning applications.
  • Applying for certificates of lawfulness of existing or proposed use.
  • Carrying out legal audits of planning applications, pre-application consultation exercises, and environmental impact assessments.
  • Applying for ‘Section 42 planning permissions’ (applications to change the conditions of existing planning permission).
  • Negotiating section 75 agreements, including requirements for developer contributions, decommissioning bonding and roads contributions.

Enforcement action


We represent all parties involved in planning enforcement, including planning authorities, landowners and other occupiers.

We provide advice at all stages, including investigation of potential breaches, negotiation in advance of formal enforcement, written appeals and representation at hearings.

When representing planning authorities, we advise on general enforcement strategy, using the most appropriate enforcement tools, claiming under performance bonds where available, taking direct action and recovering costs, and liaising with prosecution authorities.

We advise property owners and occupiers, ranging from individual homeowners to international energy companies. We provide early advice on the chances of successfully resisting enforcement action, robustly defend your position where the prospects are reasonable, and advise on alternatives to formal enforcement where the prospects are low.

We have experience in planning enforcement ranging from extensions to houses, conversion from residential to short term letting, retail and office developments, wind farms, quarries, and open case coal sites.

Planning appeals, judicial reviews & public inquiries


We are recognised as a leading public law litigation practice with strong planning and environmental litigation credentials. We have an outstanding reputation for handling complex ad hoc and high-profile planning and environmental disputes, acting on pivotal cases for a wide range of clients: from government bodies, to environmental campaign groups, to major corporate concerns.

We regularly represent clients in planning appeals, in judicial review challenges concerning planning, environmental and climate change issues and at public inquiries. We have significant experience of advising and representing clients on the full suite of issues and legal challenges that may arise in relation to development projects, including impacts on built, natural and historic environments.

Our extensive experience in representing clients at public local inquiries is particularly strong in relation to renewables developments, where issues raised often include the balance of benefit of the renewable energy source (ever more important in light of climate change commitments, including following commitments made at COP26) and other important factors such as peat/carbon preservation/restoration, impact on protected land, plants and wildlife and consequences for the historic environment. Our experience in acting for those with commercial interests, planning authorities and statutory consultees gives the team insights from all perspectives and broad experience to draw upon.



Working closely with Harper Macleod’s commercial property, corporate and banking teams and the corporate and banking teams of other UK and international law firms, we provide planning law support for a range of transactions.

In property transactions, we carry out planning due diligence to ensure the property benefits from the planning permission expected by the purchaser. We also advise on planning promotions agreements, suspensive planning conditions and planning warranties.

We regularly undertake planning due diligence to support business acquisitions, investments and other corporate transactions. We have particular experience advising purchasers of renewable energy projects, including onshore and offshore wind, hydro, solar and battery storage.

With banking transactions, we ensure that the security subjects have the planning permissions required to support the security value. We also advise banks and other funders on requests for consent to Section 75 agreements.


Our work



Representing Greenpeace in a legal challenge to the UK Government’s grant of consent which allows BP and Ithaca Energy to produce oil and gas from the Vorlich field in the North Sea. The challenge was based on failure to undertake adequate environmental impact assessment and failure by the UK Government to transpose an EU directive relating to environmental assessments into UK law.

Advising a planning authority on a judicial review challenge raised in relation to a challenge two prior approval decisions taken by the Council in terms of Class 67 of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Scotland) Order 1992.

Public hearings and inquiries


In the past 5 years, Harper Macleod solicitors have conducted 14 public inquiries and hearings on behalf of public sector clients. These inquiries are often high profile as they often relate to large scale projects which raise issues of national importance.

The specialist knowledge we have developed acting for planning authorities and regulators adds an extra dimension to the advice we are able provide to developer clients and other stakeholders. Examples include:

Represented NatureScot (previously Scottish Natural Heritage) at Scotland’s first fully ‘virtual’ public local inquiry concerning a proposed windfarm development which NatureScot objected to on the basis of significant adverse impacts on nationally important sensitive habitats.

Advised Dumfries and Galloway Council at a public inquiry into an application for consent under Section 36 of the Electricity Act for the proposed Sanquhar 2 wind farm.

Advised Glasgow City Council at a public hearing as part of a planning appeal against the Council’s refusal of planning permission for a large build to rent housing development.

Represented Historic Environment Scotland in the public inquiry arising from planning appeals on proposed re-development of the former Royal High School of Edinburgh (RHS).  The RHS is one of the most culturally important buildings in Edinburgh.  HES objected to two high-profile applications to convert the RHS building into a 5 star hotel on the basis of adverse impacts on cultural heritage (including impacts on category A listed buildings; the setting of an ancient monument; and the Edinburgh Old and New Towns World Heritage Site).

Represented NatureScot at a public inquiry into a proposed new golf course at Coul Links, near Dornoch.

Renewable energy projects


Advised Energiekontor in relation planning, roads and other regulatory consents required for Longhill wind farm, a 50MW project in West Lothian, and the subsequent sale to Capital Dynamics in March 2021. Longhill is one of the first subsidy free wind farms to commence construction in Scotland.

Advised Octopus Investments on the planning and environmental aspects of the acquisition of the project rights to the net 17MW energy recovery facility on the Oldhall Industrial Estate in Irvine, Ayrshire, capable of processing over 185,600 tonnes per annum of non-recyclable household and commercial & industrial waste. This facility will be the first large-scale, subsidy free energy recovery facility in western Scotland.

Advised InfraRed Capital Partners on the financial close of a £78 million investment for a 100% interest in Afton Wind Farm – a fully consented, construction ready 25 turbine, 50 MW onshore wind farm located in the south west of Scotland.

Advised Foresight Group on the acquisition of the project rights to the 50MW Blackpark battery storage project in Nairn for ForesightGroup which included advice on how to secure the cabling rights for the project to the substation from various third party landowners.

Carried out planning and environmental due diligence for Aberdeen Standard Investments infrastructure debt team on its loan of £43m to finance 6 operational hydro-electric schemes all of which are situated on rivers in the Scottish Highlands.

Planning Obligation Agreement


Advising City of Edinburgh on section 75 planning agreements (similar to English section 106 agreements) which provide for the payment of developer contributions for a number of residential housing and commercial developments in and around Edinburgh. These cover contributions towards: the city’s tram network; transport projects; education infrastructure; healthcare infrastructure; and affordable housing.

Advising leading renewable energy developers and operators, Energiekontor, on section 75 agreements dealing with decommissioning requirements and bonding for a number of onshore wind energy developments.

Advising the University of St Andrews on a section 75 planning agreement for a 61 unit development of student and staff accommodation.

Advising leading residential developers, MCR Group, on section 75 agreements for two large scale residential developments in Edinburgh.

Advising leading quarry operator, Hillhouse Quarry Group, on section 75 agreements required to facilitate an extension to an existing quarry in Ayrshire.


“The team is very responsive and always able to meet the client’s deadlines.”

– Chambers UK 2024

“They are very good at picking up what is important for a client commercially and what legal instruments are available to reach these goals.”

– Chambers UK 2024

“Strong background in advising public sector clients, offering cost-effective advice and representation.”

– The Legal 500 2024

“Very experienced and capable team.”

– The Legal 500 2024

Peter Ferguson “is very efficient and organised and is a sound individual to work with.” “He makes time to discuss matters in detail.”

– Chambers UK 2024

“Calum Gee is a rising star.”

– Chambers UK 2024

“Jennifer Jack and Peter Ferguson are very experienced with sound judgement and a personable manner.”

– The Legal 500 2024

“Jennifer Jack is a very prominent public law specialist who has recently appeared in many high-profile planning inquiries. She quite correctly has received many professional accolades in the past.”

– The Legal 500 2024

“Peter Ferguson offers excellent pragmatic advice.”

– The Legal 500 2024



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Get in touch

Call us for free on 0330 159 5555 or complete our online form below to submit your enquiry or arrange a call back.

Speak to us today on 0330 159 5555

Get in touch


Get in touch

Call us for free on 0330 159 5555 or complete our online form below to submit your enquiry or arrange a call back.