John Fitzsimons

Call: 2016

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John is regularly instructed by a wide variety of public and private clients including local authorities, developers, and other public bodies. He is ranked in Legal 500 as a “rising star” at the Planning Bar.

Before coming to the Bar, John worked at the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and as a paralegal in a leading Irish law firm. He interned at JUSTICE and the Court of Justice of the European Union and tutored Public Law and European Law to undergraduate and postgraduate law students.

John holds a degree in Law and French from Trinity College Dublin and a BCL degree from the University of Oxford (Worcester College).

John enjoys volunteering and is always looking for new volunteering opportunities. He often volunteers for the Bar Pro Bono Unit, the Environmental Law Foundation and Southwark Law Centre. He has previously volunteered for the Free Representation Unit, the Irish Innocence Project, the Voluntary Tuition Programme of Trinity College Dublin and Vocalise Prison Debating.

John is accredited for public access work. This means he can be instructed by anyone directly. Enquiries about this are welcomed.

As well as his work at the Bar, John sits as a non-executive director on the board of Innisfree Housing Association (http://www.innisfree.org.uk) and regularly provides data protection training on behalf of PDP Training to a range of data protection and privacy professionals in both the UK and Ireland.

Expertise

  • Public Law and Judicial Review

    John has a broad public law and judicial review practice. He has experience in advising both public bodies and private clients in this area. His public law work spans many of Chambers’ practice areas including planning and environmental, licensing, inquests and inquiries, local government and information law. Further details of John’s work in these areas of practice can be seen within the ‘practice areas’ tab on his profile. In brief, John’s recent public law experience includes:

    • Appearing for the Appellant with Estelle Dehon in the Supreme Court in R(Fylde Coast Farms Ltd) v Fylde Borough Council UKSC 2019/0167 concerning the interpretation of provisions in the TCPA 1990 for challenging neighbourhood development plans and neighbourhood development orders.
    • Appearing for the successful Claimant in R(Wyeth-Price) v Guildford Borough Council and Bewley Homes [2020] EWHC 3355 (Admin) concerning a judicial review challenge raising heritage and flooding issues.
    • Representing the successful Claimant in R(Keating) v East Suffolk Council CO/4377/2020 concerning a judicial review for failure to properly carry out EIA in respect of a large poultry production unit.
    • Appearing for the Claimant in R(Burton and Dalby Parish Council) v Maldon DC CO/3299/2019 concerning a judicial review challenge raising heritage issues.
    • Instructed by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport in order to consider various legislative amendments required in the context of the Data Protection Bill 2018.
    • Instructed by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport in relation to further matters arising in respect of the Data Protection Act 2018.
    • Acting for a local authority, with Ashley Underwood QC, in the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.
    • Acting for Uber, with Philip Kolvin QC, in Delta Merseyside and Uber Britannia Ltd v Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council [2018] EWHC 757 (Admin) where the Claimants successfully quashed the Council’s ‘predominant use’ policy directed at private hire drivers.
    • Acting for a local authority in a dispute concerning allotment land, led by Estelle Dehon, in Ramsgate Town Council v Thanet District Council [2018] EWHC 3042 (Ch)
    • Instructed by the Department of Communities and Local Government as part of the Grenfell Tower public inquiry ‘junior junior’ team.
  • Planning and Environment

    Planning Inquiries

    John regularly acts in planning inquiries both on his own and as a junior for Parish Councils, District Councils, Rule 6 parties and other private clients. He has experience of section 78 inquiries, enforcement inquiries and informal hearings. Some of his recent experience includes:

    Section 78 Inquiries

    • Representing a District Council in a section 78 appeal concerning landscape, character and appearance, design and heritage objections.
    • Representing a District Council in a section 78 appeal concerning green belt development and character and appearance objections.
    • Representing a Rule 6 party in a two week inquiry involving housing land supply, landscape and highways issues in which the Rule 6 Party, alongside the District Council, successfully resisted the appeal.
    • Representing a District Council, with Dr Ashley Bowes, in a 6 day inquiry involving heritage and landscape issues in which he and Dr Bowes successfully resisted the proposed housing scheme, despite the existence of a housing land supply deficit.
    • Assisting Estelle Dehon in a two week planning inquiry involving housing land supply and heritage issues in which Estelle, acting for the local authority, successfully resisted a residential scheme of up to 200 units.

    Enforcement Inquiries

    • Representing a Parish Council in a two week enforcement inquiry concerning a Gypsy/Traveller Caravan Site in which the Parish Council, alongside the District Council, successfully resisted the appeal.
    • Representing a District Council in a two day enforcement inquiry involving off-airport parking in which the District Council successfully resisted an appeal on Grounds (a) and (d).
    • Representing an Appellant in a two day enforcement inquiry involving Ground (a) and Ground (d) appeals.

    Informal Hearings

    • Representing a District Council at an informal hearing in which the District Council successfully resisted an application to discharge a planning obligation.

    Court Experience

    John has acted in a wide array of planning and environmental law matters. His recent Higher Courts judicial review experience includes:

    • Acting for the Respondent in R(Oldham) v Dacorum Borough Council CO/2866/2021 concerning an alleged breach of a legitimate expectation.
    • Appearing for the Appellant with Estelle Dehon in the Supreme Court in R(Fylde Coast Farms Ltd) v Fylde Borough Council UKSC 2019/0167 concerning the interpretation of provisions in the TCPA 1990 for challenging neighbourhood development plans and neighbourhood development orders.
    • Appearing for the Claimant in R(Wyeth-Price) v Guildford Borough Council and Bewley Homes [2020] EWHC 3355 (Admin) concerning a challenge raising heritage and flooding issues.
    • Representing the Claimant in R(Keating) v East Suffolk Council CO/4377/2020 concerning a failure to properly carry out EIA in respect of a large poultry production unit.
    • Appearing for the Claimant in R(Burton and Dalby Parish Council) v Maldon DC  CO/3299/2019 concerning a challenge raising heritage issues.

    John’s other recent planning experience includes:

    • Appearing for the Claimant in Waverley v Frankham QB 2020 002126 in an application for injunctive relief.
    • Prosecuting in the Magistrates’ and Crown Court on behalf of a local authority for breach of condition notice.
    • Prosecuting in the Crown Court for breach of an enforcement notice
    • Defending a local authority in a two day appeal concerning a noise abatement notice,
    • Appearing for the Claimant with Estelle Dehon in Ramsgate Town Council v Thanet District Council [2018] EWHC 3042 (Ch) concerning the Allotments Acts 1908-1950.
    • Conducting a local authority’s first prosecution under the Health Act 2006 in relation to the use of Shisha pipes within an enclosed premises.
    • Acting for a defendant in an environmental prosecution concerning waste transfer notes.
    • Application under s116 Highways Act 1980 to ‘stop-up’ a highway.

    Advisory Work

    John regularly undertakes planning and environmental advisory work. Recent advisory work includes issues concerning:

    • Noise abatement notices
    • Unlawful delegation of powers
    • Habitats regulations assessments
    • Differences between C2 and C3 use and other instances of change of use
    • Allotment land
    • Application of s106 planning obligations
    • Implementation of a forty year old planning permission
    • Enforcement issues and variation of conditions
    • Construction of ambiguous conditions and implied conditions
    • Various GPDO matters
    • Building Regulations
    • Fracking
    • Planning prosecutions

    John regularly provides pro bono advice and assistance to the Environmental Law Foundation and his pro bono work with Southwark Law Centre often involves planning matters.

  • Information Law

    John has a busy data protection and information law practice. His recent experience includes:

    Data Protection

    • Advising and assisting the Department of Culture, Media and Sport on various issues arising in respect of the Data Protection Bill 2018. As a result, he was subsequently instructed to provide assistance to DCMS in matters concerning the Data Protection Act 2018, including assisting with the implementation of changes to the Data Protection Act 2018 that will be necessitated by Brexit.
    • Advising a wide array of private and public bodies about the implications of GDPR and the Data Protection Act 2018 on their business practices.
    • Advising private and public bodies about PECR and the interaction between PECR and GDPR for direct marketing purposes.
    • Advising a variety of private and public bodies about liability and quantum issues in respect of personal data breaches and other potential breaches of data protection legislation.
    • Advising and assisting claimants in exercising their individual rights under GDPR, in particular, right to be forgotten, right to rectification and subject access rights.
    • Reviewing privacy statements
    • Advising on disputes concerning data processing agreements and other contractual arrangements, including transfers of data abroad.
    • Advising public sector clients about the Law Enforcement Directive and the interaction between Part 2 and Part 3 DPA 2018.
    • Drafting responses to ICO investigations.
    • Drafting written observations for the Court of Justice of the European Union with Philip Coppel QC in a preliminary reference matter considering the scope of the journalistic exemption within the Data Protection Act 1998.
    • Acting with Estelle Dehon in a four day multi-track trial involving a long running damages claim against a public body for alleged breaches of the Data Protection Act 1998 (Cooper v National Crime Agency).
    • Providing training for a wide array of clients in both the private and public sectors on data protection. He also gives training for PDP both in the UK and in Ireland on PDP’s Level 1 and Level 2 Data Protection courses.

    Information Law

    John regularly advises clients about information law matters and has experience in representing clients in the First-tier Tribunal and Upper Tribunal on appeals. John’s recent experience includes:

    • Acting for one of the Second Respondents in FCDO v (1) Information Commissioner and (2) Williams, Wickham-Jones and Lownie 2021 [UKUT] 248 (AAC), concerning sections 23 and 24 FOIA.
    • Acting for a number of public bodies facing applications for contempt in failing to comply with orders of the Tribunal.
    • Advising clients about reliance on various exemptions under FOIA.
    • Assisting clients in drafting Refusal Notices.
    • Advising clients about the release of information under EIR.
    • Acting for clients in appeals before the First-tier Tribunal.
    • Providing training to public sector clients on FOIA and EIR.
    • Providing training on PDP’s Level 1 FOI course.

    Publications

    John writes the regular case law update for the Freedom of Information Journal. He is also a contributing author to the leading texts on data protection and information law, namely “Information Rights” by Philip Coppel QC (Hart, 5th ed 2020) and “Data Protection: A Practical Guide to UK Law” by Peter Carey (Oxford, 6th ed 2020).

  • Inquests and Inquiries

    John has a particular interest in inquests and inquiries. He regularly acts for interested persons and supports witnesses in giving evidence at inquests.

    Some particular highlights of his recent experience include:

    Inquests

    • Acting for a local authority in a ten-day Article 2 inquest concerning issues relating to mental health act assessments, psychiatric care and police pursuits.
    • Acting for a local authority in a five-day jury inquest concerning training of care staff, a fall from a hoist and subsequent safeguarding inquiries.
    • Acting for a local authority in an inquest concerning social care and health provision for Prader-willi syndrome.
    • Acting for a local authority in an inquest concerning social care autism services and mental health issues.
    • Acting for a local authority in an inquest concerning a death in a local authority care home.
    • Acting for a local authority in an inquest concerning a death of someone in receipt of social care provision.
    • Assisting Estelle Dehon, acting on behalf of a local authority, at a two-day Article 2 inquest involving the death of a minor under police protection powers.

    Inquiries

    • Acting for a local authority responsible for various safeguarding matters at the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.
    • Instructed as a ‘junior junior’ for the Department of Communities and Local Government in relation to the Grenfell Tower Public Inquiry.
  • Local Government

    As part of his public law and regulatory practice, John regularly represents local authorities and those acting against local authorities in a wide variety of matters. This includes planning matters, information law/data protection, inquests and inquiries, and social care matters (about which more details can be seen within the respective ‘practice areas’ tabs on his profile). He also takes instructions on the following matters:

    Housing, Property and Regulatory Law

    John has a broad range of experience in housing, property and regulatory law matters.

    He often appears on behalf of landlords in possession claims against tenants and trespassers. His housing experience also extends to drafting proceedings and advising clients on prospects of success, particularly in the context of s204 homelessness appeals. He has represented clients successfully in a variety of trials concerning matters such as tenancy fraud and succession.
    John also has experience acting on behalf of landlords in applications for injunctions whether for breach of tenancy agreements or to prohibit anti-social behaviour and he has more general experience in landlord and tenant disputes concerning service charges and housing licensing matters. John often acts for local authorities in FTT (Property) matters concerning appeals under the Housing Act 2004 and under the Energy Efficiency (Private Rented Property) (England and Wales) Regulations 2015.

    Although the majority of John’s housing work is for private and social landlords, he has successfully represented tenants and licensees (including on appeal to the Court of Appeal) and is registered for such work with the Legal Aid Agency. He is happy to consider requests for pro bono assistance in housing matters and has provided pro bono housing assistance to Advocate.

    John sits as a non-executive director on the board of Innisfree Housing Association.

    Licensing

    John accepts instructions in all areas of licensing law. Some of his experience to date includes:

    • Acting with Philip Kolvin QC in Delta Meryside and Uber Britannia Ltd v Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council [2018] EWHC 757 (Admin), in which he and Philip acted for Uber and successfully quashed the Council’s ‘predominant use’ policy directed at private hire drivers.
    • Assisting Philip Kolvin QC in drafting written submissions on Article 49 TFEU in the case of Rostrun v Guildford Borough Council [2017] EWHC 3141 (Admin), in which Philip acted for the successful local authority in resisting a taxi driver’s appeal.
    • Advising potential applicants for gambling licences about the requirements for such applications.
    • Advising about the scope of disclosure obligations involved in regulatory investigations conducted by the Gambling Commission’s Panel.
    • Providing training to Licensing Committee members on taxi licensing and premises licensing issues.
    • Successfully acting for a local authority in defending an appeal against the suspension of a premises licence.
    • Successfully acting for a SEV in an application for renewal of a licence.
    • Regularly acting as legal advisor to Licensing Committees to assist them in their determination of licensing matters.
    • Assisting Philip Kolvin QC with a wide-ranging review of employment practices within the taxi and private hire industry for a well-known private hire company.

    John has also provided pro bono support and advice to street traders through his membership of Southwark Law Centre’s pro bono panel of barristers. In particular, he has advised traders who have been relocated in the Peckham Rye Station redevelopment and Elephant and Castle shopping centre redevelopment.

  • Health and Social Care

    John often appears on behalf of local authorities and other parties in the Court of Protection and he provides advice on the full range of mental capacity law including best interests, welfare applications and deprivations of liberty. He also has experience in the Court of Protection dealing with complex property and affairs matters.

    His Court of Protection practice is complemented by his in-depth knowledge and experience of social housing matters and social care issues, particularly those that arise in the context of his work in inquests

    John accepts instructions from all parties that may appear before the Court of Protection including local authorities, statutory agencies, health and social care providers, family members and individuals.

    Some of his recent instructions include:
    • Responding to s21A applications on behalf of local authorities
    • Contested applications for deputyship of both property and affairs and welfare
    • Applications to revoke P’s LPA on the basis that the attorney is not acting in P’s best interests

    John also appears in other welfare proceedings relating to adults, including applications for forced marriage protection orders in the Family Division.

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