In this edition of the CDQ you will find, as ever, lots of useful information and detail about the latest developments in planning, many of which barristers from Cornerstone are playing a leading role in.
Throughout these unusual and difficult times the planning team in Cornerstone has continued to provide high quality advice and representation to all our wide range of clients.
Our members have regularly appeared in virtual hearings (including the first ever virtual planning inquiry), have appeared in leading cases on appeal in the higher courts and have delivered some of the most watched and successful planning webinars provided by the Bar.
Since September barristers in our planning team have been involved in 18 planning inquiries, 16 High Court and 5 Court of Appeal cases. That is quite apart from the several local plan virtual examinations, other hearings and numerous assorted applications we have pursued for clients. Many of these have been conducted from our newly upgraded virtual facilities in Chambers at Gray’s Inn.
The part of the planning world we inhabit has, for now, adapted well to the pandemic led virtual world we all find ourselves in. It is critical that it has done so given the economic, social and environmental significance of the matters it deals with. We are very aware that it has placed new demands and pressures on many of our public sector and private clients alike and we remain committed to providing all of our clients with the highest quality service in what may well prove to be very testing and difficult months ahead.
We are delighted and proud to have been nominated as the Planning and Environment Set of the year by the Chambers Bar Awards 2020. It is equally pleasing to observe that so many of our barristers have been recognised as established leaders and rising stars in planning and environmental work by the recently released main legal directories. Our clerking team and staff have rightly also been recognised as providing an excellent service to both our lay and professional clients.
As I walked (masked and sanitised) around Chambers in early October all of our 4 virtual conference facilities had planning inquiries in session in them with a local plan examination hearing due to start the following day. Two members of our team were departing for planning cases in the Court of Appeal – in now rare actual physical hearings in the Royal Courts of Justice. The week before one of our leading juniors had been in the HS2 hearings in Parliament and our newest tenant had just been instructed on her first planning inquiry being led by a silk in Chambers. Life is far from normal but happily our planning work is still thriving. We aim to continue as a team to expand and adapt to meet the needs of all our clients. As this CDQ edition goes out our virtual ‘Planning Week’ is about to start with a fantastic range of free webinars addressing topical and important planning issues.
It is in this particular context that members of Chambers have wished one of our leading barristers, Mark Lowe QC, a happy and well earned retirement. For now we have had to do this virtually, but we will make up for that in the months ahead.
Mark’s retirement marks the end of a long and successful career at the Bar. He was called in 1972 and took silk in 1996. He is a Bencher of Gray's Inn and a former Recorder of both the Crown and County Courts as well as an Assistant Boundary Commissioner and former Head of these Chambers. But, more than that, he has throughout been a great and enduring source of wisdom and friendship to all in Cornerstone, young and old alike.
Anyone who has worked with or against Mark will know that he is not only a superb barrister but a person of the utmost integrity who treats all around him with respect. He has given back a huge amount to Chambers for decades, not only as Head of Chambers and as a leading planning silk with an enviable client list but also as someone who has taken the time and trouble to guide and encourage numerous junior members over many years. His (almost) constant smile and infectious sense of humour coupled with an effortless ability to plot a sensible path through difficult situations served him, his clients and all of us very well over many years.
It is hardly surprising that he is respected throughout the planning profession and by the judiciary at the highest levels. Not many Heads of Chambers receive a letter (as I did) in person from the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales with the instruction to pass it to Mark to wish him well and congratulate him on his career at the Bar!
I am sure his many clients will wish to join with all of us at Cornerstone in wishing Mark and his family the very best for the future. Our current success is down in no small part to the expertise and skill of practitioners like Mark. He will, I am sure, keep very much in touch and keep abreast of the exciting times ahead for the Cornerstone Planning Team.
Tom Cosgrove QC
Joint Head of Chambers