June 7, 2024

Planning law solicitors recognised as one of largest and fastest growing teams in UK

Holmes & Hills Solicitors has been identified as having one of the country’s largest and fastest growing departments of specialist planning law solicitors in the country, featuring in a list compiled by the leading publication for planning professionals, Planning Magazine, alongside the likes of Mills & Reeve, Gateley, Irwin Mitchell and Burgess Salmon, amongst others. Indeed, Holmes & Hills is identified by Planning Magazine’s 2024 research as having a larger team of planning law solicitors than notable names such as Clifford Chance, Shakespeare Martineau, Dentons and Clyde & Co.

Over the years Holmes & Hills has established itself as a leading provider of planning law advice and representation, growing its specialist department to 14, including four within its growing Compulsory Purchase and Development Consent Division.

The Planning Law Department provides advice and guidance to local planning authorities across the east of England, as well as property developers, businesses, landowners, community action groups and individual property owners nationally. The 12 specialist planning lawyers provide advice and representation covering:

  • Strategic planning law advice
  • Planning applications
  • Core strategies
  • Planning appeals
  • High Court proceedings
  • Planning injunctions
  • Planning inquiries
  • Judicial Reviews
  • Enabling development
  • Certificates of Lawfulness
  • Section 106 agreements/ planning obligations
  • Community Infrastructure Levy
  • Recreational disturbance and Avoidance Mitigations Strategy (RAMS)
  • Magistrates Court proceedings
  • Planning enforcement
  • Pre planning application and land law issues
  • Land drainage
  • Listed buildings
  • Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPO)
  • Blight claims
  • Development Consent Orders (DCO)
  • Highways law

Independently recognised as a leading source of planning law advice

For many years Holmes & Hills’ department of specialist planning law solicitors has been independently recognised as a leading source of expert advice and representation, this by Chambers and Partners UK and the Legal 500 UK.

As well as recognition for the Department, Steven Hopkins (Partner), Jo Lilliott (Senior Solicitor) and Tom McPhie (Senior Solicitor), are individually recognised as leading experts by Chambers & Partners UK. Whilst the Legal 500 individually recognises the capabilities of Steven Hopkins, Michael Harman (Partner), Jo Lilliott and Sarah Hare (Senior Associate).

Specialists in contentious planning law matters

Holmes & Hills’ Planning Law Department, led by two experienced litigators in the form of Steven Hopkins and Michael Harman, has particular expertise in contentious planning law matters, bridging the gap between expert and in-depth knowledge of contentious and non-contentious planning law legislation and case law, and litigation procedure. As a result of the Department’s reputation in successfully handling contentious planning law matters, the Planning Law Department has a wealth of experience representing clients in the Magistrates, Crown, County and High Courts, as well as the Court of Appeal.

Compulsory Purchase and Development Consent Division

In 2023 Holmes & Hills’ reputation in the area of Compulsory Purchase Orders and Development Consent Orders led to the formation of a new division of specialist compulsory purchase solicitors comprising Michael Harman, Catherine Hibbert (Solicitor), Mel Francis (Solicitor) and Suzy Silva-Moreira (Paralegal). The Division advises individual homeowners, landowners, developers and businesses whose operating premises are affected by large-scale schemes, as well as local authorities (District, Borough and County councils).

As one of only a small number of firms in the country specialising in the provision of advice to parties affected by large scale, government supported infrastructure projects, the Department advises on substantial transportation schemes across the country including Heathrow and Luton airports’ expansion plans; and road schemes such as the East West railway scheme; the A12, M11, Lower Thames Crossing and A465. The compulsory Purchase and Development Consent Division have also been involved in a number of large-scale energy infrastructure projects, including industrial scale solar farms and the Norwich to Tilbury pylons scheme. Large scale urban regeneration schemes also comprise a material proportion of the Division’s case load.

Annual Planning Law Updates

For more than 13 years Holmes & Hills has delivered the East of England’s largest series of Planning Law Updates, delivering six events across Essex and Suffolk every year, to an audience of hundreds of local authority planning personnel, developers, planning consultants, architects, land and property agents, as well as surveyors. News of the 2024 Planning Law Updates will be published here soon: www.holmes-hills.co.uk/events/

Commenting on Planning Magazine’s research and identification of Holmes & Hills’ Planning Law Department as one of the largest and fastest growing teams of planning law solicitors in the country, Michael Harman, Partner, said:

“We are pleased to be recognised by Planning Magazine once again, this time as one of the largest and fastest growing specialist planning law teams in the country. Our successful growth is thanks both to the diligent and hard work the Department as well as, and importantly, our valued and loyal clients who entrust us with dealing with their pressing and important planning law issues on their behalf, for which I and the firm remain extremely grateful.”

The Planning Law Department

Steven Hopkins – Managing Partner and contentious planning law specialist, advising developers, landowners and local authorities on a wide range of complex, contentious planning law matters. Individually recognised by Chambers and Partners UK as a leading planning law advisor.

Michael Harman – Partner and head of the Compulsory Purchase and Development Consent Division and member of the Compulsory Purchase Association. Like Steven, Michael specialises in the most complex contentious planning law matters, with a focus on issues concerning Compulsory Purchase Orders, Blight claims and Development Consent Orders. Michael’s expertise is such that he has for several years been asked by leading legal resource publisher, Sweet & Maxwell, to contribute to their ‘Planning Law Practice and Precedents’ text. Michael is individually recognised for planning expertise by the Legal 500 UK.

Jo Lilliott – Senior Solicitor and recognised as a leading authority on planning obligations/section 106 agreements and highways law, Jo Lilliott advises on, negotiates and drafts complex and large-scale section 106 agreements for developers and local authorities. Jo is individually recognised for expertise in planning obligations and highways law by Chambers & Partners UK and Legal 500 UK.

Tom McPhie – Senior Solicitor, alongside Jo, Tom specialises in section 106 agreements/planning obligations and highways law, advising local authorities and developers on complex planning obligations associated with large scale developments. Tom has previous experience working within local authorities working as in-house legal counsel on planning matters.

Sarah Hare – Senior associate, having specialised in planning law and worked alongside Jo Lilliott for the entirety of her career, Sarah is an expert in section 106 planning obligations, negotiating and drafting section 106 agreements for local authorities across East Anglia and developers.

Ellie Shemming – Associate, Ellie Shemming has previous experience working within local authorities as in-house legal counsel in respect of planning matters. Ellie advises on general non-contentious and contentious planning law matters, representing property and landowners, businesses and developers.

Catherine Hibbert – Solicitor in Holmes & Hills specialist Compulsory Purchase and Development Consent Division, with previous experience within the specialist planning department of a large London law firm where Catherine focused on compulsory purchase matters,

Issy Bainbridge – Solicitor, Issy focuses on contentious planning law matters, working closely with Steven Hopkins on his complex contentious planning law caseload for property and landowners, and developers as well as managing her own contentious planning matter caseload.

Mel Francis – Solicitor and member of the specialist Compulsory Purchase and Development Consent Division, Mel advises property and landowners whose assets are blighted or who face material impacts from large scale, government supported infrastructure schemes.

Millie Cook – Trainee Solicitor, Millies assists all members of the Planning Law Department in delivering advice and representation to clients on both contentious and non-contentious planning law matters.

Anna Becker – Solicitor Apprentice, qualifying in 2026/27, Anna assists all members of the Planning Law Department in delivering advice and representation on a mixed caseload of contentious and on-contentious matters.

Susana Silva Moreira – Paralegal and member of Holmes & Hills’ specialist Compulsory Purchase and Development Consent Division within the Planning Law Department, due to commence a Training Contract with Holmes & Hills in September 2024, facilitating qualification as a Solicitor in 2026. Suzy assists Michael Harman, Catherine Hibbert and Mel Francis in advising and representing clients impacted by large infrastructure projects.

Lucy Howe – Administrative/Technical Assistant, Lucy supports all members of the Planning Law Department in delivering planning law services to clients as efficiently as possible.

David Whipps – Consultant and previously recognised as a Senior Statesperson by Chambers & Partners UK, as well as previously being individually recognised as one of the leading planning solicitors in the country in a list of the leading names in the industry by Planning Magazine, David is a well recognised specialist in the field of planning law. David has also, by invitation of the legal publisher Sweet & Maxwell, been a contributor to the ‘Planning Law Practice and Precedents’, recognising his wealth of experience and expertise.

Get specialist planning law advice

Call us on 01206 593933 today to speak with one of our planning law team.

Key Contact

Michael Harman



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