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Stephen Whale

Stephen Whale


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Stephen was called to the Bar by Gray’s Inn in 1999.  He has been a member of the Attorney General’s Panel of Counsel since 2007 (London A Panel since 1 September 2015), and he is one of the highest ranked juniors for Planning in the country in both the Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners.

Directory accolades include: "He is accessible and has the ability to provide very clear written advice for clients."; "He is great at instilling client confidence in a no-nonsense, unstuffy way."; “vast experience of advising on large infrastructure projects”; “excellent and well liked by clients”; “totally unflappable”; “well liked by judges and inspectors”; “outstanding”; “excellent as he’s very persuasive and comes across very well”; and “very good in conference because he sets out issues clearly and concisely.”

Stephen has an extensive practice in all aspects of planning and environment law, local government law, highway law, public law and licensing law.  He regularly advises and represents developers, local authorities, interest groups, government agencies and the Secretary of State.  Stephen has a great deal of experience at planning inquiries and hearings, as well as DCO examinations, together with all court levels from the magistrates’ court up to the Supreme Court.  He is licensed to accept direct instructions by way of Public Access. Stephen has many reported cases to his name. He has been highly ranked in the leading directories for both Planning and Licensing over many years.  Stephen is the author of the enforcement section in the Encyclopedia of Planning Law.

Planning and Environment

Stephen’s experience embraces all aspects of the planning process, including the formulation of planning proposals and plans, planning applications, prior approval, permitted development, enforcement, certificates of lawfulness, environmental impact assessment, section 106 obligations, listed buildings and conservation areas, scheduled monuments, Article 4 directions, Council committee meetings, inquiries and hearings, judicial review challenges and statutory challenges in the High Court and above.  Stephen represents clients in criminal law proceedings in connection with enforcement notices, tree preservation orders and listed buildings.  His workload has concerned a wide range of development proposals, including for housing, retail, airports, waste treatment, strategic rail freight interchanges and windfarms.  Stephen advises on compensation for compulsory purchase as well as appearing in the Lands Chamber of the Upper Tribunal in connection with the same.

Stephen has a particular interest and expertise in rural and agricultural planning law and similar matters.  Recent examples include: certificate of lawfulness for shooting estate (Hampshire); forestry buildings and prior approval (Dartmoor); rights of common on golf club land (Sussex); bridleway diversion (Surrey); footpaths across equine stud farm (Hampshire); curtilage development in Green Belt (Essex); affordable housing in a hamlet (Somerset); oil exploration in an AONB (Surrey); grazing rights on registered common land (Dartmoor); agricultural barn conversion (Northumberland).  Stephen is an active member of the Agricultural Law Association. 

Examples of large-scale proposals with which Stephen has recently been involved or is currently involved include HS2, the M4 smart motorway DCO, the A180/A160 DCO in Lincolnshire, the A556 DCO in Cheshire, the Thames Tideway Tunnel DCO in London, the A21 in Kent, the £6bn redevelopment of London Bridge Station, compulsory purchase to facilitate the new stadium for Tottenham Hotspur FC, proposed oil exploration in the Surrey Hills, aviation expansion at Farnborough Airport and Dunsfold Aerodrome, the Radlett strategic rail freight interchange and numerous proposals for large-scale housing development.  At the other end of the spectrum, Stephen’s recent work has included advising on a planning application for 8 flats, advising a parish council on a Local Plan Examination, a judicial review challenge to planning permission for a new dwelling, drafting submissions for a planning appeal under Written Representations and advising on a listed building consent.   


Stephen has a wealth of experience on highways matters, including: the promotion of major motorway schemes on behalf of Highways England; traffic regulation orders; proposals to divert, create or extinguish public footpaths and bridleways.  He has appeared at DCO examinations, roads inquiries and rights of way inquiries on many occasions.

Local Government

Stephen has advised a very large number of local authorities over the years, including in their capacities as local planning authority, highway authority (including traffic regulation orders), registration authority (commons and village greens), order making authority (definitive statements and maps) and licensing authority (premises licences).  He also routinely represents those opposed to or involved with local authorities for one reason or another.  Stephen’s recent work in this field has included advice on CIL payments, planning injunctions, criminal proceedings for uprooting trees, a reserved matters application for a sports lake and a proposed football training academy on Metropolitan Open Land.  Stephen has acted as a village green Inspector.


Planning and Environment Bar Association; Agricultural Law Association; Administrative Law Bar Association. 

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