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In his early years of practice he was involved in planning enquiries and appeals. He no longer does pure planning work, but now enjoys bringing his experience to bear in disputes raising planning and highways issues. Examples include:

Onerous Conditions

Tom acted in an arbitration between major retailers as to whether planning permission granted for division of a store contained “onerous conditions” as defined in an agreement for lease.

Reasonable endeavours to obtain planning permission

In Jordan v Star Energy a claim was made against Star for damages for breach of an obligation to use reasonable endeavours to obtain planning permission for an underground gas storage project. Star had carried out preparatory work but cancelled the project after an abandoned well was found to be leaking gas on the site of a new school. It was a claim for loss of a chance, and there were issues as to construction of the agreement and as to what the outcome of a planning application would have been in the light of safety issues. Thomas acted for Star led by William Hicks QC.

Enforcing s106 Agreements

Thomas has now acted for Councils in four cases enforcing planning obligations against developers seeking to escape or reduce their liabilities. Examples are the Oakmesh case, the first case where an order for specific performance was obtained to enforce a s106 agreement, and Renaissance v West Berkshire DC, in which a developer defended a claim for contributions to local infrastructure on the grounds that the formulae for calculating contributions had changed, and it would be unlawful for the Council to claim any more than would now be payable.


In Castlebay the issue was what amounted to “planning permission” for the purpose of starting time running for exercising an option. In several other recent cases, the time for exercising the option was linked to allocation in an “adopted local plan”, and the issue was how the contract was to be applied to the changed landscape of LDFs and LDDs resulting from the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004.

Assets of community value

Part 5 of the Localism Act 2011 give local groups the right to bid for land of community value which the owner wants to dispose of. The right can apply to a village shop, pub, community centre, museum, village hall, playing fields, playgrounds and other amenity areas. The corollary is that these rights can interfere with or delay development projects. Thomas has advised and lectured on these provisions.