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Alistair Mills

Call: 2011
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Practice Summary

Alistair’s areas of practice are planning and environmental, and public law.  He is the author of Interpreting the NPPF: the New National Planning Policy Framework (Bath Publishing, 2018).  In 2019 he was ranked by Planning Magazine in the list of the highest-rated planning juniors under 35.  He has appeared in leading cases in the Court of Appeal.  He has been a member of the Attorney General’s Panel of Civil Counsel (C Panel) since 2017.

Planning and Environmental Law

Alistair has been in a number of significant cases.

R (Shirley) v SSHCLG [2019] EWCA Civ 22 – Alistair appeared for the successful Secretary of State, led by James Maurici QC.  This case concerned a challenge to the refusal of the Secretary of State to call in a planning application for his own consideration, and raised arguments concerning the Air Quality Directive.  The appeal was dismissed on all grounds.

R (Historic England) v Milton Keynes Council [2019] JPL 28 – Alistair appeared for the successful local planning authority, unled.  This case concerned the duties on local authorities when determining planning applications in conservation areas, and the requirement to give reasons under the EIA regime.

Dunnett Investments Ltd v SSCLG [2017] JPL 848 – Alistair appeared for the appellant, led by Christopher Katkowski QC.  The appeal concerned the important question of the exclusion of permitted development rights by condition.

R (West Berkshire DC and Reading BC) v SSCLG [2016] 1 WLR 3923 – Alistair appeared for the local authorities, led by David Forsdick QC.  This case concerned a challenge to new national policy concerning developer contributions from small developments, and the vacant building credit.

R (Smech Properties Ltd) v Runnymede BC [2016] JPL 677 – Alistair appeared for the Appellant led by James Maurici QC, in a case concerning the discretion of the court not to quash a grant of planning permission.

Jones v Mordue [2016] 1 WLR 2682 – Alistair appeared unled for the successful appellant in the Court of Appeal, in this significant case concerning the approach to challenging decisions of Planning Inspectors in the heritage context.

Alistair appeared unled for the successful Secretary of State in (to his knowledge) the first ever determined appeal under the Welfare of Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses Regulations 2012.  Alistair appeared for the Environment Agency, led by Charles Banner, in the inquiry concerning water abstraction from the Test, Itchen and Candover.

In addition to major court challenges, Alistair has experience of proceedings before Planning Inspectors.  He recently represented a group of developers at the Epping Forest Local Plan Examination (led by Charles Banner).  He represented the developer at a two week inquiry into a residential-led scheme (led by David Elvin QC), and the local planning authority at the call-in inquiry concerning intu Milton Keynes (also led by David Elvin QC).

Alistair has a wide-ranging advisory practice.  As well as his book on interpreting the NPPF, Alistair is the editor of the Digest of Decisions interpreting the 2012 NPPF, and an Assistant Editor of the Planning Encyclopedia.

Public Law

Alistair has a broad range of experience in public law matters.  In the field of social security, he appeared for the successful Secretary of State, led by David Blundell, in a lead case on the interpretation of EU Regulation 1408/71: SSWP v MC [2019] UKUT 84 (AAC).  He appeared for the successful Secretary of State, unled, in SSWP v RR [2019] PTSR 19 (a case concerning whether a room counted as a bedroom for the purposes of the Housing Benefit Regulations 2006, reg B13(2)).  He represented the appellant in IG v SSWP [2016] UKUT 176 (AAC), a case concerning payment of benefits and EU Regulation 883/04.

In the field of immigration, Alistair appeared for the successful Secretary of State, led by Sasha Blackmore, in R (Taste of India Ltd) v SSHD [2018] EWHC 414 (Admin), a case concerning Tier 2 sponsor licences.  He appeared for the second appellant in the Iran Country Guidance case SSH and HR (illegal exit: failed asylum seeker) Iran CG [2016] UKUT 308 (IAC).

Alistair is the Assistant Editor of the Journal Judicial Review.  He has taught Administrative Law for many years, and is External College Lecturer in Law at Magdalene College, Cambridge.

Planning and Environment

Alistair has been in a number of significant cases.

R (Shirley) v SSHCLG [2019] EWCA Civ 22 – Alistair appeared for the successful Secretary of State, led by James Maurici QC.  This case concerned a challenge to the refusal of the Secretary of State to call in a planning application for his own consideration, and raised arguments concerning the Air Quality Directive.  The appeal was dismissed on all grounds.

R (Historic England) v Milton Keynes Council [2019] JPL 28 – Alistair appeared for the successful local planning authority, unled.  This case concerned the duties on local authorities when determining planning applications in conservation areas, and the requirement to give reasons under the EIA regime.

Dunnett Investments Ltd v SSCLG [2017] JPL 848 – Alistair appeared for the appellant, led by Christopher Katkowski QC.  The appeal concerned the important question of the exclusion of permitted development rights by condition.

R (West Berkshire DC and Reading BC) v SSCLG [2016] 1 WLR 3923 – Alistair appeared for the local authorities, led by David Forsdick QC.  This case concerned a challenge to new national policy concerning developer contributions from small developments, and the vacant building credit.

R (Smech Properties Ltd) v Runnymede BC [2016] JPL 677 – Alistair appeared for the Appellant led by James Maurici QC, in a case concerning the discretion of the court not to quash a grant of planning permission.

Jones v Mordue [2016] 1 WLR 2682 – Alistair appeared unled for the successful appellant in the Court of Appeal, in this significant case concerning the approach to challenging decisions of Planning Inspectors in the heritage context.

Alistair appeared unled for the successful Secretary of State in (to his knowledge) the first ever determined appeal under the Welfare of Wild Animals in Travelling Circuses Regulations 2012.  Alistair appeared for the Environment Agency, led by Charles Banner, in the inquiry concerning water abstraction from the Test, Itchen and Candover.

In addition to major court challenges, Alistair has experience of proceedings before Planning Inspectors.  He recently represented a group of developers at the Epping Forest Local Plan Examination (led by Charles Banner).  He represented the developer at a two week inquiry into a residential-led scheme (led by David Elvin QC), and the local planning authority at the call-in inquiry concerning intu Milton Keynes (also led by David Elvin QC).

Alistair has a wide-ranging advisory practice.  As well as his book on interpreting the NPPF, Alistair is the editor of the Digest of Decisions interpreting the 2012 NPPF, and an Assistant Editor of the Planning Encyclopedia.

Public

Alistair has a broad range of experience in public law matters.  In the field of social security, he appeared for the successful Secretary of State, led by David Blundell, in a lead case on the interpretation of EU Regulation 1408/71: SSWP v MC [2019] UKUT 84 (AAC).  He appeared for the successful Secretary of State, unled, in SSWP v RR [2019] PTSR 19 (a case concerning whether a room counted as a bedroom for the purposes of the Housing Benefit Regulations 2006, reg B13(2)).  He represented the appellant in IG v SSWP [2016] UKUT 176 (AAC), a case concerning payment of benefits and EU Regulation 883/04.

In the field of immigration, Alistair appeared for the successful Secretary of State, led by Sasha Blackmore, in R (Taste of India Ltd) v SSHD [2018] EWHC 414 (Admin), a case concerning Tier 2 sponsor licences.  He appeared for the second appellant in the Iran Country Guidance case SSH and HR (illegal exit: failed asylum seeker) Iran CG [2016] UKUT 308 (IAC).

Alistair is the Assistant Editor of the Journal Judicial Review.  He has taught Administrative Law for many years, and is External College Lecturer in Law at Magdalene College, Cambridge.

European Union Law

Alistair’s practice raises matters of European Union law.  In the context of planning and environmental law, the decision of the Court of Appeal in R (Shirley) v SSHCLG [2019] EWCA Civ 22 included arguments on the interpretation of the Air Quality Directive.  The social security cases SSWP v MC [2019] UKUT 84 (AAC) and IG v SSWP [2016] UKUT 176 (AAC) concerned the EU harmonisation regime for social security benefits.

Qualifications

Academic

Alistair graduated from Magdalene College, Cambridge, with a Double First in 2009.  He obtained a distinction on the Bachelor of Civil Law at Oxford in 2010.  He was awarded Outstanding on the Bar Professional Training Course from Northumbria University in 2011.

Scholarships and Awards

  • Eldon Scholar, Oxford University 2011 (previously awarded to, amongst others, Lords Denning, Wilberforce and Bingham)
  • Trinity Chambers Prize for Best Overall Performance (on BPTC, jointly awarded with another)
  • Bedingfield Scholarship, Gray’s Inn 2010
  • ECS Wade Prize for Administrative Law, Cambridge 2008

Other Experience

Alistair provides small-group teaching in administrative law and is an external College Lecturer in Law at Magdalene College, Cambridge.  He has published widely, including in the Cambridge Law Journal, Judicial Review, the Lloyd’s Maritime and Commercial Law Quarterly, and the Journal of Professional Negligence.

Inquiries

Examination in public – Epping Forest District Local Plan

13/02/2019

Alistair appeared for a consortium of developers at the examination into the Epping Forest District Local Plan, led by Charles Banner.  This raised matters of objectively assessed need and duty to cooperate.

:

Inquiries

Hearing – Enforcement at Great Russell Street, London

13/11/2018

Alistair appeared for the Local Planning Authority at a hearing into appeals against two enforcement notices regarding the use of premises in Camden.  This included matters such as the identification of the planning unit and heritage matters.

:

Inquiries

Proposed restrictions on Southern Water’s abstraction licences at the Rivers Test and Itchen

13/03/2018

This was a public inquiry into the Environment Agency’s proposed changes to three sets of surface water and groundwater abstraction licences at the River Test, River Itchen and Candover Stream in Hampshire. The Test and Itchen licences were held by Southern Water for the purpose of public water supply. The Candover licence was held by the Agency but Southern Water wished to use it for augmenting water in the Itchen in times of drought.

The Agency’s proposals were made on the ground that more restrictive conditions are necessary in order to achieve compliance with the Habitats Directive and Water Framework Directive.

Shortly before the pre-inquiry meeting in November 2017, Southern Water announced that it no longer contested the proposals for the Test and Itchen subject to the imposition of special conditions allowing increased abstraction during drought conditions on ground of imperative reasons of overriding public interest pursuant to Article 6(4) of the Habitats Directive. The Environment Agency’s position was that the appropriate means of dealing with drought conditions is through the drought order and drought permit regime under Part II, Chapter III of the Water Resources Act 1991.

The inquiry was due to last 3 weeks but at the opening the parties announced that agreement in principle had been reached between Southern Water and the Environment Agency pursuant to which Southern Water would withdraw its remaining objections and a water resource management scheme would be entered into by the parties pursuant to s.20 of the 1991 Act which would set out the process by which Southern Water will be able to ensure that it is ‘application ready’ to make an application for a drought permit order and by which such an application will be made and considered. The inquiry proceeded to hear representations from Fish Legal and other third parties on the proposed arrangements.

Charles Banner and Alistair Mills​ appeared for the Environment Agency.​

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Inquiries

Inquiry opens into proposed development at Springbok Estate, Alfold Crossways

20/07/2017

An inquiry has opened into Thakeham Homes’s appeal against the refusal of planning permission by Waverley Borough Council for a residential-led scheme at the Springbok Estate, Alfold Crossways, Surrey.  The application proposes 400 new dwellings, independent living care facility, a primary school, and associated development.

David Elvin QC and Alistair Mills are instructed by Thakeham Homes.

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Inquiries

Planning Permission Granted by Secretary of State at intu Milton Keynes

01/12/2016

The Secretary of State has granted planning permission for a major redevelopment of intu Milton Keynes, having called in the matter for his own determination.  The appeal was significant, as it considered the first Business Neighbourhood Plan to be made in England.

The Secretary of State, following his Inspector’s recommendation, concluded that the Neighbourhood Plan should not necessarily be interpreted according to the views of those involved in the drafting of it.  Neither should there be flexibility or leniency of interpretation on the basis that policies have been drafted by non-professionals.  The proposed development was in accordance with the statutory Development Plan as a whole, including the Neighbourhood Plan.

The proposal would give rise to considerable public benefits.  There would be harm to the setting of the listed Shopping Centre, but this would be less than substantial harm, and within the lower end of that classification.  The public benefits of the scheme were found to outweigh such harm.  No material considerations indicated that application should be refused contrary to the Development Plan.

Christopher Katkowski QC and Richard Moules appeared for intu.

David Elvin QC and Alistair Mills appeared for Milton Keynes Council.

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Inquiries

Residential Development at Land off Denman Lane, Huncote, Blaby, Leicestershire

13/04/2016

Alistair Mills represented the local planning authority in this two-day planning inquiry in relation to a proposal for residential development. The inquiry raised transport and planning matters. Alistair was instructed around 24 hours before the start of the inquiry, and cross-examined the Appellant’s two witnesses.

:

Inquiries

Residential Development at Land North of Field Head Lane, Laceby, North East Lincolnshire

25/01/2016

Alistair Mills represented the local planning authority in this three-day planning inquiry in relation to a proposal for residential development. The planning authority had refused planning permission, and the reason for refusal being defended at inquiry was that the proposed residential development included dwellings within 400m of an Intensive Livestock Unit, and was therefore contrary to local plan policy. The inquiry raised matters of odour and planning evidence. The appeal was dismissed.

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Inquiries

The Cheshire East Council (Crewe Footpath Nos. 3 (Part) and 11 (also known as Footpath No. 36)) Cycle Tracks Order 2014

19/01/2016

Alistair Mills represented the local authority in promoting the above order under the Cycle Tracks Act 1984, in relation to changing a route from a footpath to a cycle track.

:

Inquiries

Hearing – Enforcement Appeal, Redmead Road

04/08/2015

Appeal against enforcement notice concerning change of use to a single dwelling house.  Alistair was instructed by the successful Appellant.

:

Inquiries

Hearing – Isolated Dwelling in Countryside for Agricultural Worker

02/07/2015

Alistair appeared for successful appellant in securing planning permission for an isolated dwelling in the countryside for an agricultural worker.  The Appeal raised matters of planning policy and animal husbandry.

:

Inquiries

Issue-specific hearing – Navitus Bay Windfarm: Consent Refused for Offshore Windfarm

24/11/2014

On 11 September 2015, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change made her decision on the application for a Development Consent Order for the proposed Navitus Bay windfarm.  Consent was refused.  The application proposals were controversial in the area, with a large number of objections.

The Secretary of State found significant and relatively long terms impacts upon sites designated AONB and Heritage Coasts during the 25-year operation of the project.  Comparisons with the visual impact of the Rampion Offshore Wind Farm (which was granted permission) were downplayed.  However, the project would not contribute to the quality of the area, but would cause significant harm to it.

The Secretary of State gave significant weight to the impact of the proposed development on the Dorset and East Devon Coast World Heritage Site.  The proposed development would adversely affect the use and enjoyment of the World Heritage Site, even though such impacts would be essentially temporary.  Impact on other heritage assets did weigh against the proposal, but the Secretary of State’s view was that this alone would be insufficient to support a recommendation to refuse the grant of consent.

Whilst there would not be significant impacts on tourism across the area as a whole, there would be much greater impacts at a local level.  The Examining Authority also formed the view that the applicant lessened negative impacts upon tourist-related jobs in the Dorset area.  However, the Secretary of State noted that the proposal would bring employment and supply chain benefits to the area, which should weigh in favour of the project.

The Secretary of State’s view was that diver safety, in isolation, was not a matter which should lead to the conclusion that the application should be refused, where suitable mitigation in respect of diver safety had been included in any proposal.   Operational and navigational safety, and noise and vibration, were not important factors in the decision.

Reuben Taylor QC and Alistair Mills were instructed by Bournemouth Borough Council in objecting to the application.

Paul Brown QC advised a consortium of local planning authorities.

:

Inquiries

Hearing – Listed Building Consent – Grade II listed building at Baydon Manor

09/10/2013

Instructed by the Appellant at a hearing concerning a dilapidated glasshouse structure.  The appeal raised heritage and design matters.

:

Inquiries

Examination in public – Epping Forest District Local Plan

13/02/2019

Alistair appeared for a consortium of developers at the examination into the Epping Forest District Local Plan, led by Charles Banner.  This raised matters of objectively assessed need and duty to cooperate.

:

Inquiries

Hearing – Enforcement at Great Russell Street, London

13/11/2018

Alistair appeared for the Local Planning Authority at a hearing into appeals against two enforcement notices regarding the use of premises in Camden.  This included matters such as the identification of the planning unit and heritage matters.

:

Inquiries

Proposed restrictions on Southern Water’s abstraction licences at the Rivers Test and Itchen

13/03/2018

This was a public inquiry into the Environment Agency’s proposed changes to three sets of surface water and groundwater abstraction licences at the River Test, River Itchen and Candover Stream in Hampshire. The Test and Itchen licences were held by Southern Water for the purpose of public water supply. The Candover licence was held by the Agency but Southern Water wished to use it for augmenting water in the Itchen in times of drought.

The Agency’s proposals were made on the ground that more restrictive conditions are necessary in order to achieve compliance with the Habitats Directive and Water Framework Directive.

Shortly before the pre-inquiry meeting in November 2017, Southern Water announced that it no longer contested the proposals for the Test and Itchen subject to the imposition of special conditions allowing increased abstraction during drought conditions on ground of imperative reasons of overriding public interest pursuant to Article 6(4) of the Habitats Directive. The Environment Agency’s position was that the appropriate means of dealing with drought conditions is through the drought order and drought permit regime under Part II, Chapter III of the Water Resources Act 1991.

The inquiry was due to last 3 weeks but at the opening the parties announced that agreement in principle had been reached between Southern Water and the Environment Agency pursuant to which Southern Water would withdraw its remaining objections and a water resource management scheme would be entered into by the parties pursuant to s.20 of the 1991 Act which would set out the process by which Southern Water will be able to ensure that it is ‘application ready’ to make an application for a drought permit order and by which such an application will be made and considered. The inquiry proceeded to hear representations from Fish Legal and other third parties on the proposed arrangements.

Charles Banner and Alistair Mills​ appeared for the Environment Agency.​

:

Inquiries

Inquiry opens into proposed development at Springbok Estate, Alfold Crossways

20/07/2017

An inquiry has opened into Thakeham Homes’s appeal against the refusal of planning permission by Waverley Borough Council for a residential-led scheme at the Springbok Estate, Alfold Crossways, Surrey.  The application proposes 400 new dwellings, independent living care facility, a primary school, and associated development.

David Elvin QC and Alistair Mills are instructed by Thakeham Homes.

:

Inquiries

Planning Permission Granted by Secretary of State at intu Milton Keynes

01/12/2016

The Secretary of State has granted planning permission for a major redevelopment of intu Milton Keynes, having called in the matter for his own determination.  The appeal was significant, as it considered the first Business Neighbourhood Plan to be made in England.

The Secretary of State, following his Inspector’s recommendation, concluded that the Neighbourhood Plan should not necessarily be interpreted according to the views of those involved in the drafting of it.  Neither should there be flexibility or leniency of interpretation on the basis that policies have been drafted by non-professionals.  The proposed development was in accordance with the statutory Development Plan as a whole, including the Neighbourhood Plan.

The proposal would give rise to considerable public benefits.  There would be harm to the setting of the listed Shopping Centre, but this would be less than substantial harm, and within the lower end of that classification.  The public benefits of the scheme were found to outweigh such harm.  No material considerations indicated that application should be refused contrary to the Development Plan.

Christopher Katkowski QC and Richard Moules appeared for intu.

David Elvin QC and Alistair Mills appeared for Milton Keynes Council.

:

Inquiries

Residential Development at Land off Denman Lane, Huncote, Blaby, Leicestershire

13/04/2016

Alistair Mills represented the local planning authority in this two-day planning inquiry in relation to a proposal for residential development. The inquiry raised transport and planning matters. Alistair was instructed around 24 hours before the start of the inquiry, and cross-examined the Appellant’s two witnesses.

:

Inquiries

Residential Development at Land North of Field Head Lane, Laceby, North East Lincolnshire

25/01/2016

Alistair Mills represented the local planning authority in this three-day planning inquiry in relation to a proposal for residential development. The planning authority had refused planning permission, and the reason for refusal being defended at inquiry was that the proposed residential development included dwellings within 400m of an Intensive Livestock Unit, and was therefore contrary to local plan policy. The inquiry raised matters of odour and planning evidence. The appeal was dismissed.

:

Inquiries

The Cheshire East Council (Crewe Footpath Nos. 3 (Part) and 11 (also known as Footpath No. 36)) Cycle Tracks Order 2014

19/01/2016

Alistair Mills represented the local authority in promoting the above order under the Cycle Tracks Act 1984, in relation to changing a route from a footpath to a cycle track.

:

Inquiries

Hearing – Enforcement Appeal, Redmead Road

04/08/2015

Appeal against enforcement notice concerning change of use to a single dwelling house.  Alistair was instructed by the successful Appellant.

:

Inquiries

Hearing – Isolated Dwelling in Countryside for Agricultural Worker

02/07/2015

Alistair appeared for successful appellant in securing planning permission for an isolated dwelling in the countryside for an agricultural worker.  The Appeal raised matters of planning policy and animal husbandry.

:

Inquiries

Issue-specific hearing – Navitus Bay Windfarm: Consent Refused for Offshore Windfarm

24/11/2014

On 11 September 2015, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change made her decision on the application for a Development Consent Order for the proposed Navitus Bay windfarm.  Consent was refused.  The application proposals were controversial in the area, with a large number of objections.

The Secretary of State found significant and relatively long terms impacts upon sites designated AONB and Heritage Coasts during the 25-year operation of the project.  Comparisons with the visual impact of the Rampion Offshore Wind Farm (which was granted permission) were downplayed.  However, the project would not contribute to the quality of the area, but would cause significant harm to it.

The Secretary of State gave significant weight to the impact of the proposed development on the Dorset and East Devon Coast World Heritage Site.  The proposed development would adversely affect the use and enjoyment of the World Heritage Site, even though such impacts would be essentially temporary.  Impact on other heritage assets did weigh against the proposal, but the Secretary of State’s view was that this alone would be insufficient to support a recommendation to refuse the grant of consent.

Whilst there would not be significant impacts on tourism across the area as a whole, there would be much greater impacts at a local level.  The Examining Authority also formed the view that the applicant lessened negative impacts upon tourist-related jobs in the Dorset area.  However, the Secretary of State noted that the proposal would bring employment and supply chain benefits to the area, which should weigh in favour of the project.

The Secretary of State’s view was that diver safety, in isolation, was not a matter which should lead to the conclusion that the application should be refused, where suitable mitigation in respect of diver safety had been included in any proposal.   Operational and navigational safety, and noise and vibration, were not important factors in the decision.

Reuben Taylor QC and Alistair Mills were instructed by Bournemouth Borough Council in objecting to the application.

Paul Brown QC advised a consortium of local planning authorities.

:

Inquiries

Hearing – Listed Building Consent – Grade II listed building at Baydon Manor

09/10/2013

Instructed by the Appellant at a hearing concerning a dilapidated glasshouse structure.  The appeal raised heritage and design matters.

:
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