David Forsdick QC
Practice Manager Details
Phone: 020 7421 2483Michael Gooch
Phone: 0207 421 1305 Mobile: 07508 393 338Zoe Bluck
Phone: 020 7421 1301Jonathan Barley
Phone: 0207 421 2480Thomas Belcher
Phone: 020 7421 2487
David was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 2014 and specialises in environmental and planning law, local authority law and associated public law. His practice is approximately evenly split between cases in the High Court and above, inquiries and advisory work and his clients include major players in his area of expertise including large local authorities, commercial landowners and developers, a number of the main environmental NGOs, private individuals and community groups.
Consistently highly rated in the key directories, recent recommendations have described him as “hugely impressive”; “a fantastic talent”; “thorough, detailed, bright and pleasant to deal with”; “really frighteningly astute”; and “so focussed, intelligent, sharp and responsive and very practical”.
His recent public law work includes acting for a county council challenging local government reorganisation; for a council revoking a certificate of lawful use from a major retailer; for the water industry in challenging the approach to agricultural use of biosolids; for opponents of HS2 challenging approach to environmental protection of water resources during tunnelling; for a council resisting challenge to its housing allocations on SPA/SAC grounds; for a telecom provider resisting enforcement and removal of telephone kiosks in central London; and for a council challenging the permitted development rights for changes of use from retail to residential.
His inquiries and examinations in the last year include:
- Local Plan Examinations: the Islington Local Plan Examination (2021) and the Old Trafford AAP Examination (2022). Previously he acted against the St Albans Local Plan which was then withdrawn;
- Major Housing Developments – Warburton Lane (2020) for Trafford successfully resisting on affordable housing and C&A issues; Harrow v Catalyst (2021)– for Harrow successfully resisting on affordable housing and design issues; B&Q Trafford (2022) – successfully for Trafford successfully resisting on design and affordable housing issues.
- Infrastructure Inquiries
- Minerals: Hatfield Quarry (2021) – successfully for Hertfordshire County council on huge mineral extraction project in GB and country park; Ware Park (2020) – for County successfully resisting mineral extraction in GB;
- Rail infrastructure: Radlett Strategic Rail Freight Interchange for applicant in securing permission for the SRFI and then securing implementation;
- Education: for various education authorities in securing permission for new schools;
- Airports: for local authority addressing all Gatwick development issues including successfully restricting the spread of airport related car-parking across its area.
He regularly advises developers, local authorities in respect of similar projects and the utilities in respect of funding of development demands on their networks.
His non-planning work for local authorities includes litigating for £multi-million unpaid affordable housing contributions; litigating to secure best value in a £multi-million dispute for access across Council owned land for residential developments; securing s.106 obligations for education and healthcare provision; advising on removal of restrictive covenants; challenging an arbitrator’s award on a land acquisition; and resisting injunctions in respect of works to restore rights of way.
He undertakes a significant volume of pro-bono work advising community organisations on planning, environmental and related public law issues. (For preliminary inquiries on this please contact Ben Connor).
David’s practice covers the full range of environmental law issues, often raising novel and important legal points and requiring detailed consideration of, and cross examination on, complex scientific material.
Recommendations: C&P 2022: “He is incredibly sharp in judicial reviews.” “He has a very good reputation – he is an unflappable public lawyer” “David is extremely accessible and very responsive. His strategic thinking on projects is invaluable.” “He provides sensible and pragmatic advice and has an easy manner.” Legal 500 2022: “He is always all over the detail and his focus on legal and factual specifics is second to none.”Dave has a really broad and solid understanding of environmental law.” C&P 2021: “He has very good client-handling skills and gives very good and practical advice about applying the legal strategy” “He provides good, strategic advice and has excellent client handling skills.” “He’s always well prepared and knows how to pitch arguments.” “He has a grasp of specialist technical evidence, which is fantastic, and he can present it in a coherent manner to the Inspector.” “Incredibly thorough in his approach and extremely well prepared when it comes to meeting clients.” C&P 2018 – “sought out by government departments and key environmental NGOs and regulators…extensive experience in appearing before the Court of Appeal. He has encyclopaedic knowledge of the legislation around nature protection.” Who’s Who in the law: “a definite inclusion in any list”;“a fantastic talent”.
Key cases include: Health and Safety Executive v Chester University (2020) – approach to risk management near a major hazard facility; R(Wasik) v Wealdon (2022)– approach to future modelling of pollution and housing development affecting Ashdown Forest SAC; R (Water UK) v EA (2022) – approach to use of biosolids in agriculture and impact on water pollution; R(Misbourne) v SST and HS2 (2022)– impact on water quality of tunnelling for HS2; R (RSPB) v Natural England – concerning conflict between hen harrier protection and grouse shooting (2021); R (Defra) v Greater Manchester/ Lancashire (2018) (JRs of withdrawal of funding for large waste PFIs); R (Holiday Extra) v Crawley BC (SEA of airport parking at Gatwick); R (Birchall Gardens) v. Hertfordshire County Council: EIA screening opinions and reasons for major waste facility); R (Seoint Anglers) v. Natural Resources Wales (concerning meaning of “environmental damage” under Environmental Damage Regulations); Re: Envirogreen (Court of Appeal in Northern Ireland on environmental permitting and relevance of previous conduct of licence holder); and R (RSPB) v. SoS  Env LR 24 (for RSPB in challenge to legality of a cull of a protected species).
He regularly advises NGOs and local authorities on the SPAs/SACs (Kent County Council, Herefordshire County Council, Bournemouth Christchurch and Poole); and is acting for the Royal Horticultural Society in respect of a major new road junction affecting an SPA/SAC near its Wisley HQ.
David regularly appears in planning related challenges in the Courts, and has a wide-ranging planning practice covering infrastructure and housing with a particular expertise on valuation issues relating to viability including affordable housing and other contributions.
Recommendations: C&P 2022: “David is extremely accessible and very responsive. His strategic thinking on projects is invaluable.” “He provides sensible and pragmatic advice and has an easy manner.” Legal 500: 2022:“He is always all over the detail and his focus on legal and factual specifics is second to none.” C&P 2021: “He has a grasp of specialist technical evidence, which is fantastic, and he can present it in a coherent manner to the Inspector.” “Incredibly thorough in his approach and extremely well prepared when it comes to meeting clients”; C&P 2020: “He provides sensible and pragmatic advice and has an easy manner.” “He cuts to the chase and gives advice that is pragmatic and commercial.” C&P 2018 – “has taken on a number of eye-catching planning cases in recent years, engaging with both housing and infrastructure matters of national importance and novel construction. Instructing solicitors praise his comprehensive analysis and his ability to solve complex problems.”Very thorough and has a great deal of experience.” “He is a very worthy opponent, being very robust and tenacious. He is happy to run difficult points and has the strength of character to stand by them and often to win through.” C&P 2017 – “really frighteningly astute barrister”; “Absolutely first rate from a legal analysis point of view”; C&P 2016 – “produces fantastic written work and is really focussed”;
Recent Inquiries: for Trafford Council resisting a 332 flat scheme on design and viability grounds (Jan 2022 – decision pending); for Hertfordshire County Council in successfully resisting major mineral extraction in green belt and a country park (Nov 2021); for Harrow Council in resisting c.200 units scheme on design and heritage grounds [Oct 2021]; for Chorley Council in securing policy compliant Affordable Housing and education contributions for large scale residential development [June 2021]; for Trafford Council in resisting urban extension on landscaping and viability grounds [Jan 2021]. He continues to act for Helioslough in respect of its proposals for a strategic rail freight interchange in Radlett. He acts for Crawley Council in the full range of matters relating to Gatwick, infrastructure and associated development. , for ; for Department of Education in securing permission for a new school in Gloucester (Dec 2018); for Crawley Council in several enforcement cases concerning off airport parking (Nov 2018); for County Council in resisting mineral extraction at Ware Park in Hertford (Oct 2018).
He has previously acted in a number of major infrastructure inquiries and DCOs – Bathside Bay new port, Shellhaven new port; Able – Humber new port; Radlett Strategic Rail Freight Interchange; M25/A3 junction improvements (2021).
David promoted the Islington Local Plan and AAPs (Sept 2021). He is currently promoting the Old Trafford AAP (April 2022). He acted for developers successfully challenging the legality and soundness of the St Alban’s Local Plan.
Important cases include R (Ocado) v Islington LBC  – defending revocation of certificate of lawful use; R (Wasik) v Wealden  – defending challenge to housing growth based on SPA/SAC grounds; West Berkshire v. Secretary of State  1 WLR 3923 (affordable housing policy consistency with statutory scheme); Smech v. Runneymede Borough Council  JPL 677 (housing requirements and discretion); Gerber v. Wiltshire  1 WLR 2593 (leading case on delay in JR and discretion) St Albans City v. SoS  EWHC 655 (Admin) – challenge to a grant of consent for a strategic rail freight interchange.
David acts for many of the major local authorities (City Councils, County Council and London authorities). His practice involves advising on, and appearing in cases concerning, local government powers, decision making, landholdings, revenue maximisation and reorganisation.
Recommendations: C&P 2022: “He is incredibly sharp in judicial reviews.” “He has a very good reputation – he is an unflappable public lawyer”; “David really knows his stuff.” Legal 500: “David has a rare ability to cut through complex rating law questions and get to the crux of the issue at hand. Clients appreciate his clear, direct advice and his thorough grasp of the facts of the case which allow him to quickly respond on his feet.” C&P 2021: “He provides good, strategic advice and has excellent client handling skills.” “He’s always well prepared and knows how to pitch arguments.” C&P 2018 – “renowned local government silk with extensive expertise across a plethora of public and environmental law issues…. routinely acts as lead counsel for public authorities in high stakes vires disputes”; C&P 2016 – “really good at seeing the bigger picture”; C&P 2015 – “he does very high quality cases and he does them well.” “He turns work round quickly and is very reliable”
Recent Work: David is currently acting for Cumbria County Council in its challenge to local government reorganisation (2022 – pending); for North East Lincolnshire in challenge to an arbitration award in respect of a proposed industrial estate ; for several business rate collection authorities in respect of rate mitigation schemes; for a consortium of authorities in seeking to enforce s.106 obligations in relation to delivery of a country park; for a council in seeking to impose a “roof tax” in a regeneration area; for a county council in the approach to an EFW application; for various authorities in seeking to overcome restrictive covenants.
He recently acted for Cheshire East in £multi-million claim related to rights to cross council land for development [2021/2]; for Islington in the first case on the revocation of CLEUDs for misinformation (2021) and on the challenge to PD rights for retail to residential (2021).
Other Public Law
David’s public law practice is focussed on environmental, planning and local government challenges. In addition to those core areas:
- He has appeared regularly in cases concerning the right to protest: for Sheffield City Council in the injunction claims concerning tree felling; for the City of London in City of London v. Samede – the St Paul’s occupy protest; for the Mayor of London in the Parliament Square protest camp case and Orchard – protest camp at Magna Carta.
- He has acted in several cases concerning the compatibility of legislation with the Human Rights Act – including Newhaven and Leeds on A1P1 and commons registration; and
- He is acting for claimants in judicial review claims challenging the legality of imposition of retrospective taxation using the state error principle;
- He has acted for the Government in R (Harrow Community Support) v. Ministry of Defence  EWHC 1921 (Admin) (Olympic security – “missiles on the roof” – article 8); and
- He Has acted for claimants in various art 14 discrimination relating to benefit entitlements.
Recommendations: C&P 2015 – “He is very good… Very tenacious”; C&P 2014 – “He is excellent”, “he’s thorough clear and helpful” He “did extremely well in the High Court looking at the occupation by the camp outside St Paul’s,” and is also “very good at handling clients and meeting their expectations.” C&P 2012 – “wins acclaim for his work in the successful challenge to the government’s decision to support a third runway at Heathrow. He remains a favourite pick as counsel for judicial reviews concerning planning, the environment and local authorities”.
CPO and Compensation
David regularly advises and acts in relation to CPOs and has a particular specialism in substantial compensation claims and valuation issues having acted in a number of £multi-million claims in the last three years.
He acted for landowners objecting to the proposed CPO in relation to the Newport M4 Corridor; for a supermarket operator objecting to a highways CPO; and for a City Council in respect of implementation of a CPO. He advised objectors to the Ponders End and Brent X CPOs and appeared for Sainsbury’s in the Croydon CPO. He acted for the landowner in the challenge to the Swindon CPO and for the SoS in the defence of the Margate regeneration CPO: Margate Town Centre Regeneration Ltd v. Secretary of State  EWCA Civ 1178.
Rating and Valuation
In recent years, David has acted acts for ratepayers and local authorities on a number of high value and significant rating cases. He acted successfully for Exeter in the leading case on valuation of public buildings for rates purposes (2019) and continues to act for the landowner in the long running dispute on “Guardian” schemes – Ludgate House. He was advocate to the Supreme Court in the leading case of the identification of the hereditament (Woolway v. Mazars ) and acted for a wide range of affected ratepayers in addressing the consequences of that decision. In 2016, he acted for the HMRC in two cases challenging the use of the contractor’s basis in the oil industry (Mainline and Total). He has advised various farmers on agricultural exemptions and the owners of a large building in London on applicable exemptions. He is advising several authorities on maximising income from rates and the correct approach to rate mitigation schemes.
He has a particular expertise in valuation issues and regularly cross examines on viability appraisals in the planning and other contexts.
Inspector on Town and Village Green Issues for registration authorities
A Panel of Junior Counsel to the Crown (2005 – 2014)
Appointed as Secretary of State decision maker in statutory environmental law appeals
Appointed as legal assessor by Secretary of State and by mediators in various contexts
Chair of the Free Representation Unit 1993-94
Chair of Governors of Federation of Primary Schools in Islington 2001 – 2022
“He has a very good knowledge of rating and is very good at cross-examination.” Rating, Chambers & Partners, 2022
“He is incredibly sharp in judicial reviews.” “He has a very good reputation – he is an unflappable public lawyer.” Environment, Chambers & Partners, 2022
“David really knows his stuff.” Local Government, Chambers & Partners, 2022
“David is extremely accessible and very responsive. His strategic thinking on projects is invaluable.” “He provides sensible and pragmatic advice and has an easy manner.” Planning, Chambers & Partners, 2022
“He is always all over the detail and his focus on legal and factual specifics is second to none.” Environment, Legal 500, 2022
“David has a rare ability to cut through complex rating law questions and get to the crux of the issue at hand. Clients appreciate his clear, direct advice and his thorough grasp of the facts of the case which allow him to quickly respond on his feet.” Local Government (including Rating), Legal 500, 2022
“David is always all over the detail. His focus on legal and factual specifics is second to none. Dave has a really broad and solid understanding of environmental law.” Planning, Legal 500, 2022
“He has very good client-handling skills and gives very good and practical advice about applying the legal strategy.” Environment, Chambers & Partners, 2021
“He provides good, strategic advice and has excellent client handling skills.” “He’s always well prepared and knows how to pitch arguments.” Local Government, Chambers & Partners, 2021
“He has a grasp of specialist technical evidence, which is fantastic, and he can present it in a coherent manner to the Inspector.” “Incredibly thorough in his approach and extremely well prepared when it comes to meeting clients.” Planning, Chambers & Partners, 2021
“His written advice is clear, timely and succinct” Environment, Chambers & Partners, 2020
“He is always a very pleasant advocate, but he is also very thorough and not be be underestimated in any way.” Local Government, Chambers & Partners, 2020
“He provides sensible and pragmatic advice and has an easy manner.” “He cuts to the chase and gives advice that is pragmatic and commercial.” Planning, Chambers & Partners, 2020
Main Recent Inquiries and Examinations
B&Q Trafford 2022 (Pending)
For Council in resisting appeal for high density flatted development close to Lancashire County Cricket Ground. Case raised issues of design, character and appearance, noise from concerts in the stadium and a key issue on affordable housing.
Hatfield Quarry – mineral extraction (Nov 2021 – Appeal refused)
For Hertfordshire County Council opposing the scheme. Permission was refused for mineral extraction even though from an allocated site. Case raised highly technical issues on water quality the extraction taking place above and in a heavily contaminated aquifer; and issues on the appropriateness of late changes to the scheme (Holborn Studios) and impacts on the GB. Further issues are being separately addressed about extant obligations to deliver a country park on the site.
Catalyst Housing, Harrow (Oct – Nov 2021 – Appear refused)
For Harrow LBC in resisting permission for a Mayor of London scheme for a 100% AH development (primarily shared ownership). Permission was refused on design, character and appearance and scale grounds.
Islington Local Plan Examination (Sept 2021)
For Islington in promoting its local plan and resisting objections to it. Decision pending.
Chorley – housing (June 2021 – appeal granted with full affordable housing and education contributions)
For Chorley Council. Permission was refused for a large housing scheme on AH and education contribution grounds. Council relied on the same arguments as in Warburton Lane. Just prior to the inquiry the Appellant offered full AH contributions and the inspector found that full education contributions were required.
Warburton Lane., Trafford (Jan 2021 – Appeal refused)
For Trafford Council. Permission refused for a large housing scheme on the edge of Partington on design and landscape grounds. Council sought to use the case as a test case on approach to AH following the NPPG 2019 to challenge the prevailing narrative in the north west that only limited AH was viable. Inspector found for the Council on all matters relating to AH.
St Albans Local Plan Examination (January 2020)
Strategic rail freight interchange, allocation of site for Garden Village, duty to co-operate, strategic priorities, housing land supply and alternatives.
St Albans sought to allocate land in the green belt which had secured permission from the SoS for a SRFI to serve London for a garden village the effect of which would have been to defeat the permission and prevent the delivery of an SRFI to meet the needs of London. St Albans had fought a very long battle to prevent the SRFI getting permission and being implemented, David acted for Helioslough who had the benefit of the permission in seeking to show that the local plan was fundamentally flawed in principle because it was predicated on failing to meet a national need for the SRFI, there was nowhere else for it to go, and the housing need could be met elsewhere. Extensive technical submissions and representations made on behalf of Helioslough. After just three days of hearing on these matters, the Examination has been put on hold because of the Inspectors’ serious concerns about legality and soundness of the local plan.
David previously acted for developers in securing permission and successfully defending St Alban’s challenge to the permission.
University of Chester Faculty of Science and Engineering – Thornton Science Park (November 2019-March 2020)
Major hazards, consultation zones, protection concept, risk assessment
For HSE in first major challenge to its setting of consultation zones for major hazard installations since the Oval and Ramm cases 10 years ago in which David also acted for HSE. The University had established a faculty in the inner zone of an oil refinery and contended through expert evidence that the HSE methodology for setting zones was wrong, the modelling of the representative event was wrong and the zones far too wide and that students were indistinguishable from employees. This amounted to a fundamental attack on the approach of the HSE to zone setting. During highly technical cross-examination by David, the University’s main witness withdrew much of his modelling and the rest was shown to be “misleading”. The Inspector upheld the methodology of the HSE to setting zones, and the use of the representative event here. The HSE approach to sensitivity of students was upheld. Wholly exceptionally full costs were awarded to the HSE.
David has previously acted for HSE in all its test cases on its methodology and the scientific logic.
Retirement Village, Bolney, East Sussex October – (October to December 2019)
AONB, major development, C2 vs C3, HLS
Permission was sought for a large retirement village in a woodland setting in the AONB arguing that there was C2 need and C3 HLS shortfall. David acted for LPA in successfully resisting appeal. Appeal concerned the meaning of “major development in AONB”, the impacts on the AONB, trees, and listed buildings; the policy approach to development beyond but on edge of settlement boundaries. Significant issue on whether units were C2 or C3 – and extent of care provided. HLS analysis – 5 year HLS established. Approach to C2 provision and C2 pipeline.
Brecknock Road, Camden (October to December 2019)
Use of former public house as a shop. A3/A4; permitted development; whether shop use had commenced within the PD rights window, community use and benefit of pub, alternative facilities
For successful Appellant, appealing against enforcement re: change of use. Case concerned the steps taken to implement PD rights within the statutory window, the extent of community use; the viability of the pub use and the impacts of loss of pub.
Kerswell Close, Haringay (August to December 2019)
Affordable Housing – 100% one bed one person 20% discount market sale housing. Policy compliance; weight to be attached to non-compliant 100% AH.
For successful LPA, in resisting appeal by Pocket Housing for a 100% AH 1b1p scheme all at 20% discount market sale. Test case. Even though 100% AH, policy breach because tenure and size mix inconsistent with policy requirements. Demonstrated that the 100% AH offer was in fact less valuable in AH terms and did not meet the needs to the same extent as policy compliant scheme.
David has previously acted for multiple London authorities on AH requirements including successfully enforcing s.106 AH obligations for Camden (£3.5m unpaid recovered); on AH requirements in major schemes at Greenwich Peninsula and Docklands and for Islington.
Ware Park – 2018
Mineral Extraction, Green Belt, Air Quality, Noise. Landscape and Need
For successful LPA in resisting huge mineral extraction. Issues on need and supply, impacts on landscape and green belt, alternatives, noise and mitigation and air quality.
Crawley Airport Parking – 2018
Airport parking, need, sustainability, location, competition, impacts
For LPA in several successful inquiries concerning airport related car parking planning appeals and enforcement. – policy; need; shortfall; competition
Gloucester Schools 2019 and 2018
For County Council in securing s.106 obligation for a new school as part of development
For County Council in securing permission on appeal for a new school on public open space.
Major Earlier Inquiries
2014 Humber Port – DCO
2013 Lydd Airport Expansion (for RSPB)
2012 South Cambridge – Clay Farm – urban extension – affordable housing and viability
2011 West of Stevenage Urban Expansion
2010 Radlett Strategic Rail Freight Interchange
2007 Thames Gateway and Bathside Bay Port Inquiry
Articles and Presentations
- Levelling-Up and Regeneration Bill – Session 3 – webinar
- Environmental Law Conference 2021 – webinar
- Can NHS Trusts seek s106 funding from developers to meet the costs of extra patients arising from a housing development?
- Rates Mitigation and Charitable Relief Case Law Discussion – webinar
- Executing the land acquisition strategy: the landowners/occupiers perspective
- Delivering Major Infrastructure: Part 3 – Executing the land acquisition strategy – Webinar
- Rating of public buildings post-RAMM
- Rating of public buildings not occupied for profit: implications of RAMM – Webinar
- Getting an injunction against unlawful traveller encampments: what the law now requires
- Injunctions etc against protesters and travellers – Webinar
- Climate Change As A Ground Of Challenge In Planning Cases
- Charitable Relief Update
- Environmental Case Law Update
- Mayor of London’s Affordable Housing SPG
- Issues in Collection and Enforcement (paper)
- Issues in Collection and Enforcement
- Housing Policy: Legality and Weight Following West Berks v. SoS
- Project Funding – Risks and Options
- A Year in Judicial Review: Key cases and trends
- Green Belt Development: The legal issues
- Identifying the hereditament – The Contrary View
- Green belt development: The legal issues
- Protest, Trespassers and Human Rights: The aftermath of St Paul’s and the Occupy protests
- Interim Relief In Judicial Review
- Costs in Environmental & Planning Cases after Garner – Applications for PCO’s after Garner
- Climate Change and the Law – Renewable Energy proposal hurdles to delivery in the future
- Renewable Energy Proposals: Hurdles to Delivery in the Future