James Corbet Burcher is a specialist planning and environmental law barrister.
James has built expertise in three areas in his first decade in practice:
- Planning Court Litigation involving the Interpretation of National Planning Policy
- Section 78 Appeals in respect of Housing and Employment
- Plan Examination Work, especially in the Neighbourhood Plan sphere
He acts primarily for the development industry (especially housebuilders and land promoters): at appeal, at plan examinations and in court. He also acts for local authorities and the full range of participants in the planning process.
Alongside his busy practice at the Planning Bar, he is the Planning and Environmental Bar Association’s representative on Bar Council, an Advocacy Tutor for Lincoln’s Inn and an active member of the Planning Law and Property Rights Association – the international association of planning law academics.
James has a keen interest in the digital transformation of the planning system, by reference to best practice internationally. This informs all of his current advisory and advocacy work.
Directories and Rankings
James was voted one of the top 10 Juniors overall in Planning Magazine’s Annual Planning Law Survey in 2019 and 2020. He was voted the No.1 Junior Under 35 years in 2018.
Chambers and Partners Bar UK records him as a Band 1 Junior for Planning in the Midlands Region, with sources describing:
“He’s fantastic on the law with an extraordinary level of enthusiasm.” “Very diligent and client-focused.” 
“Incredibly intelligent and hard-working, and an impressive advocate.” “A sincere and very committed member of the Bar.” 
“A very good junior with an excellent grasp of what’s important. He’s wonderful to work with.” “Highly intelligent.” 
“He has extensive knowledge of the legal system…Extraordinarily detailed and very thorough.” 
“An up-and-coming junior frequently highlighted for his client-friendly approach who is developing a strong reputation in the market…He has a good style and intellectual approach…He is very capable and very keen.” 
James has appeared in over 50 cases before the Planning Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court.
He has acted in all kinds of administrative law proceedings: judicial review, s288 challenges to appeal decisions and s113 challenges to local plans. His clients have included claimants, defendants and interested parties of all kinds, from major landowners and housebuilders and promoters to parish councils and individuals.
Planning Court Procedure and Digital Innovation
James was instructed in the first ever hearing before the Planning Court: the permission hearing in R(Jones) v English Heritage  EWHC 2259 (Admin) (as junior to Ian Dove QC (now Dove J). Since that time, he has worked on many cases which have required procedural innovation: most recently video hearings and electronic bundles. In the last year, he has appeared in a number of video/remote hearings before both the Planning Court and the Court of Appeal.
National Planning Policy Interpretation
The focus of much of his court work has been the interpretation of the National Planning Policy Framework. He has been instructed in many of the challenges which have explored and defined the scope of the Presumption in Favour of Sustainable Development, particularly in the context of Housing Land Supply.
He represented the successful claimant in the Wavendon Properties  EWHC 1524 (Admin) (led by Peter Goatley QC) and the successful Interested Party in the Richborough Estates in Hopkins Homes  UKSC 37 (led by Chris Young QC), which remain two of the leading cases on the interpretation of the presumption.
A number of the cases he has been involved in have also driven subsequent developments in national planning policy. He acted (as junior to Chris Young QC) in the judicial review challenge to the Neighbourhood Planning Written Ministerial Statement, for over 25 claimants, the largest action of its kind: Richborough Estates v SSCLG  EWHC 33 (Admin), which contributed to changes to the present NPPF 14, and in St Modwen v SSCLG  EWCA Civ 1643, which drove changes to the standard of “deliverable” under NPPF 73.
James has experience of all kinds of judicial review challenge – extending from challenges to policy to local authority and public body decisions of all kinds. He has acted for all types of claimant (commercial developers, housebuilders, landowners, residents groups, public bodies) and has successfully defended decisions by local authorities, including at permission hearings. He has also acted extensively for interested parties in this field, including at the pre-action protocol stage.
Local Plan Challenges
In the Local Plan s113 sphere, he has extensive experience of litigation invoving Housing Requirements, Green Belt and the Duty to Cooperate stretching back to 2014. Recent work includes: Interested Party in Flaxby Park v Harrogate BC  EWHC 3204 Compton PC v Guildford BC  EWHC 3242 (Admin) (led by Chris Young QC) and Aireborough Neighbourhood Development Forum v Leeds City Council  EWHC 2183 (Admin).
A full list of his court cases since 2014 is set out below.
Planning Appeals Work
James has appeared at over 40 planning inquiries and hearings.
Modern Inquiry Procedure and Digital Innovation
James has extensive experience of remote and video work, having acted in one of the first ever virtual hearings in 2020 and advised extensively in this area. He was also directly involved in the submission of sector representations to the Rosewell Review, and has a keen interest in building effective document management at appeal.
Work in the past three years has included acting for:
- Gladman Developments, securing permission for 180 dwellings - Land at Pear Tree Lane Chorley (led by Chris Young QC)
- Oxford Brookes University, securing permission for 500 units at Wheatley Campus – the largest Green Belt permission of its kind (led by Chris Young QC)
- The successful Appellant securing planning permission for 150 homes in Brimington, Chesterfield;
- Newcastle Under Lyme Borough Council in the dismissal of an appeal for 80 homes at Loggerheads, Newcastle-Under-Lyme;
- Forest Care, successfully securing permission for a care home development in Hartley Wintney, in Hart District Council.
- Davidson Homes securing planning permission for 141 dwellings at Hanslope, Milton Keynes;
- Cove Homes, in its successful appeal securing planning permission for 23 dwellings in Alfold, Waverley Borough Council
- Derbyshire Dales Borough Council in the dismissal of an appeal for 165 dwellings at Doveridge
James’ extensive court work on the NPPF, informs all of his appeal work.
Employment and Logistics Work
He is developing a strong practice in employment and mixed-used schemes and has acted:
- For Barwood Development Securities, in an ongoing appeal for employment and residential development in Hinckley & Bosworth Borough Council
- For a major manufacturer in an appeal in respect of employment development in the Green Belt
- For Pinewood Studios Ltd securing planning permission for film studios development on 46ha of Green Belt land (as junior to Martin Kingston QC).
Local Plan Examinations
James advises regularly on the promotion of sites through the local plan process, especially in the context of strategic planning at the City Region level.
Instructions in 2019 included appearing at the Harrogate, Bedford and West of England Joint Spatial Plan examinations. He is presently instructed in a number of upcoming Local Plan examinations, providing strategic advice and advocacy.
His work on s113 challenges informs all of his advice in this area, including work in the context of viability (Flaxby), Strategic Environmental Assessment and Green Belt (Leeds, Guildford and the IM Properties challenges in 2015), and the Duty to Cooperate (challenges involving Test Valley and Winchester in 2013-2015).
Neighbourhood Plan Examinations
James is one of the leading barristers operating in the field of neighbourhood planning.
In the last five years, he has advised on a total of more than 60 neighbourhood plans at all stages of development.
He has also appeared for parties at 10 neighbourhood plan hearings (the most of any other member of the Planning Bar) and in several of the judicial review challenges in this field, notably one of the leading Court of Appeal cases: DLA Delivery Ltd v Lewes DC  EWCA Civ 58.
The majority of his work in this field is for housebuilders and land promoters. He assists them and their consultants with detailed written representations covering the “basic conditions”, site assessment, strategic environmental assessment and procedure, as well as related public law and local government issues. He has however also advised local planning authorities on procedure on several occasions.
In 2016, he represented Milton Keynes Town Council in the major called-in inquiry concerning a town centre retail development, which raised a number of issues concering Localism.
Assets of Community Value
James has appeared in three cases before the First Tier Tribunal (General Regulatory Chamber):
- CR2014/0016 : Idsall School v Shropshire Council – an early challenge to an ACV designation of school playing fields
- CR2016/0014: New Barrow Ridge Ltd v Ribble Valley Borough Council – successful challenge to ACV designation of allotments
- CR2017/0017Hickinbottom v Telford & Wrekin Council: successful defence of ACV designation for public house
He has also advised extensively in this area, and also conducted non-Tribunal advocacy including securing the removal of the designation at the internal review stage, appearing before the Council in person.
James is a member of the Planning and Environmental Bar Association’s (PEBA) Committee and is its representative on Bar Council.
He also sits on Bar Council Legal Services Committee and IT Panel, where he has developed a strong interest in video hearings and artificial intelligence/automation of the delivery of legal services.
He is a qualified Advocacy Tutor with Lincoln’s Inn, and has taught on a number of pupillage and new practitioner events.
He is a registered pupillage supervisor.
Academic and International Work
Alongside his practice at the Bar, James has an active interest in academic work, with a strong international focus.
He is a member of the Planning Law and Property Rights Association (PLPR) and has delivered papers at their conferences in the USA (2019), Czechia (2020) and was a co-author of a paper presented remotely in 2021.
He has been appointed a member of the Platform of Experts in Planning Law.
He is a member of the International Society of City and Regional Planners, the International Bar Association, the American Bar Association, the American Planning Association and the International Planning History Society.
Alongside Ashley Bowes he is the co-author of a Chapter in Professor Rachelle Altermann’s forthcoming major work, Routledge Handbook of Comparative Planning Law (forthcoming, 2022).
James has a particular interest in the development of planning legislation and policy to promote and support new technologies (PropTech, PlanTech) and international comparative land use law (notably in the USA, France and Germany).
Prior to coming to the Bar, James worked on post-war London planning history to postgraduate level. This grounding in the historical development of the British planning system informs all of his professional work today.
“He’s fantastic on the law with an extraordinary level of enthusiasm.” “Very diligent and client-focused.”
Chambers UK 2021
“Incredibly intelligent and hard-working, and an impressive advocate.” “A sincere and very committed member of the Bar.”
Chambers UK 2020
Commended by sources for his adept handling of planning matters involving assets of community value and for his work in neighbourhood planning and residential development matters. He represents developers as well as local planning authorities in public inquiries and planning appeals. “A very good junior with an excellent grasp of what’s important. He’s wonderful to work with.” “Highly intelligent.”
Chambers UK 2019
“He has extensive knowledge of the legal system and is very well versed on Neighbourhood Plans.” “Extraordinarily detailed and very thorough.”
Chambers UK 2018
“He has a good style and intellectual approach.” “He comes back very quickly, lets you know what he is doing and doesn’t leave you hanging. He is very capable and very keen.”
Chambers UK 2017
Leech Homes v Northumberland CC  EWCA Civ 198
Flaxby Park v Harrogate BC  EWHC 3204 (Admin)
Peel Investments v SSCHLG  EWCA Civ 1175
Airebourough Neighbourhood Forum v Leeds CC  EWHC 45 (Admin) and  EWHC 2183 (Admin)
Compton PC v Guildford BC  EWHC 3242 (Admin)
R(Wright) v Resilient Energy Severndale Ltd  UKSC 53 ( EWCA Civ 2102; 2016] EWHC 1349 (Admin))
Peel Investments (North) Ltd v SSHCLG  EWHC 2143 (Admin)
Wavendon Properties v SSHCLG  EWHC 1524 (Admin)
Richborough Estates v SSCLG  EWHC 33 (Admin)
St Modwen v SSCLG  EWCA Civ 1643 ( EWHC 968 (Admin))
Verdin (t/a The Darnhall Estate) v SSCLG  EWHC 2079 (Admin)
Baroness Cumberlege of Newick v SSCLG and DLA Delivery  EWHC 2057 (Admin)
East Staffordshire BC v SSCLG  EWCA Civ 89 ( EWHC 2973 (Admin))
R(Williams) v Powys CC  EWCA Civ 42
Suffolk Coastal DC v Hopkins Homes ; Cheshire East BC v SSCLG  UKSC 37 ( EWCA Civ 168)
DLA Delivery Ltd v Lewes DC ( EWCA Civ 58  EWHC 2311 (Admin)
Trustees of the Barker Mill Estates v Test Valley BC  EWHC 3028 (Admin)
R(Kebbell Developments Ltd) v Leeds City Council  EWHC 2664 (Admin)
R(Flint) v South Gloucestershire Council  EWHC 2180 (Admin)
Stryjak v Hounslow LBC  EWHC 1897 (Admin)
Cheshire East BC v SSCLG and Renew Land Developments  EWHC 571 (Admin)
R(Williams) v Powys County Council and Bagley  EWHC 480 (Admin)
R(Dudfield) v Forest of Dean DC  EWHC 291 (Admin)
West Berkshire DC v SSCLG and HDD Burghfield Common Ltd  EWHC 267 (Admin)
IM Properties Development Ltd v Lichfield DC  EWHC 2077 (Admin)
Kings Lynn and West Norfolk BC v SSCLG and Elm Park Holdings  EWHC 2464 (Admin)
IM Properties Development Ltd v Lichfield DC  EWHC 1982 (Admin)
Bar Council Legal Services Committee
Bar Council IT Panel
University of Oxford: Demy (Full College Academic Scholarship) Oxford Half-Blue, Modern Pentathlon
Lincoln’s Inn: Hardwicke Entrance Award Lord Bowen Scholarship Lord Mansfield Scholarship Sunley Pupillage Award
Other:UKELA Moot: Winner of both Senior and Junior Competitions
Planning and Environmental Bar Association (PEBA)
UK Environmental Law Association (UKELA)
National Infrastructure Planning Association (NIPA)
Constitutional and Administrative Law Bar Association (ALBA)
International Bar Association (IBA)
American Bar Association (ABA)
American Planning Association (APA)
International Society of City and Regional Planners (ISOCARP)
International Planning History Society (IPHS)
International Planning History Society (IPHS)
BA(Hons) Modern History (First Class), Magdalen College, University of Oxford
Mst Modern History, Magdalen College, University of Oxford
CPE (Distinction), City University
LLM (Distinction), University College London
BPTC, BPP (London)