Harriet Townsend

Harriet Townsend specialises in planning and environment law. Her wider public law practice is mainly concerned with local authority powers and duties.

Harriet’s practice includes

  • Planning and enforcement appeals; statutory applications and appeals in the High Court;
  • Compulsory purchase and compensation;
  • Development Plan preparation and strategic environmental assessment;
  • Providing strategic advice on project planning and any legal requirements – whether pre- or post-application or in relation to policy formulation;
  • Highways and rights of way;
  • Town and village greens;
  • Local authority powers and duties;
  • Mediation, as advocate and as mediator.

Harriet has acted for those promoting and resisting residential development, retail schemes, heritage proposals, and economic development of various kinds (including large scale mixed use schemes, leisure development and tourist accommodation). Recent inquiries into major development proposals have involved issues of housing land supply, green belt policy, retail impact, landscape, heritage, renewable energy policy, highway safety, loss of employment land, and residential amenity.

She also works on small scale proposals in sensitive locations where they can raise challenging legal and planning issues, for example basement development in central London, river-edge development adjoining the Thames, and assets of community value.

My approach

Harriet takes a close interest in all her cases from first instruction, and will advise clients in preparation for, and throughout the conduct of appeals and applications whether they are determined in court or inquiry, at a hearing or on paper. She is often brought into a case at an early stage and this can help to deliver an appropriate consent, while minimising objection and legal challenge.


My work

During 2014-15

  • Harriet acted for a team of experts in heritage and conservation in promoting the compulsory purchase order for the 20 hectare site of the former North Wales Hospital, Denbigh under Listed Building Act powers. The former hospital is a Grade II* building and one of the finest examples of Victorian asylum architecture in Wales. The CPO inquiry into the sole objection to the order (by the site owner, a company registered in the British Virgin Islands) ran for three weeks and closed in March 2015.
  • Harriet has worked on several basement cases in which the law and policy of development below ground has been directly in issue in a variety of ways. She was led by Paul Brown QC in the recent High Court challenge to the basement policy adopted by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in January 2015.

About me

Chambers and Partners (2014) describes Harriet as “a planning specialist who tackles CPOs, major retail and residential development inquiries, and public rights of way cases. She gets on well with the client, provides clear and practical advice, and knows how local government works.“ She is similarly rated for her work in environmental matters and described as a local government law expert by the Legal 500 (2014). Her clients include individuals, public authorities, and developers working throughout England and Wales.

What my clients say

"She gets on well with the client, provides clear and practical advice, and knows how local government works."

Professional & academic

She has a 1st class honours degree in Mathematics and Economics and was called to the Bar in 1992.

  • Planning and Environment Bar Association, committee member and former secretary
  • Administrative Law Bar Association (ALBA)
  • United Kingdom Environmental Law Association (UKELA)
  • Compulsory Purchase Association (CPA)
  • National Infrastructure Planning Association (NIPA)