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Local government and planning set 4 Breams Buildings has lost highly-rated public and planning silk John Howell QC to leading public law and commercial set Blackstone Chambers.
Howell's decision to join Blackstone despite having a strong public and planning practice will come as a surprise for most. Senior clerk at 4 Breams Buildings Stephen Graham says: "The move took everybody here by complete surprise but he is a very nice man and we all hope the move works out for him."
One source says: "I think it is a good move but I am a little surprised that he has gone down the route of possibly giving up planning."
But Blackstone reveals that Howell planned to move away from planning work to concentrate on public law work.
Blackstone's senior clerk Martin Smith says: "It is true that John is known for his planning work but he now wishes to concentrate on public and local government finance work."
However, Howell is currently appearing as amicus curia (friend of the court) in Alconbury (R v SS for Environment, Transport and the Regions (ETR) ex parte Holdings and Barnes; SS for ETR v Legal and General Assurance Society), a conjoined planning case, which is set to make planning and legal history.
The case will consider whether planning legislation breaches Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the right to a fair trial) and is therefore incompatible with the Human Rights Act 1998. The case, involving seven silks and 12 juniors, started in the House of Lords last Monday (26 February).
Blackstone has employment specialist Gerard Clarke and public and employment junior Dinah Rose on the main Treasury panel for advocates. 4 Breams Buildings has public and planning junior Nathalie Lieven on the panel.