Local authorities shun QCs on airport expansion cases

Seven local authorities have decided against instructing QCs for their forthcoming fight over government plans for airport expansion in the South East.

It has been customary until now for all parties in litigation of this scale – involving three judicial reviews by two consortiums of local authorities of the Government’s white paper on airport expansion – to instruct senior silks.

John Hobson QC of 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square did act for one party, a consortium of five local councils around Luton which is challenging expansion at Stansted, during an earlier related inquiry.

However, he is no longer involved and the case is being handled by two juniors, Tom Hill and Lisa Busch, also of 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square.

Another party comprising Wandsworth Borough Council, the London Borough of Hillingdon and three local interest groups, has also instructed two juniors but no silks from Landmark Chambers. They are David Smith, who acted in the Heathrow Terminal 5 inquiry, and Dan Kolinsky.

Richard Buxton, name partner at his Cambridgeshire firm, who is the solicitor for this group, said: “I reckon we have a good enough team without needing to instruct a silk. David Smith has a lot of planning experience.”

Several sources claimed that sidelining silks was a cost-driven measure. One said: “I doubt their savings are as much as they expected, as they would have needed to increase the juniors’ fees to cover the extra work they’re doing.”

Landmark Chambers and 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square have monopolised the case, which is set down for six days in December in the High Court.
John Steel QC and Stephen Whale, both of 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square, are acting for a third party led by Persimmon Homes and Laing Homes, which are seeking to safeguard land around Gatwick.

Meanwhile, Richard Drabble QC and Timothy Mould, both of Landmark Chambers, are acting for the Government.