Property and Estates
William has a substantial body of recent experience in planning law where he acts for local planning authorities (LPAs), developers and interested third parties. William has been involved with a number of confiscation orders under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (arising from the defendant’s failure to comply with the requirements of a planning enforcement notice) and enforcement appeals. He is particularly interested in proposals for development in the case of protected open spaces (such as within green belts, AONBs and National Parks). William is also interested in heritage issues and has advised extensively and also written on this topic. He has also recently advised (and been involved in discussions with LPA officers on behalf of a direct access client) on a proposal affecting land within the site of a scheduled monument (buried Roman artefacts). He has also advised in connection with planning conditions affecting the occupancy of new or converted dwellings to local inhabitants and has also lectured on this topic. William has also advised on planning obligations which concern developer delivery of school sites. William is currently advising an objector in relation to the construction of a proposed 2-storey leisure centre spa building near to her home (in the grounds of a Grade 2 listed hotel complex in a conservation area) where there are significant impacts on habitats (bats) and the prospect of unacceptable light and noise pollution. The application has been withdraw but it seems likely that it will be renewed in a location that could even be closer to the client’s home.
For the last couple of months William has been involved in drafting extensive appeal documentation in a challenging cross-boundary appeal in the Midlands. The proposal involves enabling development intended to fund enhancements to woodland and to create a community park. The appeal site contains over 2 acres of Japanese knotweed (JKW) which is the largest spread of JKW some of the experts have ever seen. It is predicted that the proposal will give rise to a net gain in biodiversity assessed at 9.15% or 282,973.32% across the site (in view of the number of new hedgerows) (these are quantitative assessments calculated in accordance with guidelines published by DEFRA (2019) with the aid of the DEFRA Biodiversity Metric Calculation Tool 2.0 which provides a way of measuring biodiversity losses and gains resulting from development or land management change (this is particularly material in light of the emerging Environment Bill and the approach to development that leaves biodiversity in a better state than before). The appeal is proceeding by way of a public inquiry which will last several days and raises a number of interesting issues involving the meaning and application of local and national policies, ecological impacts, landscape character, the scope of the material considerations advanced by the developer (the LPAs are suggesting that the eradication of the JKW is not a material consideration) and the planning balance (in terms of benefits vs harms) arising from the presence of such a large spread of JKW whose eradication is intended to be funded, and can only be funded (at a cost of around £0.5m), by the enabling development (eradication of the JKW is now critical as if steps are not taken to remove it adjoining dwellings and LNRs will soon be affected by its rapid spread. Extensive research has failed to disclose a case where enabling development has been advanced to fund enhancements to the natural environment.
In 2020 William also advised on the possibility of a non-determination appeal (reserved matters) involving a disputed level of mitigation contribution and design issues affecting 100 plus residential development close to European sites near Weymouth. Also in 2020 William advised on proposed tall buildings in Birmingham and London involving objections on grounds of excessive height and massing, excessive development of the site and significant heritage impacts. Again, in 2020, William also advised and drafted appeal documentation involving the village infilling exception on a site in the Green belt.
William considers that his expertise in planning law is assisted by his lengthy background as a Chancery lawyer specialising in land law.
William also advises on the control of advertisements. He recently advised on the likelihood of a consent to the siting of an elevated digital display unit on a building overlooking a large roundabout having five exits and four entrances.
In 2018 William acted in an enforcement case involving unlawful sub-division. He appeared for the landlord in Paramaguru v Ealing LBC  EWHC 373 (Admin) where it was held by the Planning Court that children under the age of 18 counted as ‘residents’ for the purposes of a Class C4 use within the meaning of the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987. The case has serious consequences for landlords of small HMOs occupied by six or fewer residents which do not require planning permission. The case was important as the client was contending that small children did not count as ‘residents’ such that HMOs with a maximum of 6 adults plus children would not be a breach of planning control.
William also appeared for the appellant in Crawford-Brunt v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government  EWHC 3580 (Admin) where the claim to standing failed as neither appellant had made objections during the appeal process and merely lived in neighbouring properties. William had unsuccessfully attempted to distinguish the facts of this case from the decision of the Supreme Court in Walton v Scottish Ministers  PTSR 51.
William was also recently involved in a successful application in the Magistrates Court to discharge an order under section 215 of the Town and Country Act 1990 (under which an authority may take steps requiring land to be cleaned up when its condition adversely affects the amenity of the area).
In 2019-20 William was also involved in a substantial and prolonged high value litigation between operators involved in the management, disposal and recycling of household waste materials.
William writes text books on planning law: (i) Renewable Energy from Wind and Solar Power: Law and Regulation (2021) (including a Foreword by Lord Justice Lindblom); (ii) Planning Law: A Practitioner’s Handbook (2019) (which again included a Foreword by Lord Justice Lindblom); and (iii) (jointly with Robert Weatherley of 3PB) Restrictions on the Use of Land (2016) (which contained a Foreword by Lord Neuberger, who was then President of the Supreme Court).
Town and village greens, commons and highways
William has considerable experience in relation to commons and village greens on which he has written and regularly given seminars. He regularly takes part as an inspector or counsel in a large number of village green inquiries. He advises applicants for registration, landowners and registration authorities on matters of procedure, evidence and law on a range of matters, not least in relation to the prescriptive acquisition of recreational rights over land and what to do when your land has been wrongly registered as a green.
William was instructed by Surrey County Council to act as the non-statutory inspector in R (NHS Property Services Ltd) v Surrey County Council  UKSC 58, a case which went to the Supreme Court where William’s recommendation to the registration authority on the statutory incompatibility objection was upheld and his recommendation that the application to register be dismissed was upheld. The appeal concerned an area of woodland vested in NHS Property Services Ltd. It adjoined a hospital. Surrey CC granted an application for registration (despite William’s recommendation against this on legal grounds) which was quashed by the High Court finding that the registration authority had failed to properly consider the question of statutory incompatibility (on which William had found against the applicant). The Court of Appeal upheld the decision to register but the Supreme Court allowed the objector’s appeal on the ground that the defence of statutory incompatibility had been made out in that it would be a strong thing to find that Parliament intended to allow use of the land by a statutory undertaker for public purposes only to be stymied by the operation of the Commons Act 2006 and the use of the land as a village green. In the circumstances the application land was not available for registration (as William had originally found).
William also appeared as junior counsel in the Supreme Court in Taylor v Betterment Properties (Weymouth) Ltd  UKSC 6, now the leading case on non-peaceable use. William also speaks regularly on village greens and highways.
Public rights of way is another challenging area of the law and gives rise to acute conflicts of interest. All too often the issue is whether an ancient track in the countryside is in law a public highway or, if it is, whether those who would like to use it with motorbikes for recreation have had their rights taken away by legislation. William has regularly appeared for landowners at DMMO inquiries in the case of opposed modification orders.
Assets of Community Value
William is an expert on the law and practice of assets of community value which was introduced in the Localism Act 2011. He acted for the listing authorities of Trafford Council and Liverpool City Council on the listing of the football stadia of Old Trafford and Anfield. He has also appeared for landowners at review hearings where it is possible to rescind a listing prior to a challenge being taken by a landowner to the General Regulatory Chamber of the First-tier Tribunal. As the jurisprudence develops these cases are becoming ever more complex, particularly in cases involving the closure or development of public houses (by far the most popular type of asset listed as an ACV, at least until permitted development rights were disapplied in 2015).
William has expertise in the law of easements (including rights to light) and restrictive covenants in the development context, where he has had a number of cases in the Upper Tribunal dealing with applications to discharge or modify restrictive covenants affecting freehold land. He also regularly deals with disputes on title, conflicts over boundaries and claims to possessory titles. William is also very familiar with the law and practice affecting business and agricultural tenancies and he has a great deal of experience in claims involving rent review, dilapidations or other breaches of covenant in these sectors.
Recent cases have included:
- Advice on appeal and drafting appeal documentation (running to 110 pages) in a cross-boundary appeal in the Midlands involving enabling development (11 dwellings) intended to fund enhancements to woodland and create a community park. The appeal site contained over 2 acres of Japanese knotweed (JKW) which was the largest spread of JKW experts had seen. It is predicted that the proposal will give rise to a net gain in biodiversity assessed at 3.88 habitat units or 9.15% and 5.66 linear units or 282,973.32% across the site (these are quantitative assessments calculated in accordance with guidelines published by DEFRA (2019) and with the DEFRA Biodiversity Metric Calculation Tool 2.0 (the Biodiversity Metric 2.0 (2019) provides a way of measuring biodiversity losses and gains resulting from development or land management change). The appeal is proceeding by way of a public inquiry and raises a number of interesting issues involving the meaning and application of local and national policies, the scope of material considerations advanced by the developer and the planning balance arising from the presence of such a large spread of JKW whose eradication is intended to be funded (at a cost of around £0.5m) by the enabling development.
- Advice and challenges affecting listing of pubs in Somerset and Gravesend as Assets of Community Value (both Grade II listed buildings set in conservation areas).
- Advice on powers of local authority to override easements and restrictive covenants under the Housing and Planning Act 1996 (ss.203-4) and generally in the case of the exercise of statutory powers, including advice on the authority’s power of appropriation and sale where land is affected by third party rights.
- Advice on liability in the carrying out of coastal defence works by coastal erosion management authorities.
- Advice on breach of the covenant for quiet enjoyment/derogation from grant in the case of the acts or omissions of commercial landlords.
- Advice on nuisance arising from the shared use of a right of way (business) and the recovery of sums spent on improvements.
- Advice and drafting objection statement in the case of a proposed 2-storey leisure centre spa and associated infrastructure in the countryside close to objector’s property involving significant impacts on protected species/habitats and unacceptable noise and light pollution.
- Advice (including letter to LPA) on non-determination appeal (reserved matters) involving disputed level of mitigation contribution and design issues affecting 100 plus residential development close to European sites near Weymouth.
- Claim to set aside a Tomlin order (involving a business tenancy) which lacked prudent safeguards (which must have been contemplated in order to give the Tomlin agreement business efficacy – hence the claim for setting aside the consent order on the basis of implied terms) and an associated trespass to goods claim involving the unlawful removal of externally located refrigeration plant which resulted in catastrophic (and ongoing) financial loss to the claimant’s business.
- Advice on proposed tall buildings in Birmingham and London involving objections on grounds of excessive height and massing, excessive development of site and significant heritage impacts.
- First remote village green inquiry in England and Wales (lasting 2 days) and Inspector’s report for Wiltshire Council (land at Hilperton near Trowbridge).
- Village green inquiry (5 days) and inspector’s report for Wiltshire Counsel (land at Semington near Melksham).
- Village green inquiry and Inspector’s report for Staffordshire County Council (land at Heath Hayes).
- PDL/greenfield site development in AONB raising heritage issues affecting scheduled monument (buried Roman archaeology).
- Advice and drafting appeal documentation involving village infilling exception in Green belt.
- Acting for Surrey County Council in its capacity as commons registration authority on an application to remove land from the register of common land (application involved disputed curtilage of a substantial Grade II listed property set in an AONB).
- Acting for Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council in a disputed confirmation appeal at a DMMO public inquiry where there were objections to the closure and diversion of a right of way, including in relation disability discrimination (the new path had steps). The appeal outcome was reported.
- Action for injunction and damages arising from the use of a right of way by a garden centre for the sale of goods outside the range of goods allowed to be sold within the parameters of the right of way. The case involved a preliminary issue on the scope of the original grant and is now proceeding to trial on liability and damages.
- Boundary dispute in the countryside involving the development of land alleged to be within the curtilage of a neighbouring SSSI.
- Right to light loss and assessment of quantum arising from overshadowing commercial development in an historic Bath street.
Journal of Planning and Environment Law publishes a superb review of Webster and Weatherley’s “Restrictions on the Use of Land”28th Jul 2017
Journal of Planning and Environment Law publishes a superb review of Webster and Weatherley’s “Restrictions on the Use of Land”.
In a review authored by Dr Ashley Bowes, the Journal of Planning and Environment Law has positively commented on “Restrictions on the Use of Land”, William Webster and Robert Weatherley’s planning law reference book.
Click below to read the review.
Published by Wildy, Simmonds & Hill the book covers the law and practice in a number of fields which impact the use of land and there is considerable focus on remedies for the infringement of rights in, on or over land. The areas covered include: easements, town and village greens, public rights of way, restrictive covenants, assets of community value and elements of planning law.
Housing White Paper9th Feb 2017
3PB Planning Barristers William Webster and Graeme Sampson summarise and analyse the government's Housing White Paper.
Well known for his expertise in various areas of planning law, including village greens, assets of community value and public rights of way. He frequently acts for local authorities, landowners and developers.
Strengths: "William is approachable, clear in his advice and puts the client at ease due to his thorough comprehension of complicated issues."
Recent work: Acted as the non-statutory inspector at the Rolleston-on-Dove village green inquiry regarding a 14.7-acre site required for residential development.
Chambers and Partners 2021 – Band 2 – Planning Western Bar
‘His chain of thought is clear, precise and the advice covers all aspects that a client may wish to cover. William is strong in his area and also considers costs efficiency for the client without prejudicing the client's position.’
"Of particular note, William Webster is a specialist in the law of village greens having sat as an inspector at numerous non-statutory inquiries and has also appeared in the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court in leading village green cases. 'In a public inquiry setting, he has the ability to explain the issues to the applicants who have no legal knowledge and background in a way that avoids being patronising and conveys the meaning in a readily understandable way,' said one solicitor."
Legal 500 2021 Planning and environment – Tier 1
‘He has superb planning knowledge.’
Legal 500 2020 Construction, planning and environment – Tier 1
'An expert in land law.'
Legal 500 2018/19 Construction, planning and environment - Tier 1
‘A feisty and forceful advocate.’
Legal 500 UK 2017/ Construction, planning and environment
"A careful lawyer and an effective advocate."
Legal 500 UK 2016 / Construction, planning and environment
Recommendation from an instructing solicitor:
"I cannot thank you enough for the introduction to William Webster. Both my clients and myself were more than impressed with not only his hard work, the way in which he was able to absorb, in such a short time, all the papers in an extremely complex matter in which both my and his predecessors had made elementary mistakes.
His “bedside manner” with his lay clients was second to none. His conduct in court with both his opponent and the judge was exemplary.
Chris, once again, you have helped me out of a difficult situation for which I will ever be grateful. If only there were more clerks like you who are willing to go that extra mile.
I have recommended 3PB to all in this firm as well as the criminal practice, to which I am a consultant and my daughter’s new firm in London.
Rest assured you will be my 1st port of call for all my southern work and Mr Webster in particular for ALL my property work."
- Bristol University (1974)
- Inns of Court School of Law (1975)
Professional qualifications & appointments
- Year of Call: 1975 (Middle Temple)
- Western Circuit
- Chancery Bar Association
- Property Bar Association
William Webster is qualified to accept instructions directly from members of the public and professional clients under the Direct Public Access scheme.More Information