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    "Morag is a phenomenally good advocate." "She's incredibly thorough and knowledgeable and she's good to work with."

    Chambers and Partners 2021, Morag Ellis QC

Morag Ellis QC

Morag Ellis QC

Year of call: 1984 (QC 2006)

Practice areas: Planning, Environment, Compulsory Purchase and Compensation, Major Infrastructure Projects, Local Government, Ecclesiastical Law and Religious Liberty, Rating, Public Law, European Law

Morag Ellis QC

Morag Ellis QC is widely recognised as a leading expert in planning and local government law in England and Wales, with a wide ranging practice covering all aspects of development. 
She is consistently praised in the Chambers & Partners and Legal 500 Guides and the Planning Magazine Survey of barristers and was named as Planning and Environment Silk of the year in 2015. She has been recognised as a 2020 “Woman of Influence” by Planning Magazine. 

Morag is a member of the Silks’ Panel to the Welsh Government and a past Chairman of the Planning and Environment Bar Association. She gave evidence to the Parliamentary Select Committee on the National Policy Statement on Ports and the Welsh Government Senedd on the review of TAN 8 (Renewable Energy), and served as a member of the Interim Planning Advisory Group advising the Welsh Minister on changing culture in Welsh Planning.

In June 2020, Morag was appointed as the Dean of the Arches and Auditor and Master of Faculties. As such, she is the senior ecclesiastical judge in England and the statutory regulator, under the Legal Services Act 2007 of Notaries in England, Wales, the Channel Islands and parts of the Commonwealth. As an ex officio member of the General Synod of the Church of England and a member of its Rule Committee, Morag is involved in the preparation and promotion of primary and secondary legislation. She is also a member of the Legal Advisory Commission to General Synod, preparing opinions on current issues of ecclesiastical law. The judicial appointment is part time, so she remains available for instructions generally, although she can no longer receive instructions in ecclesiastical matters involving the faculty jurisdiction or clergy discipline in England.  

In 2019, she was appointed as the QC Church Commissioner and represents the Commissioners on the National Safeguarding Steering Group as well as sitting on the Mission and Pastoral and Church Property Committee, a quasi judicial body which adjudicates on parish reorganisation and church property disputes.  
 

  • "Morag is a phenomenally good advocate." "She's incredibly thorough and knowledgeable and she's good to work with." Chambers and Partners 2021  

  • "She's good at distilling the key elements from a lot of information and she understands how commercial motivations interact with potential litigation." "Morag is reliable and dependable and will always go the extra mile." Chambers and Partners 2021 

  • "Morag is a very knowledgeable, experienced and thorough barrister, who prepares her cases rigorously. She is an excellent advocate and a tenacious cross-examiner."  Legal 500 2021  

  • "A top planning silk, she leaves no stone unturned and is always refreshingly fair and candid."  Legal 500 2021 

  • "A good performer who is very confident and in charge of everything."  Chambers and Partners 2021

  • "Has unparalleled forensic skills and a very client-friendly approach."  "She gets straight to the heart of the matter and doesn't get side-tracked on non-material issues."  Chambers and Partners 2020

  • "Has unparalleled forensic skills and a very client-friendly approach."  "She gets straight to the heart of the matter and doesn't get side-tracked on non-material issues."  Chambers and Partners 2020

  • "She drafts powerful and effective submissions with apparent ease."  "She's fiendishly clever on complex planning."  Chambers and Partners 2020

  • "Her ability to see the bigger picture in among all the detail is fabulous"  Legal 500 2020

  • "She is very bright, has a very good grasp of really concentrated issues and is able to pinpoint what needs to be addressed.  I find her approachable and responsive, and she is very good with clients too."  "Impressive, well-prepared and very adaptable."  Chambers and Partners 2019

  • "She's prepared to go the extra mile and very determined to seek out the truth and give it effect. Her written work is very thorough and she's very fair-minded and concerned that everyone should have an opportunity to say what they want to say."  Chambers and Partners 2019

  • "Pragmatic, calm, approachable and a very effective advocate, she's very strong in matters in Wales." Chambers and Partners 2018

  • "She is able to analyse and process huge amounts of information quickly and identify key issues. Her insight into the workings of the Planning Inspectorate and local government makes her advice on case management invaluable.  She is adept at getting the best from her team and from individual witnesses."  Chambers and Partners 2018

  • "Very easy-going and very astute in her advice."  "She was a tough examiner in a way that was really helpful."  Chambers and Partners 2018

  • "She quickly gets to the heart of the matter and gets results"  Legal 500 2017

  • "Her advice is always very clear, and she is commercially aware and tactically precise."  Legal 500 2017

  • "A very good cross-examiner with a very good command of all the issues."  Chambers and Partners 2017

  • "Pragmatic, calm, approachable and a very effective advocate." Chambers and Partners 2017

  • "She is highly intelligent and very, very impressive."  Chambers and Partners, 2016

  • "Excellent analysis and tactical nous." Chambers and Partners, 2015

  • "A brilliant manner in court and detailed knowledge of energy-related planning." Chambers and Partners, 2015

  • "She has the ability to take on board and make sense of extensive expert evidence." Chambers and Partners, 2015

  • "An excellent all-rounder." Chambers and Partners, 2015

Practice Areas

Planning: Infrastructure, Development Plans, Residential, Sport / Urban Regneration / Commerical, Waste, Minerals and renewable Energy, Heritage, Enforcement
Town / Village Greens and Commons
Highways / Public Rights of Way / Footpaths
Compulsory Purchase / Compensation

PLANNING

With her broadly based practice, Morag is well placed to provide strategic advice / representation on all aspects of development projects, including the following examples:

Infrastructure

  • Promoting a new stretch of motorway, the M4 Corridor around Newport, for the Welsh Government at a major public inquiry into Highways Act 1980 Orders, Compulsory Purchase Orders and a called in Listed Building demolition application. The case was a test of recent Welsh Government’s Future Generations and Environment legislation, as well as covering many other areas of law such as novel points of law on European Sites and species, SSSIs and mitigation, bridging over the Port of Newport, compensation and State Aid 
  • Advising the Welsh Government on a major rail-related regeneration project at a former opencast mine 
  • Advised Anglian Water in its strategic renewables programme and advising on its major HIF funded Cambridge STW relocation DCO project   
  • Joint Opinion (published) for Thames Water on commons issues in relation to the Thames Super Sewer DCO
  • Appeared for Merthyr Tydfil CBC at DCO hearing into Covanta energy from waste proposal at Brig y Cwm
  • Joint Opinion on “associated development” (published) and appearance for Camarthenshire County Borough Council and Natural Resources Wales at DCO hearing into the Brechfa Forest Connection Project and advised subsequently on enforcement issues
  • Powys County Council v. Welsh Ministers [2015] EWHC 3284: defended s.288 High Court application on behalf of the Welsh Ministers on the issue of materiality of UK NPS on Energy in a Welsh planning appeal
  • Advised promoters of Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon on Welsh jurisdictional issues 
  • Advising a major landowner on the Bakerloo Line Extension TWO proposals
  • Advising on a data centre proposal in the Metropolitan Green Belt

Development Plans

  • Appearances at Guildford, South Bedfordshire and Runnymede EiPs, promoting release of residential land from the Green Belt for clients in the educational, extra care and sport sectors
  • Appearance at Oxford City Local Plan EiP for Oxford Brooks University challenging policies on student accommodation and University expansion
  • Appearance at South Oxfordshire Local Plan EiP via remote online hearings for Martin Baker Co., objecting to new village at Chalgrove on aeronautical grounds
  • Advising Summix on their promotion of a new Garden Village allocation at Worcester in the joint Local Plan

Residential Schemes
  
Planning appeals and advisory work for major volume housebuilders and promoters throughout England and Wales including:

  • Oaklands College Site, St Albans, represeting Taylor Wimpey and Oaklands College at a recovered planning apppeal, securing permission in the Green Belt for College expansion and enabling housing development in the Green Belt
  • Wokingham, representing Taylor Wimpey at a planning appeal and in a subsequent High Court challenge to the permission involving consideration of "out of date" in the context of the NPPF and greenfield development
  • South Wales, promoting urban extensions at Raglan and Llantwit Fardre at called in hearings, engaging questions of interpreting and applying Planning Policy Wales 10 guidance on Future Generations planning, especially active travel and flooding policies
  • Current housing projects include appeals on major allocated sites in Kent and the Midlands, totallying c 3000 homes, an appeal on a greenfield urban extension in Norfolk, advising on a health centre / housing projects in flood zone in West London and strategic advice on a new village on South Wales
  • Planning appeals and advisory work for later living providers including sites in the New Forest, Bath, Harpenden, Runnymede and Kent (National Park, World Heritage Sites, heritage policy and design, C2/C3, Green Belt / VSC)
  • Appeared for the Mayor of London in the Heythrop College planning appeal on viability / affordable housing issues in the context of a prime extra care scheme bridging over part of the District Line at Kensington on the site of a listed building in a Conversation Area
  • Advising and appearing for Unite in relation to student accommodation projects in major UK cities including hearing against LB Southwark (national, local and London policies for specialist C2 student accommodation)

Sport / Urban Regeneration / Commercial

  • Flamingo Park: Cray Wanderers FC called in planning application for sports facilities and enabling development on MOL in South East London, resulting in grant of planning permission on revised application
  • The Hive: advising on Football First mixed use regeneration proposal at Harrow
  • Advising London Borough of Redbridge on a planning CPO for a town centre regeneration project  
  • Instructed for Grosvenor Estates in a planning appeal at 50 Finsbury Square for a roof extension and refurbishment to a Foster office building, providing contemporary office space and related uses, including gym facilities
  • Western Avenue, Park Royal : virtual planning inquiry into industrial / hotel mixed use proposal for Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation in the Strategic Industrial Location 

Waste, Minerals, Renewable Energy

  • Tir Pentwys, Pontypool: Conjoined planning appeal and Commons and Public Right of Way diversion inquiry into a quarry proposal (recovery of high PSV secondary aggregate from opencast waste) near Pontypool, S Wales, raising issues including Ancient Woodland, Welsh environmental legislation, need for minerals and drawing on Morag’s longstanding knowledge of minerals and waste proposals in Wales 
  • Bryn Quarry, Cwmbargoed: Morag has acted on several projects for this mixed use limestone high PSV quarry, green waste and intensive dairy unit enterprise, including a planning inquiry into a biodigester plant and advising on planning applications and enforcement in relation to quarry extensions 
  • Advising on reclamation projects at Nant Helen and Ffos y Fran mines and advised local authorities on enforcement issues at East Pit and Margam Mine 
  • Appeared for Merthyr Tydfil CBC at DCO hearing into Covanta energy from waste proposal at Brig y Cwm
  • Appeared for Camarthenshire County Borough Council and Natural Resources Wales at DCO hearing into the Brechfa Forest Connection Project and advised subsequently on enforcement issues
  • Powys County Council v. Welsh Ministers [2015] EWHC 3284: defended s.288 High Court application on behalf of the Welsh Ministers on the issue of materiality of UK NPS on Energy in a Welsh planning appeal  
  • Boulby Mine: advising the operators of this offshore potash and polyhalite mine on lease renewal under the Working Mines Facilities Act 1966 and related matters
  • Advised Anglian Water on strategic renewables project across their facilities and advising on its major HIF funded Cambridge STW relocation project via DCO  
  • Joint Opinion for Thames Water on commons issues in relation to the Thames Super Sewer DCO
  • Llanvapley Monomouthshire: appeared for promoter at first Welsh s.78 inquiry into a major solar PV project 

Heritage

  • Morag appeared for English Heritage and the National Trust in the leading case of Barnwell  Manor Wind Energy Ltd v East Northamptonshire District Council & Ors [2014] EWCA Civ 137 and her practice reflects her knowledge and expertise in all aspects of heritage work, secular and ecclesiastical
  • Roseland wind farm: appeared for the National Trust in a s.78 appeal into a proposed windfarm in the setting of a G1 listed Hardwick Hall
  • Birch Church: instructed by the Church Commissioners on a proposed public inquiry under the non-statutory convention in the Skelmersdale Agreement into demolition of a listed closed church
  • Stowe School: promoting new Design, Technology and Engineering building in the setting of G1 listed Stowe Mansion and in G1 Registered Park and Garden / Conservation Area
  • Chateau Impney: advising on regeneration proposals for G2* listed mansion and estate
  • Instructed for Grosvenor Estates in planning appeal on 50 Finsbury Square for roof extension and refurbishment to Foster's office building, providing contemporary office space and related uses, including gym facilities, in Conservation Area
  • Former magistrates' court and police station, Rosslyn Hill, Hampstead, appearing in virtual planning / listed building inquiry for LB Camden concerning proposals to re-site free school in listed building which was designed as prototype combined justice centre with speicalist provision for juveniles
  • M4 CaN motorway inquiry included a called application to demolish a listed former rectory at Magor and reconstruct in a new location
  • *Appeared in the Court of Arches for the parish, school authorities and LB Tower Hamlets in Spitalfields Open Space Ltd v. The Governning Body of Christ Church Primary School, the London Diocesan Board for Schools, the London Borough of Tower Hamlets and another [2019] Fam. 343  concerning enforcement in respect of a school building erected in breach of the Disused Burial Grounds Act 1884, forming the setting of the G1 listed Hawksmoor Church 

Enforcement

  • North and South Fairground inquiries, Hampstead Heath: appeals against enforcement notice and refusal of lawful development certificate in relation to a pair of sites on the edge of Hampstead Heath, at which Morag appeared for LB Camden; legal issues included the relationship of use of land as travelling show people’s site to use as a residential caravan site and application of the 4 year rule to a hut and the point at which use as a dwelling house commenced
  • Athlone House: planning appeal and subsequent s.288 challenge (Athlone House Ltd v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government [2015] EWHC 3524 (Admin)) at which Morag represented LB Camden; another Hampstead Heath case concerning MOL and NPPF exceptions, the case also raised legal questions about the materiality of failure to carry out restoration works to an unlisted building in a Conservation Area pursuant to s.106 obligation
  • Haringey Warehouse Living: appeared at enforcement appeal and advising on CLEUD applications in connection with changes of use to communal living space; issues include correct use class, having regard to degree of shared space and relationship to HMO legislation
  • Retail Parks: advising Northampton BC on Certificates of Lawfulness in relation to retail park reconfigurations
  • Advised Bridgend and Neath Port Talbot Councils on enforcemen issues at East Pit and Margam Mine
  • Brecha Forest Connection: advised Carmarthenshire CBC on enforcement of DCO requirements

TOWN / VILLAGE GREENS AND COMMONS

Morag regularly drafts objections to TVG applications and appears at inquiries.

She appeared for the Registration Authority in plc v. Leeds City Council [2010] EWCA Civ. 1438, in which the Court of Appeal considered whether or not 'neighbourhood' meant one or could mean more than one neighbourhood.

Somerford PC v. Cheshire East Council and Richborough Estates plc (Judgment awaited): Morag appeared for Richborough Estates responding to a Judicial Review of Cheshire East's refusal to register land as a Town or Village Green on the basis that it was highway land. Issues included whether or not the Authority should have used its powers under s.101 Local Government Act 1972 to transfer the application to another Council as it was the landowner, perceived bias and highway status.

A full list of Morag's TVG appearances is available on request, but she has extensive experience of all the most familiar scenarios which occur, including:

  • Land held for statutory purposes including public recreation and pleasure grounds and for recreational purposes incidental to housing (eg. St Andrews Gardens, Gravesend; land at Argyll Rise, Hereford)
  • Land held for educational / sporting purposes (Wigwam Field, Papplewick)
  • Land held for temporary recreational purposes pending development (land at Toxteth, Liverpool)
  • Land held pursuant to a recreational trust (Blagrave recreation ground, Reading
  • Paths (land at Kereseley; Wilson Street, Derby)
  • Land used pursuant to a recreational lease (Greensquare Field, Finchley)
  • Highway user (Porth y Wrach, Menai Bridge)
  • Obstructions / interruptions (land outside Natural History Museum, Knightsbridge; Wigwam Field, Papplewick)
  • Insufficient user (Wilson Street, Derby)
  • No established locality or neighbourhood (Wilson Street, Derby; land at Kereseley)
  • Implied permission (Marden cricket and hockey ground)
  • Morag recently appeared in the First Tier Tribunal (Lands) appealing against a Community Asset Listing pursuant to the Localism Act.

HIGHWAYS / PUBLIC RIGHTS OF WAY / FOOTPATHS

Morag also advises widely on Public Rights of Way ('PROW') issues, both as part of development projects and independently, including applications under s. 53 Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, stopping up orders under Highways and Planning legislation (including various public inquiries into such orders), Private Street Works matters, s.278 Agreements and obstructions. Public inquiries / Court cases have included:

South Downs National Path: successive public inquiries into public path creation order under s.26 Highways Act 1980 and associated advice on compulsory acquisition of land under Highways Act, together with associated litigation on costs awards.

Prince of Wales Road: inquiry into stopping up order under planning powers in LB Camden on behalf of developer. Issues included overlap with planning considerations, loss of open space, safety.

Parkmill Farm, Princes Risborough: appeared on behalf of Highways and Local Planning Authorities at conjoined public inquiry into planning appeal for major residential development and stopping up / diversion orders under planning powers. Issues included bridging over / routeing under a railway line, public safety, Network Rail policy, compulsory acquisition powers.

Edwards v. IGas and Others: private prosecution for obstruction of a public footpath brought by protester against Defendant company who were carrying out exploratory works connected with potential gas recovery ('fracking'). Issues included defence of 'lawful authority', liability of directors personally, status of Definitive Map and the powers of the Director of Public Prosecutions to take over and discontinue private prosecutions.)

Somerford PC v. Cheshire East Council and Richborough Estates plc (Judgment awaited): Morag appeared for Richborough Estates responding to a Judicial Review of Cheshire East's refusal to register land as a Town or Village Green on the basis that it was highway land.

    COMPULSORY PURCHASE / COMPENSATION

    Morag has longstanding experience of promoting and objecting to CPOs, including highways schemes (Blackhorse Lane, Waltham Forest; Pontypridd ring road, Rhondda Cynon Taf), economic development (Nelson Miners' Welfare Site, Caerphilly) and town centre redevelopments (Leeds and Wolverhampton). She promoted a major estate regeneration CPO at Kidbrooke for LB Greenwich (with Hugh Flanagan) and is instructed (with Rebecca Clutten) on an estate regeneration scheme.

    Morag is leading the team and appear for the Welsh Government on their project to promote Road and Compulsory Purchase Orders under the Highways Act 1980 for a new offline link of the M4 between Newport and Cardiff.  This is a major national infrastructure proposal, which, in England, would proceed as a NSIP.  The proposed route lies over the Gwentloog Levels, an estuarine/coastal area of land reclaimed in Roman times, which is subject to multiple ecological designations.  Further complex issues arise as a result of the line crossing Associated British Port's working port at Newport.

    Significant Cases

    Morag appeared in the Court of Appeal in R (oao Gerber) v. Wiltshire Council [2016] EWCA, a judicial review of a decision to grant planning permission for a solar farm in the setting of a listed building. The issues in the Court of Appeal concerned legitimate expectation and discretion.  

    Athlone House Ltd v Secretary of State for CLG [2015] EWHC 3542, in which Morag appeared in the High Court with Ned Westaway, arose out a public inquiry in which she appeared for the London Borough of Camden in relation to a proposal to demolish an unlisted house in a Conservation Area on the edge of Hampstead Heath and the Metropolitan Open Land and replace it with a mansion designed by Robert Adam. Issues included the enforceability and materiality of  s.106 covenants to restore the building.

    Morag appeared for the Welsh Government in Powys CC v. Welsh Ministers [2015] EWHC 3284 defending the decision of the Minister to disregard National Policy Statements on Energy in the determination of a s.78 appeal under the Town and Country Planning Act. The case raised issues relating to the constitutional position of the devolved Welsh Government, the source and nature of policy and the consideration of Welsh heritage policy relating to Scheduled Ancient Monuments.     

    Calverton PC v. Nottingham CC and Others [2015] EWHC 1078: Morag appeared (with Annabel Graham Paul) for the defending local authorities. Issues included exceptional circumstances/Green Belt/sustainable development/OAN and the relationship of release through the Core Strategy to boundary change work in Part 2 plans, SEA of alternatives and the nature of aligned Core Strategies.

    Chalfont Parish Council v. Chiltern District Council (2014) EWCA Civ. 1393: defended s.113 challenge to adoption of Core Strategy in High Court and Court of Appeal on behalf of Local Planning Authority. Issues included Strategic Environmental Assessment / Sustainability Appraisal and whether or not a proposed landswap was a reasonable alternative for the purposes of the Council's duty to test such alternatives under the SEA Directive and Regulations, and the Inspector's reasoning . The case was heard together with a connected judicial review to the grant of planning permission to redevelop a former school site for housing and nursing home, which considered, amongst other matters, factual error in the context of planning determinations and the scope of E v. Secretary of State for the Home Office.

    Barnwell Manor Wind Energy Ltd v East Northamptonshire DC, English Heritage and National Trust [2014] EWCA Civ. 137 in which she acted for the three claimants in a s.288 challenge to an inspector's decision to grant planning permission for a windfarm in the setting of, amongst others, Lyveden New Bield, a Grade 1 listed building.  The issues were the proper interpretation and application of s.66 Listed Building Act 1990 and the application of policy tests in relation to substantial and less than substantial harm, and setting.

    IM Properties v. Litchfield District Council [2014] EWHC 2440 (Admin) concerning the scope of s.113 Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, predetermination/bias, green belt and its relationship to the sustainable duty in s.39 of the Act and the subsequent challenge [2015] EWHC 2077 in which Cranston J considered, amongst other things, the scope of the power to make Main Modifications.

    Daws Hill Neighbourhood Forum v. Wycombe District Council and Taylor Wimpey plc (2014) EWCA Civ.228 (Suzanne Ornsby QC appeared for the LPA): appeared for Taylor Wimpey in first challenge to a decision concerning the designation of a Neighbourhood Area under the neighbourhood planning legislation in the Planning Act 2008 and associated Regulations. The case concerned, amongst other matters, the relationship of neighbourhood planning to strategic district-wide planning and the breadth of the local planning authority's discretion in relation to the purposes of the legislation.

    R (Persimmon Homes) and O'rs v. Vale of Glamorgan Council [2010] EWHC 535 (Admin): appeared for the Local Planning Authority defending judicial review of decision of the Council to promote a particular strategy for their plan. Issues included predetermination / actual / apparent bias on the part of officers, Strategic Environmental Assessment / role of external consultants and officers, officers' reporting duties.

    Edwards v. IGas and Others: private prosecution for obstruction of a public footpath brought by protester against Defendant company who were carrying out exploratory works connected with potential gas recovery ('fracking'). Issues included defence of 'lawful authority', liability of directors personally, status of Definitive Map and the powers of the Director of Public Prosecutions to take over and discontinue private prosecutions.

     

    Publications

    Morag is a past contributor to Halsbury's Laws (Drainage) and Gambling for Local Authorities, Licensing, Planning and Regeneration and has contributed several articles to the Journal of Planning and Environmental Law. She was recently listed in the Planning magazine's 'Power 100', a list of one hundred individuals in the UK with the greatest influence over planning policy and decision making.

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    Associations

    • Immediate Past Chairman of the Planning and Environment Bar Association
    • Member of the National Infrastructure Planning Association
    • Member of the Compulsory Purchase Association
    • Member of the Ecclesiastical Law Society
    • Member of the Ecclesiastical Judges Association

     

    Appointments

    • Dean of the Arches and Auditor
    • Master of Faculties 
    • QC Church Commissioner
    • Immediate past Commissary General of the Diocese of Canterbury
    • Immediate past Deputy Chancellor of the Diocese of Southwark.