Womble Bond Dickinson (WBD) has been nominated for Planning Law Firm of the Year at the 2020 Planning Awards. Organised by the industry leading publication Planning Magazine, the awards recognise excellence in professional planning work including outstanding work by councils, consultants, developers, lawyers, voluntary groups and other important players in the UK planning system.

WBD's national planning team was shortlisted on the back of its expertise advising public and private sector clients on a range of high profile projects. There are two matters of note.

The firm advised NHS Property Services Limited (NHSPS) on a successful Supreme Court appeal decision on a village green case with far reaching implications for land held for statutory purposes by public authorities. The case related to an area of land at Leach Grove Wood in Leatherhead, which neighbours an NHS hospital owned by NHSPS, and was subject to an application for village green status in 2013. WBD argued that the principle of statutory incompatibility should include land held by NHSPS for statutory health purposes and the decision to register Leach Grove Wood as a Town or Village Green was thus quashed. Read the full judgment here.

WBD also secured the Level Crossing Closure at Appleby ensuring a new community would be protected from potential harm. A new housing development would promote a change in the user profile of the level crossing, likely leading to an increase in use by vulnerable users (including young children) and also in misuse. The firm's work at public inquiry, at the High Court and at the Court of Appeal ensured the elimination of this risk by authorising the closure of the crossing, and further improved the environmental quality and social well-being by the provision of a more suitable and far safer diversionary path. WBD's work established the legitimacy of a local planning authority requiring, by planning condition, the developer of a site next to the railway to close a level crossing before occupation of the housing development.

Jonathan Bower, planning partner, commented:

"Our team is one of the leading planning practices in the UK and we're thrilled to have been shortlisted in this year's Planning awards. This is a tribute to our expertise, the collaborative nature and hard work of our team and to the many high profile client focused projects we have delivered over the past twelve months including renewables, transport, regeneration and housing.

"Our work advising NHSPS involved highly complex and specialist litigation. The case has set out new law for public authorities, how land is held by those authorities and protections against registration of land as a Town and Village Green. A different outcome could have radically affected the status of publicly accessible land held by public authorities pursuant to statutory powers."

The awards ceremony will take place in September.

Rated by Chambers Legal Directory as a national leading practice for planning and infrastructure, WBD's planning and real estate teams work for a broad range of clients including commercial developers in the energy, residential, transport, waste, manufacturing and retail sectors as well as many local authorities.