John's principal practice areas are town & country planning and environmental law. He deals with related local government, parliamentary and property work. He is also a practising mediator. In growing recognition of John's wide-ranging planning and mediation experience, he has also been appointed both as a Design Council Cabe Built Environment Expert and as one of the DCLG's new "Section 106 brokers".
John is regarded highly as a leading practitioner in dealing with residential development. The Planning magazine survey of the legal profession has particularly noted his expertise in housing and development plan work. Recent projects have taken him to Cambridgeshire, Dorset, Kent, Leicestershire, Norfolk and Stockton-on-Tees and within Greater London. He is currently acting on a variety of strategic schemes with attendant forward planning and development management implications. He regularly has to address affordable housing and viability issues and section 106 variations including in his role as a DCLG “broker”. From working with several operators over many years, John has also gained particular expertise in the retirement sector in respect of sheltered housing, assisted living and care home developments.
Institutional and Commercial Development
Over the last few years, John has acted for a variety of institutional and educational bodies, including English Heritage, Hertfordshire County Council, Hampshire Police Authority and St John's College, Cambridge, as well as being involved with the promotion of several commercial developments, including, within the Green Belt, a major hotel extension, various leisure enterprises and a private burial ground. Building on his experience of complex heritage related projects, John has recently acted for various promoters/appellants seeking to convert listed former "super cinemas" to new uses including a multi- screen cinema/conference centre with enabling residential development and Class D1 uses. He has also represented objectors to the conversion of a Grade I listed church (St. Marks, North Audley Street, Mayfair) to a health spa, to proposals for a new mosque adjacent to Sandhurst RMA, Camberley, Surrey, and to the “mega-mosque” proposal for Abbey Mills, Newham.
John’s more contentious inquiries have included Celcon's new block factory in Kent and peat extraction in North Lincs and Somerset He also represented Grundon at an inquiry into sand extraction in the Wessex Downs AONB during 2012.
John has been involved with a growing number of renewable energy projects including several planning applications, inquiries and related litigation for the development of wind farms and solar/biomass proposals.
John's environmental work overlaps with his planning practice. He has particular expertise in Environmental Impact Assessment issues. In addition to the examples already given, his project involvement has also covered waste management and contaminated land issues. He also has particular experience with nature conservation issues involving European protected sites and species in addition to his authorship of that subject chapter on Oxford University Press's Environmental Law.
Compulsory Purchase and Compensation
John has advised and acted for acquiring authorities and objectors, most notably for Gloucester City Council on the Blackfriars city centre redevelopment project. His recent public inquiry appearances include for Arcelor Mittal, the leading landowner objector to TFL's East London Transit Barking Riverside CPO, for the objectors to No. 549 Lordship Lane, Southwark CPO, and, for PA Freight Services, the lead objectors at the A46 highway improvements supplementary orders public inquiry (Newark) .
John acted for London City Airport in the DLR Extension Transport and Works Act Inquiry and appeared before the Crossrail Parliamentary Select committee for the Residents Society of Mayfair and St James. He has also been involved with other transport related projects.
John brings to his wider role as a successful mediator his professional experience, gained over the last 30 years, of dealing with the public and private sectors, and, interest groups, as clients. He has been involved with mediating disputes relating to a diverse range of issues including breach of contract, professional indemnity, property, personal injury, planning, community and religious differences. He became a CEDR accredited mediator in 2005. By way of further training John completed MATA's Advanced Mediator Training Course in 2007 focusing on cross-cultural disputes and multi-party mediations amongst other topics. He is an active promoter of mediation, to which end he is a founding member of the RICS's Planning Mediation Working Group and is the PEBA representative on the ADR Committee of the Bar Council. He was a member of the Steering Group for the NPF/PINS research project report on Mediation in Planning (2010), conducted one of the planning mediations that was evaluated and helped draft The Short Guide (2011). He continues as the CMC representative on the NPF's Programme Board . In November 2012 he was appointed one of the panel mediators for the Department of Communities and Local Government.’s programme for releasing “stalled developments”. He is also a recommended member of the mediator panels for the RICS, IPOS and Clerksroom as well as Thirty-Nine Essex Street Chambers.
Recent Significant Inquiries and Hearings
Chard, Somerset: Appeal inquiries into proposals for 450 houses, associated facilities and re-location of football ground. Acting for Council (2014)
Abbey Mills, Newham, East.London: Appeal inquiry into 9,000 capacity mosque and associated facilities. Acted for local action group (2014)
Pinner Road, Northwood: Enforcement appeal inquiry into whether a mixed development of 64 flats and a supermarket should be demolished. Acting for the owners ( 2013).
Greater Norwich Joint Core Strategy Re-examination Hearing: Acted for consortium of promoters (2013)
Ingelby Barwick, Stockton-on-Tees: SSCLG recovered appeal inquiry into a proposal for 350 houses and a Free School. Acted for the Council ( 2013).
Barrow-Upon-Soar: SSLCG recovered appeal inquiry into a proposal for 350 houses. Acted for Parish Council ( 2013)
Chieveley Quarry, Newbury: Appeal inquiry into further sand extraction. Acted for mineral operators (2012)
A46 Supplementary Orders: Road inquiry. Acted for principal objectors over 18 sitting days (2012)
Barrow Parish Council v Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government  EWHC 274 (Admin): NPPF, paras.47 & 49 interpretation. Five year housing shortfall. Realistic prospect of some development being built within that period.
JB Trustees Ltd v Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government & Others  EWHC 3555 (Admin): Lack of legal standing and absence of any merits of challenge to block rival housing developer’s planning permission.
R (Millgate Developments Ltd) v Wokingham Borough Council  EWCA Civ 1062: S.106 Undertakings - inability to vary or discharge within 5 years but ability to refund contributions.
Ryedale District Council v Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government and Others  EWHC 2140 (Admin): PPS7 interpretation - re-use of buildings in the countryside - application of essential justification test.
Enertrag (UK) Ltd v Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government and Others  EWHC 679 (Admin): Visual impact - wind farm - heritage setting issues.
Hillingdon London Borough Council v Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government & Others  EWHC 198 (Admin): Certificates of lawfulness - ancillary and continuity of uses - overlapping enforcement notice.
John is recommended for his Planning law expertise in both Chambers & Partners and the Legal 500.
"'Able practitioner" John Pugh-Smith 'doesn't get as much credit as he deserves'" Chambers UK 2013
"The 'tenacious' John Pugh-Smith, who spends the majority of his time in public inquiry appearances" Chambers & Partners 2012
"Absolutely unparalleled knowledge of town and country planning" Chambers & Partners 2010
"Highly recommended and appreciated for his 'strong leadership' and 'mediatory approach to appeals, rather than combative'" Legal 500 2009
"User-friendly and making a tremendous effort for his client" Chambers & Partners 2008
"A safe pair of hands" Chambers & Partners 2007
"A man with a profound knowledge and understanding of planning law, particularly in relation to wind farms and housing." Chambers & Partners, 2011
Planning, Property & Compensation Reports (Sweet & Maxwell)
Shackleton on the Law and Practice of Meetings, currently at 12th Edition (Sweet & Maxwell)
Recent Developments in Planning Case Law
Neighbours and the Law, currently at 5th Edition (Sweet & Maxwell)
Environmental Law, currently at 2nd Edition (Oxford University Press)
Archaeology in Law (Oxford University Press)
Recent Developments in Planning Case Law (various annual updates) and Newsletter articles
Department for Communities and Local Government Section 106 "Broker" (Mediator) (appointed November 2012)
Design Council/Cabe Built Environment Expert (appointed September 2012)
PEBA: Long-serving Committee member and chair of Membership and ADR Sub-Committees (retired July 2010) but continuing member of ADR Sub-Committee
Bar Council ADR Committee
RICS DRS Panel Mediator
IPOS Panel Mediator
Clerksroom Panel Mediator
Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries (elected in 2001 in recognition of his expertise in and services to archaeology and the law)
MATA's Advanced Mediator Training Course 2007
CEDR Accredited Mediator 2005
Holker Award (Gray's Inn) 1977
Uthwatt Scholarship (Gray's Inn) 1976
The College of Law - Bar Finals: 1976-1977
Oxford University - MA Jurisprudence: 1973-1976
Planning and Environment Bar Association (PEBA)
United Kingdom Environmental Law Association (UKELA)
Environmental Law Foundation (ELF)
Lawyers Christian Fellowship (LCF)
Civil Mediation Council (CMC)
John is a regular speaker at lectures and seminars on both planning and environment law including Sweet & Maxwell's Annual Planning Conference.
John is a tenant at 39 Essex Street Chambers.