William Webster’s practice comprises traditional land-based Chancery and planning in both the public and private sectors. Mr Webster has taken part as inspector or counsel in a number of town or village green public inquiries (sometimes lasting several weeks and usually involving potential development land of substantial value) and has been advising landowners and registration authorities on applications to register new greens for a number of years. For instance, he 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.
Mr Webster regularly speaks on highways and village greens. He is also interested in “fracking” and has given talks to town planners in both the public and private sectors on the complex regulatory framework that arises in this field involving, as it does, the interplay between the powers and duties of the Department of Energy & Climate Change, mineral planning authorities, the Environment Agency and the Health & Safety Executive. His talks have focused on the reforms introduced by the Infrastructure Act 2015 which are intended to facilitate the exploration and development in the UK of on-shore shale gas and oil linked to the new drilling technology known as “fracking” which enables extraction to take place over a much enlarged radius in contrast to a single bore drilled vertically into the earth. His talks have been well-received and are accompanied by animation and video footage which gives his audience a better grasp of the subject than the more traditional note-based seminars and help to a better appreciation of the level of public opposition which operators encounter nowadays as exploration gathers pace and we move towards full-scale commercial production in the UK.
Mr Webster is an expert in the law and practice of assets of community value (which arose in the Localism Act 2011) having acted for the listing authorities of Trafford Council and Liverpool City Council on the listing of the football stadia of Old Trafford and Anfield as assets of community value.
On 14 November 2016, William (along with Robert Weatherley, also of 3PB) published a book with Wildy, Simmonds & Hill Publishing Ltd entitled “Restrictions on the Use of Land” (approximately 700 pages) and includes sections on easements, village greens, public rights of way, restrictive covenants, assets of community value, and a substantial section dealing with elements of planning law.
The book has a foreword by The Rt Hon Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury PSC (“A book which analyses this complex law in an authoritative, up-to-date, practical and clear way is to be warmly welcomed. William Webster and Robert Weatherley deserve warm thanks for having produced such a timely book”).
The book is currently for sale on Amazon where more details of its coverage will be found.
Recent cases have involved:
- Forward planning in the context of the Chapter II prohibition in the Competition Act 1998 (abuse of dominant position affecting trade in an internal market);
- Parking allocation on amenity land in long leases;
- Application to Land Registry to alter register to correct a mistake in the register and resort to indemnity scheme;
- Acting for a frontager in a public right of way case involving a claimed vehicular right of way on an unmade track through woodland under an Inclosure Award on land which is s a public footpath. The claim is also of interest because of the interplay with planning legislation and permitted development rights;
- Acting for the predecessor in title of the servient owner (against whom a Part 20 claim has been made arising from a transfer with Full Title Guarantee) following the destruction in the course of a housing development on the servient land of sub-surface foul water discharge and containment which is claimed by the dominant owner as a drainage easement. Even if the dominant owner can establish usage for more than 20 years there is a serious issue as to whether a right to deposit treated or untreated sewerage on neighbouring land can subsist as an easement in law, particularly in light of environmental regulation affecting the use of septic tanks
- a substantial development in the Green Belt and the re-use of previously developed land;
- objectionable planning conditions;
- the grant of planning permission by an authority for the development of land in which it has an interest and its effect on the disposal of such land;
- whether existing use rights have been lost through abandonment;
- traffic regulation orders involving a pedestrian project in a major city centre;
- the statutory transfer of premises to trustees of a voluntary controlled school under the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 (Sch.3);
- acting for a local authority against the partners of a large city centre medical centre who were claiming the ownership of such premises by virtue of adverse possession;
- acting as an inspector for Solihull MBC at a non-statutory village green inquiry;
- acting for Exeter City Council at a non-statutory inquiry in relation to its objection to the registration as a village green of open space required for a highway and commercial development (the case having been remitted by the High Court for a fresh inquiry by PINS on the issue of implied licence);
- acting for a developer in relation to its objection to the registration as a village green of open space required for housing development;
- advising a local authority on restrictive covenants arising on Right to Buy disposals under the Housing Act 1985 (s.157(3));
- acting for a local authority landowner on a right of way diversion/DMMO (developer challenge);
- disputed service charges where the local authority landlord had been looking to claim a flat rate charge for its overheads and administrative costs in managing its leasehold estate;
- a rating appeal which concerned the exclusion of highway land from the non-domestic rating list on which pay and display parking took place;
- a dispute on the status of piped drainage channels within a comprehensive sewer network in a major city where the sewerage undertaker is contending that the channels are merely culverted watercourses;
- travellers and squatters and their removal from public land in the green belt (including obtaining a without notice injunction in the High Court under TCPA 1990, s.187B);
- guidance on housing authorities’ interim duty to secure that accommodation is available for an applicant for housing if they have reason to believe that the applicant may be homeless, eligible for assistance and has a priority need (Housing Act 1996, s.188);
- advice on nuisance in the context of flooding;
- planning enforcement in the Crown Court.