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Julian Boswall

Planning Lawyer Partner

Burges Salmon

The role of lawyers in offshore wind consenting is helping the client manage the different risks to ensure that they get a bankable and buildable consent


When my younger daughter about 10 years ago described me to her friends as an offshore wind farmer, I was intensely proud of that - because I had been so keen to be part of that industry, to be thought of in those terms by her I thought was charming and and meaningful.

I was always interested in geography at school, both human geography and physical geography and if I kind of stand back and say how is it that I've ended up doing what I'm doing now? Now I've ended up being a well-paid geographer working on really interesting projects engaged with really interesting geographical, environmental, political things. geography is a weird academic subject um uh because it it sort of draws on so many different things and that has always just interested me.

The role of lawyers in offshore wind consenting is helping the client manage the different risks to ensure that they get a bankable and buildable consent. and so that's a fancy way of saying that there are lots of legal dimensions to issues and there are also simply really careful thinking that is required. That doesn't strictly have to be by a lawyer, but clients have decided over the years that even though lawyers are expensive, they are worth having on the team to help with that thinking - the core people on the consenting team, the environmental consultants, planning consultants and other specialists - ecology shipping and navigation, also land agents.

Another key aspect which many people don't quite appreciate is that onshore, because you're dealing with long cable routes. often 10, 30, 40 km - you're dealing with multiple land owners, not all of whom will be happy to enter into a voluntary agreement with you. The government system knows that, and for many years it has made available powers of compulsory acquisition, compulsory purchase, CPO - and the lawyers are at the heart of ensuring that the project has been designed in a way that can meet the legal tests to justify being granted those legal powers.

So I did a I did a business economics degree - I didn't actually realize that I could become a lawyer until after I'd finished that. And when I realized that slightly randomly I decided that I would then become a solicitor, which involved an extra year of study before getting back onto the track that I would have been on as as a lawyer. So in those days, only about 10% of of of lawyers hadn't done a law degree - these days it's about half, so 50% of lawyers haven't done a law degree. Within the law, I knew when I made that decision I wanted to become an environmental lawyer - though it turned out that what I meant by an environmental lawyer was actually being a planning lawyer, because I want to be involved in the future.

To be a good lawyer - certainly to be a good planning lawyer - you've got to be analytical, and you've got to be interested in wanting to understand the law. Although, in a funny way actually giving formal legal advice is quite a small part of the role - you have to be able to understand arguments, you have to be able to understand policy, be able to construct an argument, you have to be able to deconstruct somebody else's argument, you have to be able to express yourself well both verbally and in writing, you have to enjoy developing different types of relationships. You'll have a relationship within your law firm, you will have relationships with clients, it's really important that you know how to develop good relationships, you can get on with different types of people, different types of professional background. You will have other relationships with other organizations, you will often be negotiating agreements with lawyers, sometimes not with lawyers, at different organizations.

I think what keeps me interested is the fact that there's a lot of variety. Things keep evolving so you have to be you have to be able to embrace change. There's a lot of policy that change, then within offshore wind we've got a big transition at the moment towards floating projects. I'm incredibly passionate about the story of offshore wind - I think it's akin to the railways. It's also become a global industry and there's a global industrial story attached to that. I just think it's the absolute most fascinating sector that has kept me interested. I do other things as well, but I guess the single thing that will define my career in my mind is offshore winds and I and I'm still passionate about it 20 years later.

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