Lawyer of the week: Susan Ring




Linda Tsang


The Times



Susan Ring, a partner at Richard Buxton, a Cambridge firm, acted for Diane Barker, a single mother, who won a landmark battle in the House of Lords against property developers planning to build a cinema complex near her home in Crystal Palace. The decision, known as Barker's Law, will force developers to assess whether their projects are likely to have a significant effect on the environment.

What were the main challenges in such a case and the possible implications? We were in a weak position, challenging the Government and planning establishment on the implementation of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive. But the consequences for the environment were so bad (developers applying for outline planning permission for large projects such as White City, no EIA being carried out, no ability to rectify the lack of EIA) that we had to change UK law.

We started proceedings in 1999 and lost at every stage until the House of Lords referred the matter to the European Court of Justice. We won in December. The European environment will now be better protected and irresponsible developers and local planning authorities will no longer be able to escape EIA.

What was your worst day as a lawyer? When the Court of Appeal allowed Hampshire County Council to concrete over a wildflower meadow in Winchester (given to the people of the city to compensate for the loss of Twyford Down to the M3) for a park-and-ride car park.

What was your most memorable experience as a lawyer? A hearing before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg when the court declared admissible our claim that night flights at Heathrow breached our clients' human rights. A lively evening with clients followed, the legal team then taking a midnight stroll in a vineyard.

Why did you become a lawyer? After my English degree I slipped into a job as a council housing officer, for which I was temperamentally unsuited. I decided a career in the law would be a very good way out.

Who has been the most influential person in your life and why? Professionally, Richard Buxton; he just does not give up on a case.

What would your advice be to anyone wanting a career in law? If you can bring your professional expertise to bear on something you really believe in, like protecting the environment, it is a dream job.

Where do you see yourself in ten years? Although realistically prospects are slim for solicitors like me, a High Court judge.