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Rowan Smith

Senior associate solicitor

Rowan Smith is a senior associate solicitor in the human rights department.

Climate change Environment Human rights Judicial review Planning Wildlife

Rowan Smith is a dedicated public lawyer, specialising in judicial review claims with a focus on human rights and the environment. He has a particular interest in protecting public services in the context of austerity cuts, such as the NHS and social housing, as well as combating climate change through the courts. Rowan is hoping to expand his work into other areas, such as tackling the privatisation of education. He regularly acts for campaigning/community groups and a number of established NGOs.

What the directories say

Rowan is probably the most efficient solicitor I have dealt with.

Chambers and partners 2024

Legal expertise

Some of his notable cases include:

  • Friends of the Earth v Secretary of State for the Department of Transport: current challenge to the Government’s policy decision to expand Heathrow Airport on climate change and sustainable development grounds.
  • 999 Call for NHS v NHS Commissioning Board and others: live appeal against the Government’s attempt to introduce price competition into the NHS via accountable care organisations.
  • Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants v Secretary of State for the Home Department: strategic human rights challenge to the Home Office’s right to rent scheme, claiming that a central plank of the Government’s hostile environment is incompatible with the right to a home, given its discriminatory impact on grounds of nationality and ethnicity.
  • Buckingham v Corby CCG: successful judicial review of clinical commissioning group’s decision to downgrade an urgent care centre due to breach of promise to consult and duty to involve patients, as well as breach of public sector equality duty.
  • Buckley v Bath and North East Somerset Council: successful test case, which established that a local council is under a duty to carry out an equality impact assessment when granting outline planning permission to demolish a social housing estate.
  • Peters v Haringey Council: live appeal against Haringey council’s decision to sell off almost £2 billion worth of public assets to a 50:50 private company, arguing no power to undertake commercial activities through an LLP and failure to consult.
  • Preston New Road Action Group v Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government: statutory review of Government’s overturning of planning refusal for fracking operations based on arguments to do with harm to valued landscape.
  • Miah v Governors of Avenue Primary School: urgent judicial review of school’s decision to convert into an academy owing to errors of law and an unfair process, leading to a grant of interim relief stopping the conversion. 

Rowan joined Leigh Day in March 2016, after training in public law and human rights at Bindmans LPP.  Before his career in law, Rowan studied Global Politics at Lancaster University and worked at various charities in Manchester.

Rowan Smith in the news

What the directories say

He has a very keen sense of strategy and understanding of how litigation can help a client’s wider campaigning aims. He also has an incredible work rate.

Chambers and partners 2024


News Article
Trees from above
Net Zero Strategy Carbon emissions Environment

Friends of the Earth High Court hearing over plan to keep UK on track to meet Net Zero

Friends of the Earth, represented by law firm Leigh Day, has a court hearing taking place 20-22 February to challenge the Government’s Carbon Budget Delivery Plan (CBDP).

News Article
Biomass Wood Pellets
Environment Carbon emissions Environmental Damage

Biofuelwatch UK threatens legal challenge to decision to allow carbon capture installation at Drax power plant

Biofuelwatch UK has taken the first steps in challenging Drax Power Limited’s plan to install carbon capture technology at its power plant in Selby, Yorkshire, which is the single biggest carbon emitter in the UK.

News Article
Women Cycling
Environment Human rights Government

Dale Vince launches legal challenge to government axe of active travel policy guidance

Dale Vince has launched a legal battle against the government’s decision to axe policies to boost walking and cycling in England.