Deborah Sharples

Partner, Head of Environment and Public Access to Land
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Deborah joined Birketts in August 2019. She is a Partner in our Planning and Environmental Team and deals with the law concerning the environment, planning, public rights of way and public access to land. Deborah qualified as a Solicitor in 1990 and has worked in private practice ever since, advising a wide range of clients, so her experience is both broad and deep.

Deborah has practised environmental law since soon after she qualified. She has worked for a wide range of clients including manufacturers, waste management businesses, farmers, landowners, developers, and private individuals. She advises on contentious and non-contentious matters. Her experience includes work relating to environmental permitting including defending operators in relation to prosecution for alleged breaches of permits and in relation to enforcement, suspension and revocation. She also acts regularly in relation to statutory nuisance and advises in relation to appeals against abatement notices as well as prosecutions for breaches of notices. She has a good understanding of the practicalities of the situations faced by her clients and offers realistic advice. Her broad knowledge and experience sometimes enables her to offer a solution or approach to a problem which others may not identify. 

Deborah has practised as a planning lawyer since she qualified and finds that her practice benefits significantly from her environmental law knowledge. In practice there is not always a clear dividing line between the two areas of specialism. In particular she has found the breadth of her experience to be useful when advising in situations in which the proposed development has the potential to have significant environmental impacts. This may be the case in relation to intensive livestock units which have the potential to generate noise and odour and may be controversial in relation to landscape. Such developments frequently require Environmental Impact Assessment (‘EIA’) and Deborah is experienced in advising in relation to the preparation of Environmental Statements. She also advises in situations where EIA and the way in which the information has been handled by decision makers is criticised, often by judicial review of a planning decision. She is instructed in relation to developments which have the potential to impact on ecology and habitats and also on heritage assets and is familiar with the issues and the legal position. On several occasions her understanding of rights of way law has enabled her to unlock developments where provision of off-site access for future residents has been a difficult problem.    

Deborah acts as an advocate in public inquiries for planning, environmental permitting, rights of way and common land and also in the magistrates’ court in relation to both civil and criminal matters where they relate to her areas of legal practice. She also attends PACE Act interviews with clients who are accused of a range of offences in relation to planning and environmental matters. 

Deborah is experienced in relation to some types of civil contentious matters, particularly judicial review and other statutory challenges to decisions by public bodies. Frequently she represents the interested party who has the benefit of the decision that is being challenged. In other types of civil claims she will work with civil litigation colleagues to assist clients. 

Another area of co-operation with colleagues is in relation to property sales and purchases in respect of which Deborah advises on potential liabilities for  contaminated land and on the relevant environmental provisions of contracts, which can be key to some types of transaction. 

Deborah is ranked in band 1 by Chambers [UK 2024]. In this edition, a client notes “Deborah Sharples is very responsive, efficient and diligent. She will bring with her a huge wealth of knowledge and expertise.” Another adds “Deborah is an excellent partner at Birketts. She has particular expertise in agricultural areas of planning.”

Clients in the previous edition said: “Deborah Sharples is extremely knowledgeable and really gets to grips with the case.” Another added “She is simply excellent. Deborah is thoughtful and commercially minded, and has a far-reaching understanding of the implications of the task at hand.”

Deborah is recommended and named as a ‘Hall of Fame’ member by Legal 500 [UK 2024]. In this edition, a source notes “I have worked with Deborah Sharples for many years in a highly specialised area of environmental management. I have found her to be exceptionally professional, knowledgeable and always well prepared. She is diligent and hard working in the extreme, never missing the smallest detail. Her arguments are always very well presented and questions concise, in depth and directly to the point. She is outstanding in her dealings with clients and witnesses, ensuring that statements are thoroughly prepared and in good time. Her analytical approach to both prosecution and defence matters is faultless.”

Clients in the previous edition said “Deborah Sharples has the ability to review the technical planning matters put before her and offers well-considered advice in a timely manner.” Another noted “I have worked closely with Deborah Sharples on numerous occasions. She is the most hardworking and professional person that I have ever had the pleasure to work with. She has always ensured that she is fully conversant with all aspects of the specialist field in which I am involved.” Deborah was described as “An exceptionally competent and experienced planning and environmental law practitioner.”

Awards and Memberships

Deborah Sharples Chambers 2024 logo
Legal 500 Hall of Fame logo

I have worked with Deborah Sharples for many years in a highly specialised area of environmental management. I have found her to be exceptionally professional, knowledgeable and always well prepared. She is diligent and hard working in the extreme, never missing the smallest detail.

Legal 500 [UK 2024]

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