Official Solicitor to the Senior Courts appears as litigant-in-person in private dispute

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By Alex Aldridge on

Exclusive: Alastair Pitblado and his fiancée in High Court today — acting for themselves in £150k planning row


Eyebrows are being raised across legal London this morning after it emerged that one of the most senior government lawyers in the country is appearing as a litigant-in-person in a domestic planning dispute.

The case — which will be heard this afternoon before Judge Yelton in the Queen’s Bench Division — began life as a bust-up between Alastair Pitblado and his fiancée, Catherine Collins, with Thanet District Council and Kent County Council over planning permission for a new house.

It has since escalated into a claim for damages based on an allegation of misfeasance in public office.

Listed for trial as Collins & anr v Thanet County Council & anr, Legal Cheek can reveal that the first “anr” is Mr Pitblado, the Official Solicitor to the Senior Courts, a quasi-judicial role.

For an individual in such a position to act as a litigant-in-person is almost unprecedented. Yet this is what Pitblado — who spent over 10 years as a barrister in private practice before moving into government legal roles in 1988 — has been doing at the case management phase of the dispute, and is expected to continue to do today.

Although Collins is herself a qualified solicitor, albeit a non-practising one, the duo have instructed no lawyers. They will find themselves massively outgunned this afternoon by the impressive legal teams assembled by Thanet District Council and Kent County Council.

Acting for the former is corporate law firm DWF, while the latter is being advised by Berrymans.

The dispute arose after Pitblado and Collins were refused planning permission to build a house on some land they bought. Although they got that decision overturned — and went on to sell the site with the benefit of the planning permission on it — their anger at Thanet District Council and Kent County Council remains. And they are claiming that the two councils acted dishonestly when they refused the original planning application. For this they want exemplary damages of £150,000.

When contacted by Legal Cheek, Pitblado declined to comment. The case is listed for three days. Expect some interesting twists and turns.

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