Official Solicitor to the Senior Courts who appeared as litigant-in-person in private dispute suffers High Court defeat

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By Thomas Connelly on

Alastair Pitblado and his fiancée suffer £150k planning row loss

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One of the most senior government lawyers in the country who opted to act as a litigant-in-person in a domestic planning dispute has today had his claim dismissed.

The case — which kicked off in the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court on 11 April — concluded today, with Alastair Pitblado and his fiancée, Catherine Collins, suffering defeat.

Pitblado, who is the Official Solicitor to the Senior Courts — a quasi-judicial role — set legal tongues wagging after he opted, in an almost unprecedented move, to act as a litigant-in-person alongside Collins, in a planning row with Thanet District and Kent County Councils.

Alleging that the two councils had acted dishonestly when considering a planning application to build a new house in Kent, the couple were seeking exemplary damages of £150,000. This is despite having the original planning decision overturned and going on to sell the plot of land, with planning permission in place, for a tidy sum.

Earlier this month, Legal Cheek exclusively revealed that “anr” in the court case listed as Collins & anr v Thanet County Council & anr was in fact Pitblado.

The senior lawyer had a career as barrister in private practice spanning almost 10 years before moving into government legal roles in the late 80s. Collins is also a qualified solicitor but a non-practising one.

His Honour Judge Yelton dismissing the couple’s claim added further insult to injury by slapping them with a costs order in favour of both defendants. Describing the couple’s claim as “over blown and wholly unsubstantiated”, Judge Yelton said their approach to the planning application had been “misconceived”.

National giant DWF and Hardwicke’s John de Waal QC represented Thanet District Council, while Berrymans advised Kent County Council. Speaking shortly after the outcome of the case, DWF partner, Mark Whittaker said:

Serious allegations were made by Mr Pitblado and his partner which brought into question the good name of Thanet Council’s planning department and in particular its former employee Luke Blaskett. We are pleased that the judge found these allegations to be totally without foundation. It is disappointing that council ratepayer’s money has been incurred in defending these wholly unmeritorious proceedings but steps will now be taken to ensure that the public purse is reimbursed in accordance with the costs order made against the claimants.


Official Solicitor to the Senior Courts appears as litigant-in-person in private dispute [Legal Cheek]