Keith Coughtrie is a specialist in Social Welfare and Public Law with particular expertise in relation to the rights of the travelling community.

He has expertise in matters relating to Housing and public and administrative legislation as well as legal issues relating to the Gypsy and Traveller community and also the Bargee Traveller Community. He assists families and individuals who are seeking a place to live, whether in planning proceedings or through housing and homeless legislation.

Keith has represented Gypsies and Travellers for over 15 years and gained the trust and confidence of this underprivileged community alongside a formidable reputation. He is known for his tireless determination in high profile and smaller enforcement cases alike.

He represented the Claimant Lisa Smith in her recent successful challenge to the definition of a Traveller which was found by the Court of Appeal to be discriminatory to both disabled and elderly people and changed the landscape for planning decision makers and council’s.

He was involved in the long-running legal dispute centred on Dale Farm, Essex – a case which attracted widespread media coverage. He represented residents in Human Rights claims and a judicial review.

He was among the shortlisted finalists at the Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year (LALY) Awards 2016.

Davies Gore Lomax, Finalist Liberty Human Rights Awards 2011 for the Dale Farm Litigation.


Keith is a solicitor who has previously worked in private practice for Deighton Pierce Glynn, Leeds based Davies Gore Lomax and Minton Morrill. He qualified in 2003 having trained at Peter Kingshill and Co in Gray’s Inn.


Lisa Smith v SSHCLG (with the EHRC, LGT, FFT, NFGLG and STAG intervening) (2022)
The Court of Appeal found that the definition of a Gypsy or Traveller for planning purposes discriminated against elderly and disabled Gypsies and Travellers and quashed the decision of Pepperall J in the planning Court.  This was a section 288 TCPA 1990 case concerns a planning inspector’s decision to dismiss a planning appeal on grounds which includes a challenge to the lawfulness of the definition of ‘Gypsies and Travellers’ in Planning policy for travellers sites (2015) – the complaint being that definition has a particularly detrimental effect on Gypsies and Travellers who are elderly or disabled and their ability to secure planning permission for caravan sites.

[2022] UKUT 16 (LC) UTLC Tingdene Marinas Ltd v JM Jaffe

The Upper Tribunal upheld the First Tier Tribunal decision that the Houseboat which our client lived in was a caravan for the purposes of the Mobile Home Act. Stephen Cottle of Garden Court Chambers was instructed.

Charlotte Smith v SSHCLG [2020] Charlotte Smith v SSHCLG and Newark 16th October 2020, Mr Strachan QC, sitting as a Deputy High Court Judge (CO/2063/2019)
Keith instructed Marc Willers QC in this successful s288 TCPA 1990 planning challenge to an Inspector’s decision to refuse planning permission for a Gypsy site in Newark. The Judge concluded that there was substantial doubt whether the Inspector had complied with national planning policy and treated the Council’s lack of a 5 year supply as a ‘significant material consideration’.

[2017] EWCA Civ 1850 Connors and Ors v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government; Mulvenna and Smith v SSCLG and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)
These claims followed Moore and Coates v SSCLG and EHRC [2015] EWHC 44 (Admin) in which Gilbart J found the Secretary of State had unlawfully discriminated against Romani Gypsies/Irish Travellers by recovering all Gypsy/Traveller caravan site planning appeals for his own determination in breach of the Equality Act 2010 and Articles 8 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the Convention). The claimants argued that the Secretary of State’s unlawful recovery of their appeals had a ‘domino effect’ which rendered his own appeal decisions unlawful. The EHRC supported that argument but Cranston J rejected it and the Court of Appeal upheld his decision.

(2015) EWHC 151 (Admin) R (on the application of Eastwood) v Windsor and Maidenhead RLBC
The Court dismissed a judicial review of the local planning authority’s decision to use direct action under section 178 of the Town & Country Planning Act 1990 to clear land occupied by Romany Gypsies, notwithstanding the lack of any lawful site to move to. The Court disagreed with the submission that it was perverse not to examine alternative sites and to proceed with site clearance without addressing how much longer it would take to fulfil the Secretary of State’s expectation that new site provision would be available, thus avoiding the site residents having nowhere else to go to. Permission to appeal was granted by the Court of Appeal but ultimately dismissed.

[2015] EWHC 2463 (Admin) Allen v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
This was a successful challenge to the decision of the Secretary of State to refuse planning permission because insufficient reasons were given for the site which the Secretary of State said they could move to.

[2014] 1 W.L.R. 3270 Regina (Flynn and another) v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and another
A “licence” within the meaning of section 174(6) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 meant a permission to enter and occupy the land in question, and could be a contractual licence or a bare licence; that the existence of an implied licence could be inferred from all the relevant circumstances, including the relationship between the parties involved and the circumstances in which the land was occupied; that, although the first claimant had no interest in the land, the planning inspectorate had erred in failing to consider whether or not she had an implied licence to occupy the land at the relevant times and so was a relevant occupier; and that, accordingly, the impugned decision would be quashed.

[2014] EWCA Civ 214 Stevens v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
The Claimant Romani Gypsy had applied for temporary planning consent to station her mobile homes on her land in the Green Belt.  The application was refused by the local council and a planning inspector dismissed an appeal. The High Court rejected a challenge to that decision. The claimant sought permission to bring a further appeal contending that the inspector had failed to apply the approach to the best interests of the claimant’s children required by the judgments in ZH (Tanzania) which had been delivered after her decision. The Court of Appeal refused permission. It was held that the inspector had had the interests of the children “in the forefront of her mind” precisely as the Supreme Court had later held was required (in ZH).

[2013] EWHC 792 (Admin) Stevens v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government & Guildford BC
Gypsies – an unsuccessful challenge brought in respect of a planning inspector’s decision to refuse temporary planning permission for a Gypsy site. The Claimant argued that the Inspector had failed to take account of the best interests of the children in accordance with the principles laid down by Baroness Hale in the Supreme Court decision in ZH (Tanzania) v SSHD [2011] UKSC 4. The Judge accepted that the principles were relevant but concluded that on the facts the Inspector had complied with those principles.

[2012] EWHC 2760 (Admin) Collins v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government & Fylde BC
A statutory appeal to the refusal of planning permission which concerned the scope and application of children’s best interests.  The Judge said the Planning Inspector had taken into account the best interests of the children. This has been given permission to Appeal in the Court of Appeal.

[2012] EWHC 3514 (Admin) Linfoot v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government & Chorley BC
A successful statutory review challenge brought against a decision of a planning inspector to refuse a Gypsy family temporary planning permission – the Secretary of State has conceded that his inspector’s decision was unlawful. Chorley BC did not agree and the case was heard in Manchester Admin Court.

[2011] EWHC 2938 (Admin) R (Mary Michelle Sheridan and others) v Basildon BC
Dale Farm.  Unsuccessful judicial review challenge against the council’s decision to take direct action to evict Irish Travellers from their plots on the site. The case was heard at first instance by Ouseley J and Lord Justice Sullivan refused a renewed application for permission made to the Court of Appeal.

[2011] EWHC 2416 (QB) Patrick Egan v Basildon Borough Council
A case involving the Dale Farm site in which the Court considered the extent to which enforcement notices gave the Council the power to take direct action to remove unauthorised development on the site.

[2010] EWCA Civ 626 Brent London Borough Council v Stokes
Irish Traveller case – the Court of Appeal refused an application for permission to appeal against the decision of Mr Justice King to uphold the County Court’s decision to grant possession of land in circumstances where it had been decided that the Appellant’s ‘gateway (b)’ defence did not raise seriously arguable grounds to dispute the claim for possession.