Local community opposition to environmentally significant development proposals is commonplace, with environmental issues often at the forefront of community concerns. Whilst the development consent system provides multiple opportunities for local community groups to participate in the initial decision-making process, a legal commitment to such participation ensures neither its quality nor its effectiveness. This is especially so for local group ‘have-nots’ who lack resource and expertise, and whose focus on locallybased objections can delegitimise their valid and often broaderconcerns about the proposed development. This paper argues that access to legal expertise plays a significant role in promoting principles of fairness and competence in participation by helping shape local opposition views in a way that is both understood and accepted as valid by the planning system. Whilst there are important and valuable sources of advice and support currently available, many local groups find themselves in the position of having to raise considerable funds to pay for the legal expertise they need. This unsatisfactory position needs to be addressed if local groups are to meaningfully engage with the planning process.