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Who Represents Who

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A leader in the field regionally’, Ashtons Legalhas a local knowledgebase without rival in the area and is part of that rare breed of law firms delivering first-rate service without excessive fees’. The firm advises on the full range of specialist agriculture and estates’ business and land matters for local and national clients, ranging from those owning small holdings through to national institutions, Cambridge colleges, charities, friendly societies and large landed estates. Farming expert and team head Jonathan Long is a ‘reassuring adviser’ with 35 years’ experience at the firm and is ‘knowledgeable, technically sound, thorough and calm under pressure’. Veteran agricultural lawyer Jeanette Dennis is ‘commercially minded, meticulous and very astute’. Simon Cunningham, who advises on land sales and alternative energy projects, and associate Rebecca Gatens are also recommended as ‘personable, conscientious and reliable’. Clients also recommend ‘approachable and responsive’ associate Joanne Sandwell, who specialises in property and renewable energy deals and ‘gives good advice at reasonable cost on agricultural tenancy matters’. Sandwell acted for a limited farming company based in Derbyshire on agricultural tenancy matters, which included dilapidation claims and potential purchase of the freehold from an absentee landlord. The team also advised a landed estate on option agreements and transfer of land matters in relation to a housing development that required the use of land for connected infrastructure. In another highlight, the firm advised on the £5.5m first registration of a 500-acre plot, some of which is to be purchased by Highways England in connection with the development of the A14 motorway.

Foremost in Norfolk’ according to one client, Birketts LLP has a strong regional presence across its four offices, from which it serves a diverse client base across England and Wales. Its broad practice encompasses ecclesiastical law, public access issues, aggregates extraction and management, renewable energy projects, structuring family successions and taxation, as well as mainstream agricultural and property law advice linked to sales, purchases, tenancies, options and development. Team head Jack Royall (who ‘can be relied upon for sound advice’) and estate planner Neil Sparrow are noted for their ‘experience and calm, considered approach; they are good listeners with the ability to make things happen’. They draw on a range of experts across the firm, including property lawyers James Dinwiddy and senior associate Rachel McKillop-Wilkin; Nigel Farthing in Ipswich, who handles issues relating to public rights of way, Commons and Town and Village Greens and related contentious issues; Stuart Jones, who advises landowners and mineral operators on the development and management of mineral deposits and also handles large renewable energy projects; and Christopher Coupland, who leads the firm’s agricultural banking team as well as advising on property matters. Senior associate Sophia Key is among the team’s rising stars. The firm’s highlights included advising Suffolk Wildlife Trust on the purchase of 385 acres of arable and pastureland to extend its nature reserve near Lowestoft. The firm also counts Barclays Bank and Norwich Diocesan Board of Finance Limited among its clients.

Clients receive ‘excellent and efficient advice’ from NFU-panel firm Hewitsons, which has ‘a 360-degree approach to rural matters’. The firm’s cross-office team is led from Cambridge by the ‘exceptionalDenise Wilkinson, Charles Stevens and consultant Charles Hewitson and acts for clients nationwide, from mixed estates to major producers of cereal, potatoes, herbs, vegetables and livestock, as well as some of the largest conservation landowners in the UK. Wilkinson is also regarded as a leading expert in the renewables sector and frequently advises on the development of solar, wind and hydroelectric projects. The team also calls on regulatory specialist Deborah Sharples, who has extensive experience in agricultural health and safety matters, as well as livestock rearing and environmental law. Lucinda Brown stands out for her knowledge of contentious farming trust matters. Corporate partner James Lawrence frequently advises on contractual matters for anaerobic digestion projects. The firm’s extensive roster of clients includes The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), The Great Wilsey Estate, The Tissington Estate, Long Melford Estate and Great Wilbraham Estate. The firm recently advised one beneficiary of a multimillion-pound estate on the division of assets that included a mixed-use area and two farms. The team is also acting for the owners of a large estate on the negotiation of a solar option and the development of an anaerobic digestion plant. Robert McLellan joined Keystone Law.

Howes Percival LLP is ‘first class; the advice is always clear and good value for money, and the breadth of knowledge across every discipline ensures the delivery of excellent results even in complicated transactions’. The firm acts primarily for substantial landowners, trusts and partnerships, covering property deals, estate management, development land transactions and tax structuring matters. Team head Catherine Scott (who is ‘excellent with farming properties’) and Stuart Maggs are highly recommended for complex land sales; clients praise Scott as ‘a good communicator with deep knowledge of agricultural law and an ability to resolve issues and get deals done’. The team also includes partners Richard Lovett, who excels in trusts and estate matters, and Jonathan Wortley, who has more than 30 years’ experience acting for high-net-worth individuals and estates in trusts, probate and property matters. Consultant Jeremy Heal is recommended for work on estates. and associate Katharine Danks stands out for her in-depth knowledge of trusts, taxation, land law, agricultural holdings, town and country planning and the Common Agricultural Policy. The firm’s clients include The Cholmondeley Estates – Houghton Hall in Norfolk and Cholmondeley Castle in Cheshire – and The Holkham Estate in Norfolk. Recent highlights include advising trustees and executors on the preparation for sale of a £6m estate that included complex tenancy agreements, leases, fishing rights, grazing rights and livery agreements; and advising on the purchase of an 800-acre grazing and shooting estate in North Yorkshire, which involved a complex investigation into issues of contamination and physical hazards from ironstone mining, ancient burial grounds, wind farm development and water supply.

Mills & Reeve LLP is ‘very proficient and has genuine specialists’. Head of agribusiness Michael Aubrey (who can ‘provide a strategic overview of any legal issue facing an estate’) and agricultural property specialist Amanda Tagg, who also has extensive experience in renewable energy projects, are ‘among the best in the region’. Tim Ryan is a fellow of the Agricultural Law Association and often leads on diversification projects for farmers, landowners and estate owners, often involving complex consortium, promotion and option agreements. The firm has a deep bench of expertise that includes senior associate Dawn Chapman, who specialises in the sale and purchase of farms and estates; senior associate Denis Costello, who deals with rural property matters, with particular expertise in minerals and waste management work; associate Louisa Butcher, who helps clients of the agribusiness team with property matters including tenancies, covenants and easements; associate Nichola Ross, who handles agricultural lending and advice to family farming businesses; principal associate Jane Peel, who advises landed estates on renewable energy projects and farm tenancies; and principal associate Nicola Dernie, who also handles property matters. The firm’s highlights included advising Fengrain Limited on the grant of a 25-years underlease for three grain silos, and acting for the trustee landowners of the Kirton Estate on negotiations for an option for cabling easement for a large section of the estate. The firm also counts Oxford University Endowment Management, Trinity College Cambridge and Farmcare Limited among its clients.

Taylor Vinters is ‘professional and reliable, with a wealth of experience and energy to get the work done’. The firm is well known for its Agricultural Holdings Act tenancy work, which includes surrenders, re-grants and restructuring. It also handles large, complex and high-value farm transactions, which in 2016 accounted for deals with a combined value in excess of £100m; succession and tax planning; farming partnerships; and renewable energy developments for both landowners and developers. Adrian Horwood-Smart has particular expertise in strategic and complex tax issues. Rupert Melville-Ross is ‘well known and respected in his industry and among his clients for his pragmatic approach; he never fails to deliver’. He deals mainly with high-value property transactions. Newly promoted partner Andrew Williamson is an expert on Agricultural Holdings Act tenancies and also advises on partnerships and landed estate succession planning. The firm’s recent highlights include advising a private client farmer in north Norfolk on the £5m off-market sale of 400 acres in a deal that had complex holdover requirements, and acting for a well-known racehorse trainer in Newmarket on the £4.8m off-market purchase of one of the most well-known training yards in the region in a deal that required advice on corporate structuring and banking issues. The firm’s extensive list of active clients includes Jockey Club Group, US-based landholding charity AgReserves Limited, G’s Marketing, a multinational salad and vegetable producer, large-scale commercial farming company J E Piccaver & Co, and Tompsett Burgess Growers, the UK’s largest producer of carrots.

Barker Goteleenever drags its heels and is proactive in getting all matters progressed as soon as possible’. Toby Pound’s team has extensive knowledge of Common Agricultural Policy reforms and has built a strong reputation for land transactions for farmers and landowners across the UK. Pound has 38 years’ experience and is head of the firm’s property team, which mainly handles the sale and purchase of farms and large estates, complex tenancy issues and property-related diversification schemes. Andrew Nicholson has specialised in agricultural law for 25 years and deals with a wide range of issues affecting farmers and landowners, including rights required for cabling to be laid through their land in conjunction with the supply of energy from substantial offshore wind farms. The team’s recent work includes the purchase of a 303-acre site at Ashbocking, the sale of several sites in Suffolk and beyond for major residential development projects, the purchase of a site in Rendlesham for residential development, and the purchase of land in Tamworth for industrial development.

Greene & Greene is ‘large enough to offer comprehensive expertise and resources, but small enough to provide a personal service’. Its agricultural and rural business team has an established client base of landowners and agents, and it has steadily developed a reputation as one of the key advisors for the Newmarket horseracing community having acted in high-profile transactions for clients in the equestrian industry. Rural property partner Jonathan Mathers is ‘efficient, highly experienced and practical – a "go-to" lawyer’. Clients note that the team provides ‘a good personal service and not too much complex legal speak’. Corporate partner Neil Walmsley regularly advises on the sale, acquisition or restructuring or rural businesses. Selene Holden is recommended principally for employment matters but her practice encompasses agricultural issues such as family succession disputes, licences for power lines, land contamination matters and land diversification projects. Agricultural Law Association member, litigator and senior solicitor Andrea Nicholls is also recommended. The firm recently acted for the seller of a well-known Newmarket stud farm.

Hunt & Coombs LLP is ‘a good-quality, traditional, reliable and well-respected firm’. Highly experienced property partner Anna Spriggs leads the team and has been involved in numerous sales and purchases relating to ecclesiastical and agricultural properties. Estates specialist Peter Izod also has extensive experience with agricultural land sales. Commercial consultant Paul Tate is well versed in land development deals. The firm’s recent caseload includes numerous property transactions for local farmers and landowners. It also has specialist expertise in advising landed estates and has recently been involved in the refinancing of such estates for a combined value in excess of £10m. The team recently advised on a proposed multimillion-pound residential development on a 200-acre agricultural land site that involved in-depth negotiation with prospective developers. Another key matter saw Spriggs advise on an option agreement for a proposed new greenfield housing and commercial development. She also acted for an agricultural body in a collaboration agreement with a landowner that involved sensitive issues around safeguarding land.

Leathes Prior has a longstanding reputation as a key adviser to land-owning and agricultural clients on tax, trusts and estates matters, with team head William Riley standing out for his property and trusts expertise. In 2016, property litigator Darren Bowen, who is a member of the Agricultural Law Association and the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association, advised several agricultural clients on complex probate disputes involving agricultural assets. Regulatory expert Tim Cary is also called upon by the firm’s agricultural clients to advise on health and safety matters and compliance issues. The team’s key clients include The Great Hospital, as well as a large number of established local farming families and estates such as Lynford Hall, Caistor Hall and Holkham Estate. The firm’s recent highlights include advising the 5,000-acre Somerleyton Estate on property matters such as trespass, forfeiture of mixed commercial and residential premises, breach of covenants and termination of agricultural and farm business tenancies. It also acted for the trustees of a 165-acre agricultural estate on a dispute over ownership of the land.

Roythornes Solicitorsexcels in property matters and estate planning’. Julie Robinson leads a team of ‘farming experts’ based in Spalding and Newmarket, where the firm is ‘right in the midst of the agricultural industry’. Consultant Graham Smith is regarded as one of the region’s leading experts in agricultural law and related tax issues; despite retiring from the partnership, he still plays a vital role in the firm’s Newmarket team. Jonathan Williams in Peterborough stands out for his experience in property deals in the agricultural sector and has more than 30 years’ experience. Associate Kirsten Rimmer now splits her time between Spalding and Peterborough and acts for a client base that covers East Anglia and Kent. She is a fellow of the Agricultural Law Association and is highly experienced in commercial and agricultural property matters. The firm’s highlights included advising on a freehold farmland purchase involving 34 different titles, with sub-agreements under which a family-owned company occupied the land and a third-party contractor undertook the farming operations. It also acted on the purchase of freehold reversions by two separate Agricultural Holdings Act tenants from the same landlord, and on a review of horse lettings across more than 200 acres of agricultural land to ensure regulatory compliance.

Clients are ‘very confident in the ability’ of Steeles Law, which provides ‘good advice and has good knowledge of the local area’. The team is ‘extremely responsive, helpful and comprehensive in its work’ and draws upon the firm’s strengths in commercial property, private client and company commercial matters. Its workload consists largely of agricultural property sales, purchases, easements, farm business tenancies and Agricultural Holdings Act tenancies. Karen Bacon, an associate and head of wills, probate and tax who often handles farming partnership matters and agricultural land sales, ‘has impressive knowledge of this area of law and is always helpful and approachable’. She is especially well versed in inheritance tax and succession planning matters for the local farming community in Norfolk. Nigel Lubbock has more than 40 years’ experience of agricultural partnerships and commercial matters. Bacon and property partner Michael Fahy recently acted on the partition of a farming estate and the preparation for sale of land plots, which involved complex issues regarding right of access over estate roads.

Tees Law is ‘an efficient and organised firm’ that provides ‘knowledgeable and prompt service’. The firm, which is a member of the National Farmers’ Union’s legal panel, has a multi-disciplinary team that provides advice on estate and succession planning, land development, diversification projects, employment, dispute resolution, restructuring and the sale and acquisition of commercial enterprises. The ‘very diligentCatherine Mowat leads the team and specialises in wills, trusts, tax and probate matters. ‘Highly attentive’ property partner James Dowson is also recommended. The firm recently acted for a well-known local agricultural producer on the preparation of a bespoke set of terms and conditions for its grain storage facilities and laboratory testing services. Another highlight saw Mowat and Dowson act for the owners of a 27-acre site on the formation of a promotion agreement with a regional developer with a view to a potential multimillion-pound land sale. The matter involved a complex structure of trusts and ownership rights. Dowson also assisted agricultural tenants with the surrender and re-grant of a significant Agricultural Holdings Act tenancy at a North Essex estate.

Blocks has a standout practitioner in managing partner Gerry Field, who is a member of the Agricultural Law Association and regularly acts for agricultural clients on acquisitions and development projects. His practice increasingly encompasses advising farmers and landowners on energy projects and the sale of development land. In 2016, he advised on the negotiation of promotion agreements with developers for the large-scale development of agricultural land; assisted with the £4m sale of agricultural land for development purposes; advising on estate planning involving the use of trusts to minimise capital gains tax and inheritance tax for farmers with land with development potential; and assisting landowners with leases and easements related to energy schemes.

The agricultural and rural affairs team at Buckles Solicitors LLP regularly advises on agricultural land acquisitions and sales, and on single farm payment issues. It is also able to draw on the firm’s wider property, tax, trust, wealth preservation, family and corporate practices, enabling to it provide a holistic service to clients. Property partner Michael Blank is a fellow of the Agricultural Law Association. Michael Rabbett handles a broad mix of agricultural, commercial and residential property matters ranging from simple land sales to farm business tenancies and diversification matters such as wind farm and communication mast leases, mineral extraction and landfill. Clients praise his ‘efficiency and professional service’. The firm’s recent transactions include a multimillion-pound financing arrangement for a prominent family farming business that included lease surrender and re-grant issues.

At Butcher Andrews, property specialists Chris Hoxley and Anne Kirby advise local farmers and landowners throughout East Anglia. Hoxley acts for a number of farming clients in diversification projects and farm tenancy matters, and Kirby acts for landowners on property transactions and leasehold aspects of agricultural property, including the leasing of land for wind turbine and solar park developments. She also handles commercial letting issues, farming partnerships, wayleave agreements, and shooting and sporting leases. Highlights included assisting Genatec Limited and its associated company Strellas Lane Wind Energy Limited with taking options on agricultural land for potential green energy developments. Kirby also acted for the company as the owner of farmland in the grant of options and entering into the lease of a solar farm array.

Fraser Dawbarnscarries a lot of respect locally and provides a consistently good level of care and attention in all areas’. Head of commercial development Daniel Ball ‘has a clear depth of knowledge’ and clients praise his ‘efficient and high-quality work’. Private client head Harleen Hanson recently advised on the administration of a £2.5m farming estate, while Ball acted on a £1.4m farm purchase and the finance of 500 acres in farm holdings to fund the acquisition.


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Legal Developments in East Anglia for Agriculture and estates

  • Parking rights: here to stay? Consent might be the surprising answer 


    In the field of the acquisition of easements by prescription, little has caused more consternation over the last decade or so than the question of whether a right to park cars can be acquired by twenty years user as of right. The types of property capable of being adversely affected range from individual residential units all the way up to major development sites. The establishment of such a right can have a devastating impact on the value of the burdened land.

    - Falcon Chambers

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