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Who Represents Who

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‚ÄėA strong regional firm with a depth of experience and knowledge‚Äė,¬†Ashtons Legal¬†is ‚Äėvery good in every aspect and I would wholeheartedly recommend them for their expertise and professionalism‚Äė, says one client. Another describes ‚Äėa well-located and well-resourced private client-orientated firm with very strong competence in all areas of the law affecting farmers and landowners'. Practice head Jonathan Long¬†in Bury St Edmunds (who has 'unrivalled local knowledge and a clam, unflappable demeanour')¬†and Cambridge-based partner¬†Jeanette Dennis¬†are ‚Äėvery able practitioners with an abundance of experience to go with their obvious technical knowledge; both amply demonstrate how to apply that knowledge and experience in a private family context where care and attention is needed to add to professional capability'. They acted for¬†Suffolk Farming Family Partnership in the ¬£25m sale of land for development.¬†Dennis and associate Rebecca Gatens, who together assisted¬†Suffolk Agricultural Consultants with 17 agricultural tenancy matters in 2017 ranging from grazing licences to farm business tenancies, ‚Äėhave a strong grasp of the market and the issues affecting agriculture'. Simon Cunningham¬†has advised farmers, landowners and agricultural businesses across East Anglia for more than 20 years. He recently acted for agricultural lenders including Clydesdale Bank, Lloyds Bank and HSBC on finance transactions.

At Birketts LLP¬†‚Äėthe service levels cannot be faulted and the appropriateness of advice is exceptional‚Äô. The firm has one¬†of the largest specialist agriculture teams in England and from its four offices it serves a national client base on diverse matters including¬†ecclesiastical law, public access issues, aggregates extraction and management, renewable energy projects and taxation, as well as agricultural property transactions. Among its clients are¬†Norwich Diocesan Board of Finance,¬†National Westminster Bank,¬†Suffolk Wildlife Trust and¬†HSBC Bank, as well as many landowners across the UK. Practice head¬†Jack Royall¬†handles property matters including¬†landlord and tenant cases, partnership and succession planning, farm sales and diversification projects. He recently handled the review and documentation of shooting, stalking, farming, grazing and cropping arrangements on a multimillion-pound estate. The deep bench of talent includes¬†Neil Sparrow, who handles farm sales and matters involving¬†capital tax and estate planning, wills and trusts;¬†Christopher Coupland¬†who leads the firm‚Äôs agricultural banking team and also deals with property transactions;¬†property specialist¬†James Dinwiddy¬†;¬†Nigel Farthing¬†who has a¬†national practice dealing with public rights of way, commons and town and village greens; legal director¬†Stuart Jones¬†who advises¬†landowners and mineral operators on the development and management of mineral deposits; and¬†legal director¬†Rachel McKillop-Wilkin¬†who deals with property and succession issues.¬†‚ÄėExcellent communicator‚Äô¬†and senior associate¬†Sophia Key¬†in Norwich is praised for her ‚Äėperseverance, quality advice and¬†great knowledge and understanding of all matters associated with agricultural land and farms'.

Hewitsons is 'well-placed to advise on all agricultural and rural matters' and it 'provides a high level of advice which represents great value for money'. The firm is on the National Farmers' Union panel for Cambridgeshire, Huntingdonshire, Bedfordshire and Norfolk, and has a nationwide client base that includes mixed estates, major producers of cereal, potatoes, herbs, vegetables and livestock, and some of the largest conservation landowners in the UK. Practice head Denise Wilkinson 'demonstrates a broad depth of knowledge and is always pragmatic and astute; her ability to grasp the matter, provide focused advice and get the job completed without any fuss are a testament to her negotiating and advisory skills'. One client notes that 'she is particularly good at understanding clients' objectives and thinking outside the box'.  She recently advised a client on an option agreement for a fracking project, and concluded the purchase of a plot of conservation standard grassland. Clients also praise the wider team, which include Charles Stevens , who handles acquisitions and disposals including some renewable energy projects; consultant Charles Hewitson, who handles trust matters for agricultural clients; regulatory specialist Deborah Sharples; James Lawrence for commercial contracts; property litigator Natalie Minott; and Lucinda Brown, who handles contentious farming trust and probate matters.

Howes Percival LLP primarily acts for substantial landowners, trusts and partnerships in agricultural property matters, estate and farm management, tax structuring and development land transactions. The agriculture practice has a busy caseload of farm and estate deals, long-term funding transactions for farms and rural properties including banking work, investigations and registrations of complex unregistered titles, and options, conditional contracts and overage agreements for landowners. Head of estates Catherine Scott leads a practice that combines specialist knowledge of agricultural law with an in-depth understanding of the complex tax issues that affect the rural sector. Scott is a specialist agricultural lawyer with extensive experience in advising farmers and landowners on property, trusts and tax matters. She recently acted for the shareholders of Aspall Holdings Limited on a major corporate transaction. Her workload in 2017 also included advising numerous agricultural tenants on the reorganisation of their tenancies under the Agricultural Holdings Act, and assisting landlords of agricultural tenancies with Case B notices to allow for vacant possession of land for development. Head of tax Stuart Maggs is a fellow of the Agricultural Law Association and handles strategic planning, management and tax mitigation for trusts, partnerships and companies. Director Katharine Danks plays a key role in the practice and works closely with Scott. Together they handled the complex sale of an estate under terms of two trusts. Consultant Jeremy Heal retired.

Mills & Reeve LLP¬†is 'excellent in all areas' and has strong practitioners in both Cambridge and Norwich. The firm is 'in a different league' compared to its competitors, according to one client, who highlights its¬†‚Äėexceptional service‚Äô. Another describes ‚Äėa¬†highly professional multi-disciplinary firm with¬†a deep understanding of the law'.¬†Agribusiness is one of the firm's key sectors and it handles the full range of rural land matters including some of the highest value and most complex deals nationally.¬†Practice head¬†Michael Aubrey¬†acted for Albanwise in its ¬£21m purchase of a village and 2,000 acres of farmland in North Yorkshire. He leads a practice of which¬†one client remarks 'my experience is the same as with any of the London Magic Circle firms'. The firm acts for¬†traditional farming clients, landowning Cambridge and Oxford colleges, pension funds, prestigious landed estates and large agribusinesses such as Greenyard and Farmcare.¬†Agricultural property specialist¬†Amanda Tagg¬†in Cambridge and associates¬†Nicola Dernieand¬†Louise Butcherin Norwich are highly recommended. They ‚Äėprovide reasoned, sensible advice in a concise and understandable way to ensure the correct decisions can be made'.¬†Tim Ryan¬†is a key partner and he advised a farm company¬†on the surrender¬†and grant of five agricultural tenancies in Yorkshire.¬†'Skilled, pragmatic and empathetic' senior associate¬†Dawn Chapman¬†is ‚Äėvery supportive as well as professional and efficient; she is reassuring, cheerful and empathetic'.¬†Associate Matthew Hesketh, who regularly deals with agricultural estate and farmland sales and purchases, 'provides customer-focused service', and¬†associate Denis Costello¬†is 'well-rounded and knowledgeable in minerals and waste management property matters, providing unambiguous advice'.

Roythornes Solicitors climbs to the top tier having recently opened a new office in Alconbury, which lies between Cambridge and Peterborough and sits close to many of the firm's numerous farming clients. The firm's head of agriculture Julie Robinson is located there, though the entire team works between all of the firm's offices depending on clients' needs. The firm has 'a depth of experience with agricultural matters and is both reliable and practical', according to one client. Robinson and associate Kirsten Rimmer have 'great technical knowledge of the Agricultural Holdings Act and other relevant legislation, and they deal well with the family issues; both operate with a combination of confidence and sensitivity, which is appreciated by clients'. Rimmer, who is a fellow of the Agricultural Law Association, recently acted in the £3m sale of a farm specialising in egg and poultry meat production, which involved complex negotiations with three landowners and a change of the purchasing entity midway through the deal. She also handled the £3m sale of a farming partnership in Kent. Among Robinson's highlights was advice to multiple parties involved in a land pooling transaction for more than 750 acres, which involved understanding of agricultural subsidy and environmental scheme implications.

Taylor Vinters¬†is ‚Äėa well respected firm with a wide variety of expertise‚Äė and it provides ‚Äėpractical, knowledgeable and sound advice on rural matters, particularly land and property sales and agricultural tenancy issues'. The firm has a large roster of¬†rural clients, including some of the most innovative and entrepreneurial agricultural business in the region, and the agriculture practice advised on several large-scale promotion projects last year including urban extension and new-build¬†developments in Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Norfolk.¬†Adrian Horwood-Smart¬†and¬†Rupert Melville-Ross¬†are the key contacts and they have particular expertise in strategic and complex tax issues and high-end property transactions respectively.¬†Melville-Ross and Agricultural Holdings Act expert¬†Andrew Williamson¬†are ‚Äėparticularly good in agricultural law and offer concise practical and sensible advice‚Äė. One client notes that Williamson has 'excellent all round knowledge and is very calm, efficient, responsive and easy to deal with'. Real estate associate¬†Louise Moore¬†is recommended for¬†complex and high-value transactions including residential development projects, option agreements and agricultural tenancies. The practice acted for¬†John Ferguson and Bloomfields Racing Ltd in the sale of a large site near Newmarket consisting of¬†equine stables, yards, flats and training grounds, and assisted a large landed estate in Suffolk with a ¬£7m privately negotiated, off-market land swap with a neighbouring estate. Another highlight saw Williamson deal with the ¬£6.5m corporate restructuring and transfer of a large Norfolk farming business.

Barker Gotelee's practice handled the sale and purchase of numerous farms and plots of land for residential and commercial development including several renewable energy projects. This included advising many landowners whose land plays a role in a substantial offshore wind turbine project to bring green power from the North Sea to the National Grid. Its work also includes assisting clients with the surrender and re-grant of existing secure agricultural tenancies to secure full relief from inheritance tax. Head of both the property and the agriculture and estates practice Andrew Nicholson  has specialised in agricultural law for more than 25 years and is highly recommended for complex property matters. Clients describe him as 'very good in terms of both ability and speed of service'. Key partner Toby Pound focuses primarily on agricultural land matters and has nearly 40 years' experience in commercial property. He recently handled the sale of 35 acres of agricultural land in the West Midlands for a commercial development.

'No stone is left unturned' at Greene & Greene in Bury St Edmunds, where the agriculture and estates practice has a good reputation among regional land agents. It frequently handles farm sales and purchases, Settled Land Act estates work, agricultural tenancy issues, succession planning and taxation including agricultural and business property advice. Director and practice head Jonathan Mathers does 'an absolutely super job; he has excellent attention to detail and huge knowledge when it comes to property purchases' and the lawyers in his team are 'all superb'. Corporate finance partner Neil Walmsley specialises in the acquisition, disposal, financing and restructuring of businesses and rural enterprises. Employment specialist Selene Holden deals with agricultural issues including disputes over family succession, licences for power lines, problems with farm managers, issues caused by land contamination, and development of agricultural land. Property litigator Andrea Nicholls, chartered tax adviser Wayne Perrin and corporate partner Mark Daly also play key roles in the practice. A highlight for the practice was its work for a new farming company in its £16m purchase of a premier estate in Suffolk.

Greenwoods GRM¬†has a long track record of advising clients in the farming sector, but it formalised its agriculture rural business practice in early 2017 with the hire of strategic land development partner¬†Jeremy Stanton¬†from Roythornes Solicitors. ‚ÄėWe have used the firm for many years and it has always provided valuable legal advice‚Äė, remarks one client who reports ‚Äėexcellent response times, business acumen and value for money‚Äė.¬†Head of property disputes Caroline Gumbrell¬†and¬†rural affairs and property solicitor Emily Pumfrey¬†are described as ‚Äėefficient and reliable‚Äė. Corporate and commercial partner Alastair Gunn¬†also has a key role in the practice, handling¬†corporate transactional matters including MBOs, MBIs, share and asset disposals and acquisitions, and group reorganisations for rural clients. Gunn and Pumfrey recently advised RE Evans Farms on the ¬£12m strategic acquisition of a 1200-acre site in Pembrokeshire comprising two dairy farms.

Hunt & Coombs LLP calls on lawyers in its property and private client departments to advise on the sale and purchase of farms and land, and to support clients with complex trusts and probate issues involving agricultural assets. The practice is a key adviser to landed estates in the region and in 2017 it assisted those clients in refinancings with a combined value in excess of £10m. Head of the commercial and property practices Anna Spriggs in Peterborough is the key contact and her work includes site acquisition and assembly and disposal, as well as deals involving clawbacks and overage provisions. She recently acted for a selling landowner in negotiations with prospective developers for a new, 200-acre residential project. She frequently advises The Peterborough Diocesan Board of Finance on matters including agricultural tenancies. Senior associate Edward Taylor is an experienced corporate lawyer who deals with business restructuring in the agricultural sector. In Oundle, land and estates specialist Peter Izod also handles high-value residential and commercial development projects.

'I can’t fault the service I have received - fast responses and good explanation in simple terms of what we need, how long it will take and what it will cost', says a client of Steeles Law. 'The firm's agricultural knowledge and experience shows through the advice given' notes one client who recommends associate and head of the wills, probate and tax team Karen Bacon, who frequently advises on farming partnership matters and agricultural land sales. Bacon also leads the agriculture practice and clients describe her as 'knowledgeable, easy to work with, efficient and very good at keeping in touch' and remark upon her 'calm and reassuring manner that gives confidence'. She recently advised a retired farming couple on inheritance tax planning. She also assisted a client with an auction pack for sale of a building plot, which included obtaining a release from an Agricultural Holdings Act tenancy. Property partner Michael Fahy frequently handles farm sales and 'always responds quickly and accurately'. He recently advised on the the granting of an option by an agricultural client to a well-known local housebuilder for residential development. Corporate partner Nigel Lubbock also plays a key role in the practice.

Tees Law brings together a strong mix of practice areas and skilled lawyers to serve its rural client base, which includes small family farms, rural estates, large agricultural businesses, landowning consortiums and agricultural bodies. Its work for these clients encompasses estate and succession planning, land development and diversification projects, employment advice, dispute resolution, business restructuring, and the sale and acquisition of commercial enterprises. The firm is a member of the NFU legal panel. Private client partner Catherine Mowat leads the agriculture practice and has nearly 20 years' experience in estate planning for rural clients. She works closely with property partner James Dowson and head of disputes Sara Stabler. Mowat recently acted as an executor of a multimillion-pound estate with large holdings in the agriculture sector, which required complex inheritance tax and succession planning issues, including advice on agricultural property relief and business relief.

Blocks has a large and well-established client base in the agricultural sector and acts for numerous farmers and landowners in energy projects and the sale of development land. It also has a growing workload of promotion agreements and options with developers for large-scale development of agricultural land, and its private client practice handles estate planning and trusts matters to help rural clients owning land with development potential to minimise their tax exposure. Managing partner Gerry Field acts for many multi-generational farming and landowner families in Suffolk and he is secretary for Hadleigh Farmers Association. His recent work includes a £2m sale of agricultural land, a highly complex farm purchase, and advice on an option agreement involving two family trusts.

The agricultural and rural affairs team at Buckles Solicitors LLP focuses primarily on land and property transactions, as well as single farm payment issues. Head of commercial property Michael Rabbett is the key contact and he regularly acts for farming businesses. Property partner Michael Blank, who is a fellow of the Agricultural Law Association, also plays a key role in the practice. Last year, he handled the £950,000 sale of a farm with arable land for the family of a deceased farmer in a deal that included simultaneously procuring the assignment of an agricultural tenancy of the land to the purchaser to obtain vacant possession, and ensuring that the tenant transferred Basic Payment Scheme entitlements benefitting the land to the purchaser.

Butcher Andrews acts for many local farmers and landowners around Fakenham and Holt, and further afield in East Anglia, in property sales, farm tenancies and diversification projects. Managing partner and commercial property specialist Anne Kirby advises on agricultural property matters including leasehold issues, green energy projects such as the leasing of land for wind turbine and solar park developments, and commercial lettings. She also advises on farming partnerships, wayleaves, shooting and sporting leases. Head of property Chris Hoxley also plays a key role in the practice and is best-known for diversification and farm tenancy matters. The firm's highlights from 2017 included acting for the Rutterford farming family in the sale of land for diversification, and assisting the Duncan family partnership on the sale of land for development.

The agriculture practice at Fraser Dawbarns has a growing client base of agricultural businesses seeking advice on corporate and commercial matters, as well as property sales and estate management. Head of commercial Daniel Ball recently advised on a major battery storage facility development for a rural client. Head of private client Harleen Hanson also plays a key role in the practice. Partner Kieren Cross also handles trusts and estates matters for agricultural clients, often involving cross-border assets. Tony Cheetham and Silke Trevor are recommended for the land sales and tenancy matters.

Leathes Prior has a strong rural client base of land-owning and agricultural clients, to which it provides value-added advice on tax, trusts and estates matters. Senior partner and head of the firm's private client team William Riley has more than 30 years' experience acting for clients in trusts, probate and property matters. The practice also calls upon the litigation experience of Mike Barlow who leads the dispute resolution department and brings more than 20 years' experience to the table. Regulatory and defence practice head Tim Cary, lead commercial property partner Rob Sibley, litigator Darren Bowen, employment partner Sarah Appleton and litigation associate Polly Langford also play key roles in the practice.

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Legal Developments in East Anglia for Agriculture and estates

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

    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.‚Ä©
    - Falcon Chambers

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