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'Among the best property litigation firms in the region', Birketts LLP 'always takes into account the client’s needs and the best solution for them, and in terms of value for money, every penny spent has been worth it'. The ten-lawyer practice handles all aspects of property litigation but is best-known for town and village green matters, Telecoms Code cases, rights to light, leasehold enfranchisement, and commercial landlord and tenant work. The 'very enthusiastic and determined' Richard Eaton leads the practice and he is 'very focused on his clients’ objectives and has a great eye for detail'. He recently handled a High Court Chancery Division case arising out of a dispute between neighbours following a complicated land acquisition arrangement. John Scannell recently advised a farming partnership on a proprietary estoppel claim. Clients praise the 'exceptional work' of the 'very knowledgeable, technically very good and very pragmatic' James Robinson. Senior associate and barrister Simon Woodhead is highly recommended. Associate Laura Tanguay 'can explain incredibly technical information in a simple, easy way'. Senior associate and rising star Charlotte Wormstone is strongly recommended for her 'timely, straightforward and pragmatic advice'.

At¬†Eversheds Sutherland (International) LLP¬†'the service is excellent ‚Äď the firm has good knowledge of the law and its approach is particularly user-friendly'.¬†Richard New¬†is the key partner in Cambridge and he is highly regarded for matters involving¬†business rates, on which he advises blue-chip clients in the retail and online sectors in multimillion-pound disputes. For Lloyds Bank, he handled a rating appeal regarding its headquarters in Bristol, in which he succeeded in reducing the rateable value by more than ¬£500,000 per annum. He is also a standout lawyer in¬†general real estate litigation arising from infrastructure and regeneration projects. Among his clients are Taylor Wimpey and Blackstone Property Management. Senior associate Samuel Maw¬†'has excellent knowledge of the law, a pragmatic approach and a collaborative style ‚Äď he inspires confidence'. One client comments that he is 'knowledgeable and provides good concise and targeted advice; he is prepared to deal with whatever a client throws at him'. He is the key relationship lawyer for¬†National Grid Electricity Transmission Plc, which he supports in the management of an extensive property portfolio.¬†Natalie Minott¬†left to lead the real estate litigation practice at¬†Hewitsons.

Hewitsons 'offers a very responsive service and its key strengths are its ability to understand clients' needs and the quality and knowledge of its people'. Clients point out that the practice 'can always source wise, timely and informed advice and the price is worth paying for the quality'. One barrister remarks that 'the quality of their work, and the value they add to cases, rivals the best of the London and national firms in my experience'. The firm handles contentious property matters high-net-worth individuals, companies and clients in the agriculture sector. This includes work for of charitable and private wealth funds on disputes relating to commercial and residential developments. Former practice head Robert McLellan joined Keystone Law as a consultant but partner joined from Eversheds Sutherland (International) LLP Natalie Minott to lead the real estate litigation practice. She is 'a tenacious and brilliant lawyer, adept at skilfully handling even the most difficult of cases', according to one client. Clients also recommend senior solicitors Kate Harris (who is 'bright, responsive and highly competent') and Kate Church. In one recent case, the practice acted for the a government department as tenant of a London property in a dormant dilapidations claim that could not be resolved directly by surveyors.

The practice at¬†Howes Percival LLP¬†is headed by¬†Simon Murphy¬†in Cambridge. Murphy and associate¬†Leanne Davis¬†have market-leading expertise in¬†landlord and tenant matters and¬†frequently manage property portfolios and deal with lease renewals and exits. Among their clients are¬†Cambridge University Endowment Fund,¬†Greene King Plc and¬†Co-Operative Group. They also advise clients in the technology and biomedical sectors on their dilapidations liabilities, including the decontamination of buildings. In Norwich,¬†Jamie Kidd¬†is the key contact. His group handles contentious¬†land and development issues, with a growing niche in leasehold and freehold enfranchisement matters. He recently handled a case for Ford Retail arising from the contamination of land by a neighbouring landowner, which had prevented its sale.¬†UK Power Networks Plc and the¬†Ministry of Defence are also among his clients.¬†Kidd and newly qualified solicitor William Trow¬† ‚Äėdeliver timely advice'.

Mills & Reeve LLP's practice¬†‚Äėgets to the heart of the issue and finds a resolution‚Äė. The 'very experienced, level-headed and able'¬†Richard Hanson¬†leads the national practice, which counts¬†Countrywide Legal Indemnities and¬†Urban&Civic Group among its clients. Principal associate James Hordern¬†is ‚Äėable to interpret complex legal matters, understand the core issue at stake and efficiently advise how best to proceed‚Äė. One client notes that he is ‚Äėextremely comfortable with detail, and quickly reads into the very complex technical and engineering aspects of a case; he marries both legal and case law knowledge with the technical, non-legal aspects incredibly effectively'. He advised an agricultural investment company on a ¬£5m dispute arising from¬†the operation of biomass boilers. 'Exceptionally astute' principal associate Julian Steed¬† is 'a very able lawyer with¬†an unusual capacity for independent analysis of the legal merits of the cases'.

Ashtons Legal handles contentious matters for numerous Cambridge colleges including Churchill College, Corpus Christi and Magdalene. It also supports Savills PLC in the management of its national property portfolio, and acts for Cambridge Building Society in relation to the provision of services to borrowers. Head of litigation Michael Frape leads the practice, in which associate Nigel Maguire is the key practitioner. He exhibits 'good attention to detail and the ability to grasp and deal with complex issues and give detailed advice'. He assisted a landowner with the enforcement of a pre-emption agreement over adjoining land. The 'calm, efficient' Mark Merriam  in Bury St Edmunds is praised for his 'honesty, integrity and ability to apply simple solutions to problems, coupled with a unique skill of removing the stress from all circumstances and situations through his overwhelming professionalism'.

At Buckles Solicitors LLP accredited mediator, solicitor advocate and specialist in property and trust disputes Paul Branch has 30 years of litigation experience and is 'calm under pressure and his experience shines out; his presence on a case makes a significant difference to the outcome'. His expertise in contentious trusts and probate sees him act in many property disputes involving trusts. Last year, he acted for Richard Nelson LLP as tenant of a London property with sub-tenants in occupation. The matter involved serving notice on the sub-tenant to bring their tenancy to an end, as well as minor dilapidation issues. National Society of Allotments & Leisure Gardeners and Stamford Storage (HG) Ltd are also among the firm's clients.

Clapham & Collinge Solicitors continued to expand its caseload of property litigation work last year and the firm has become one of the key players in the Norfolk market through its offices in Norwich and North Walsham. The practice, which is led by head of litigation Mark Kermez, advises on a wide range disputes between businesses and individuals, as well as consumer rights cases and restrictive covenants. Litigation partner Philip Lumb is a key practitioner and property litigation is a central strand of consultant Michael Olmer's work. Lumb recently acted for a couple in a dispute with their neighbour regarding renovations and extensions to their investment property. He also handled a claim for adverse possession that was settled before it went to court. The client gained a superior class of title that would otherwise not have been granted. Another case involved the failure of Persimmon homes to rectify problems with the structure of one of its properties, which included subsidence in the garden and collapsed fencing.

Greene & Greene has an experienced litigation department led by Michael Batty , who recently acted for public interest company North Norfolk Planning Watch CIC in a challenge to a decision by North Norfolk District Council to grant permission for the demolition of a property in Blakeney and the erection of a modern property in its place, despite objections from the local community and national bodies. Batty led an application for a judicial review, which was heard in the High Court. Commercial property partner Neil Grigg who handles both transactional and contentious property matters, is recommended for 'very good response times, business acumen and value for money'. The arrival of respected litigator Rob Adam , who previously led the dispute resolution practice at Ashtons Legal, adds further experience in property litigation. Partner Ben Fox and solicitor Andrea Nicholls, who recently handled a high-value right of way case, are also recommended.

At Greenwoods GRM, property litigation comes under the purview of the wider dispute resolution practice, but it has a number of skilled lawyers with niche experience of property disputes. Associate Caroline Gumbrell  leads the practice and focuses mainly on commercial and agricultural landlord and tenant matters. Senior solicitor Greenwoods GRM is a leading expert in the emerging area of property guardianship and clients remark that she 'responds to queries very quickly and always has ideas and strategies on best practice and issues of a reactive nature; she is very knowledgeable in this niche area of law and has gradually become the guru for guardianship companies'. Senior solicitor Michelle Cox  is recommended for contentious commercial lease renewals, dilapidations claims, leases under the Telecommunications Act and breaches of covenant. The firm advises clients based across East Anglia and in London. In one recent highlight, Cox and Gumbrell acted for a property owner in Norwich in a claim against the local council for its disposal of its interest in a historical site in the city centre.

'Despite its small size, it packs a punch,' says one barrister of the property litigation team at Hunt & Coombs LLP. 'It provides good value for money and the expertise equates with much larger and more expensive firms; the close-knit team ensures clients feel their needs and concerns are getting the personal attention they deserve', he adds. Legal executive Lesley Milne, who is a member of the Property Litigation Association, leads the team and 'stands out from the crowd; having vast dispute resolution experience enables her to put clients at their ease, even when dealing with complex and inflammatory situations'. The practice frequently handles matters relating to restrictive covenants on residential property, lease renewals, property-related trust disputes, TOLATA claims, dilapidation and disrepair matters, possession claims, and disputed boundaries and rights of way. Milne and property partner Anna Spriggs acted for Olive Properties Consultants Limited in a dilapidation and rent arrears claim following the termination of tenancy agreements.

One client remarks that the team at¬†Kerseys Solicitors¬†is ‚Äėvery down to earth and easy to talk to ‚Äď you feel like you are actually a client rather than a billing opportunity'.¬†Another notes that ‚Äėthe service is excellent ‚Äď attentive and personalised ‚Äď with realistic advice at all times‚Äė. Head of dispute resolution¬†Anthony Wooding¬†‚Äėimpresses with his efficiency and down-to-earth manner; his advice is always considered, well thought out and transparent'. Associate Ross Burkitt¬†left the litigation team to focus on private client work, but¬†'extremely knowledgeable and strategic' solicitor Kate Barnes¬†is highly recommended. Recent successes for Barnes include obtaining possession in an assured shorthold tenancy claim for a landlord, in which previous proceedings brought before this firm was instructed had been unsuccessful. She also acted for a leasehold tenant in a claim for breach of covenant brought by a freeholder.

The strong commercial and residential property practices at Leathes Prior combine with a highly regarded litigation practice to give the firm a prominent role in property disputes in Norfolk and further afield in East Anglia. The practice handles a diverse range of contentious property issues, including trusts of land, boundary disputes, easements, covenants, and landlord and tenant matters. It has a strong track record in cases involving commercial, residential and agricultural tenancies, as well as applications involving proceedings before the Property Chamber First-Tier Tribunal and the Planning Inspectorate. Darren Bowen leads the practice, which includes newly promoted associate and contentious commercial property specialist Sabina Haag. Solicitor Calum Paterson is also recommended.

Taylor Vinters in Cambridge has a highly respected dispute resolution practice that frequently handles contentious property matters for large corporates and high-net-worth individuals. Among its clients are several international technology businesses and large agricultural enterprises. The firm also has clients in the equine industry and frequently handles property disputes for Jockey Club Estates Limited. Its strong private client team is also involved in litigation arising from large and complex estates, which often include disputed rights to land and property. Head of litigation Luke Hibbert is the key contact and he works closely with associates Victoria Sandell and Beth Price. Hibbert and Price recently assisted a multinational technology company with a case arising from its landlord's refusal to consent to sub-let its tenancy.

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Legal Developments in East Anglia for Property litigation

  • 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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