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  1. Social housing: local authorities and registered providers
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The ‘extremely responsive’ practice at Trowers & Hamlins LLP is ‘straightforward to deal with’ and its ‘second-to-none knowledge is paired with a pragmatic approach aimed at seeking the best possible solution’. Key figures include national head of housing and regeneration Tonia Secker, who is ‘excellent’ and took over the role from Ian Graham in 2017, and Sara Bailey, who leads the real estate team. The firm’s impressive recent work for local authority and registered provider clients includes advising on the restructuring and consolidation of East Thames and its subsequent merger with London & Quadrant; assisting Enfield Council with various affordable housing elements of the Meridian Water regeneration scheme, including land acquisitions, EU procurement compliance and planning issues; and advising the Hyde Group on a joint venture with Brighton & Hove City Council pertaining to the delivery of Living Wage homes. The Guinness Partnership, Peabody Trust, Homes & Communities Agency, Greater London Authority and Network Homes are also clients. Andy Barnard focuses on development site acquisitions, Ian Doolittle handles council housing financing and Scott Dorling works closely with local authorities. Hilary Blackwell was a new arrival from Capsticks LLP in 2016.

Andrew Cowan leads the department at Devonshires Solicitors LLP, which is ‘astoundingly knowledgeable and practical in its approach’ making it ‘a clear leader in the field’. Clients include Home Group and Thames Valley Housing Association; the team advised the latter on its acquisition of a BHS store in Ealing, which will be converted into 136 affordable homes. Other work includes handling the merger between Circle Housing Group and Affinity Sutton, which formed Clarion Group; advising Central & Cecil Housing Trust on securing vacant possession of a sheltered housing scheme to redevelop the site for social housing purposes; and assisted Trafford Housing Trust with a joint venture deal with Wates Construction aimed at constructing affordable housing. Hyde Group, Your Housing Group and Radian Group are also clients. Noteworthy practitioners include litigator Nick Billingham, Gareth Hall, Neil Toner, Donna McCarthy, Jonathan Corris and Elad Yasdi.

Winckworth Sherwood LLP has ‘a genuinely excellent team’, which ‘covers all elements of the arena for all clients’. Recent highlights include advising Affinity Sutton on its merger with Circle Housing Group; assisting London & Quadrant with its purchase of the Garratt Place development in Wandsworth Town Centre; and acting for Circle Housing on the purchase of a site for residential development, which will include a minimum of 150 homes. The 18-partner department is led by Andrew Murray, who is highly regarded for his major regeneration scheme expertise. Other key names include Louis Robert, who is ‘without a doubt a true leader in the field’; Charlie Proddow, who regularly advises registered providers on developments and transactions; Charlotte Cook, whose expertise spans development work and assisting sheltered, supported housing and extra care providers; and Ruth Barnes, who leads the firm’s residential development sales team and specialises in new-build plot disposals.

At Birmingham-based Anthony Collins Solicitors LLP, the ‘highly regarded’ team stands out for its ‘excellent client care skills and ethos’, which allows it to ‘understand the sector well and achieve the goals its client set out for’. Jonathan Cox and Peter Hubbard jointly head the group; Cox recently led advice to Riverside Group on its involvement in a voluntary right-to-buy pilot scheme, and Hubbard assisted charity Chapter 1 with its accession into the Salvation Army Housing Association. The group also acted for Trafford Housing Trust on its joint venture with London & Quadrant to develop new affordable housing and homes for sale in the North West, and assisted Watford Community Housing Trust with issues surrounding a contested business tenancy renewal relating to a development project at Meriden. Other noteworthy names include procurement specialist Andrew Millross, Helen Tucker, who is ‘a great communicator and a joy to work with’, Victoria Jardine, housing litigator Baljit Basra, who ‘works incredibly hard and has an instinctive grasp of her clients’ needs’, and Rob Hallott.

Maclay Murray & Spens LLP’s team primarily acts for registered providers, with noteworthy examples including Family Mosaic, Thames Valley Housing Association and the Peabody Trust. Practice head Wendy Wilks advised a Cambridge-based registered provider on the establishment of a new subsidiary in order to separate a certain element of the business from the parent company; handled the sale of new-build units for Cambridge and County Developments; and advised a Hampshire-based registered provider on its acquisition of units in a new build development. Wilks and Roger Tynan assisted Welmede Housing Association with its proposed merger with Avenues Trust. Other key practitioners include construction specialist Anju Suneja, litigator Chris Woodruff, senior solicitor Fiona McDonald and associates Mark Stewart and Theresa Ferguson-Battershill.

Pinsent Masons LLP utilises its national footprint to advise on a range of issues, including housing estate regeneration projects, housing renewal schemes and social housing PFI. David Meecham handled various matters for key client the Homes and Communities Agency ; recent work includes advising on the procurement of a development partner for the regeneration of Standish Hospital in Gloucestershire, assisting with the construction of a scheme for 239 new homes in Chesterfield, and advising on a residential scheme development in Castle Court, Portland. The group also acts for several London Boroughs and councils, with highlights including advising the London Borough of Wandsworth on its flagship estate renewal scheme at the Winstanley and York Road estates, acting for the London Borough of Haringey on the creation of a housing investment vehicle, and assisting Westminster City Council with the development and letting arrangements for a major development project. Anne Bowden heads the department.

TLT’s ‘genuinely excellent’ team provides ‘a high level of service, accurate advice and good commercial acumen’. Paul Butterworth heads the department, which also includes key names Linda Convery and Gillian Bastow, who specialise in social housing developments and housing-led regeneration projects respectively. Associate Shazia Bashir, who ‘has an excellent reputation in the industry with an attention to detail and diligence that should be applauded’, is also noted. Convery is leading advice to Swan Housing on the regeneration of a housing estate in Tower Hamlets, which will ultimately provide 1575 housing units. Bastow’s recent highlights include acting for One Housing on a high-value redevelopment project using the land surrounding King’s Cross station, which will include 400 affordable housing units, and assisting London & Quadrant with the redevelopment of a former council estate in Southwark. The Guinness Partnership, Peabody Trust, Notting Hill Housing Trust and Network Homes are also clients.

Andrew Yates ‘does a top-notch job’ leading the ‘truly exceptional’ department at Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP. The team handled various matters for the Homes and Communities Agency with recent work including advising on the funding of housing schemes across London, including four residential towers in Wood Wharf and 460 new homes in Elephant and Castle; advising on its accelerated construction scheme; and handling a land assembly in Northstowe for a development that will include several thousand affordable units. The University of Cambridge and the London Borough of Tower Hamlets are also clients; Yates assisted the latter and the Greater London Authority with the Blackwall Reach regeneration project, which will ultimately involve the construction of over 1500 affordable homes. Other key names include consultant Alan Aisbett, associate Janany Kathirgamanathan and associate director Mark Mallon.

Bevan Brittan LLP’s ‘responsive, communicative and knowledgeable’ practice is led by Jonathan Turner nationally and counts Andrew Shaw as the key partner in the London office. John Cox joined the firm’s Leeds office in early 2017 from Clarke Willmott LLP. The group’s recent work for registered providers includes advising Peabody Trust on its acquisition of 190 affordable housing flats as part of an Elephant and Castle regeneration and assisting Together Housing Group with the restructuring of its group by merging five of its registered provider subsidiaries into a single body. On the local authority side, Shaw advised the London Borough of Harrow on the sale of two parcels of land with leaseback and development obligations, Turner assisted the London Borough of Barnet with its project to deliver 1500 homes in the Borough, and Mark Calverley handled a redevelopment for the London Borough of Newham.

Clarke Willmott LLP provides ‘exceptional advice’ to its registered provider client base due, in part, to the ‘superb knowledge’ of joint practice heads Lindsay Felstead, Oliver Smedley, Kary Withers and Vicky Kells, who head up the firm’s housing management, development, property litigation and securitisation teams respectively. Fraser MacRae is also noted for financing matters. Highlights included advising Moat on various developments, handling the acquisition of 83 units from a national house builder for Aster Communities, and assisting Clarion Housing Group with several statutory and non-statutory lease extensions. The group also represented Asra Housing Group in a prosecution relating to disrepair issues resulting in environmental health failures, and acted for London & Quadrant in a possession claim against a tenant who had used the premises to cultivate cannabis. Metropolitan Housing Trust, Stonewater, GreenSquare, East Thames and Notting Hill Housing Trust are also clients.

Penningtons Manches LLP is ‘the firm of choice for many clients’ due to its ‘comprehensive and swift service combined with clear unequivocal advice and expansive legal expertise’. ‘Expert property lawyerAndrew Casstles advised Spectrum Housing Group on its acquisition of 62 residential dwellings from a developer, and assisted the client with the purchase of land that was subject to planning conditions surrounding an affordable residential scheme. The team also includes ‘pragmatic, commercial and highly competent’ construction specialist Peter Massey, who led advice to One Housing Group on a remediation contract relating to the remediation of a major gasworks site in London, which will be used as a residential and commercial scheme. Practice head Linda Storey, who specialises in home ownership matters, and senior associate Charlotte D’Avola are also recommended. Alison Talbot, who heads the firm’s charity practice, joined in 2016 from Blake Morgan LLP.

Sian Gibbon and Tim Heal jointly head the department at Ashfords LLP, which was bolstered by the arrival of Michael Gay in 2016 from Foot Anstey. The team acts for local authorities and registered providers, including Sovereign Housing Association, Southern Housing Group and London & Quadrant. The group recently represented the London Borough of Wandsworth in various disputes, including possession actions, leasehold matters and disrepair claims, and represented the same client in a without notice injunction and possession claim against a mentally ill tenant. Other work includes acting for The Guinness Partnership in several disrepair claims and subletting cases. Construction experts Patrick Blake and Jessica Taylor, and development specialist Mark Moore are also noted.

Capsticks LLP’s team provides ‘a superb all-round service’. The ‘excellentPhilip Brown heads the practice and Michael Owen, who is a ‘leader’ in his field, leads the housing management team; Owen recently led advice to a London housing association on data protection issues. Other work includes Daniel Skinner representing Poplar Harca in a dispute pertaining to a possession claim based on fraud and subletting grounds, and Lee Clarke assisting a large London provider with the procurement of two framework agreements for planned and unplanned works. Skinner is noted for his expertise handling data protection, anti-social behaviour-related issues, leasehold and shared ownership matters; and Jennifer Bennett is a key name for leasehold schemes. Hyde Group, Salvation Army Housing Association and Affinity Sutton are noteworthy clients with new clients including Network Homes, London & Quadrant and Islington & Shoreditch Housing Association. Jonathan Hulley and Chimi Shakohoxha joined from Clarke Willmott LLP.

Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe (Europe) LLP’s team stands out for its development expertise. It has handled various matters for key client Notting Hill Housing Group, including advising on its joint tender with Bouygues to acquire a site in Hounslow, which is intended as a development for 940 houses; assisting the client’s joint venture with St Mowden with the acquisition of a regeneration site in Woolwich; and handling the acquisition and development of three sites at Gallions Quarter, Royal Docks from the Greater London Authority. Hastoe Housing Association, Armada 1 South Development and Chobham Farm North are also clients. Practice head Anne O’Neill primarily acts for registered providers, developers and investors; of counsel Sara Branch has core strengths in large site acquisitions and developments; and of counsel Jonathan Preece focuses on residential developments.

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