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A&L Goodbody’s property team ‘provides consistently excellent service and commercially sound advice; it is strong in all areas’. In 2016 the practice handled a number of high-value and market leading transactions for investment firms, property developers and banks; loan portfolio sales, healthcare developments and hotels have been particular areas of activity. ‘Very knowledgeable and commercial’ practice head Mark Blair attracts praise for his ‘real market knowledge’; in an illustration of his track record in loan portfolio sales, Blair led the advice to Ulster Bank on its high-value sale of a loan portfolio, which was the largest such loan sale in Northern Ireland in 2016. In another standout deal the team acted for Scotia Gas Network on a major infrastructure project to bring natural gas to parts of Northern Ireland, which involved negotiating option agreements with more than 120 landowners. Tracey Schofield joined from Tughans in May 2016 and provides ‘an impressive service; she is responsive, problem-solving and proactive, all unique qualities in a lawyer’. Schofield acted for Benmore Healthcare Group on a multimillion-pound redevelopment of 16 acres into a healthcare and leisure park, another important project for the country. Judith Allen left in August 2016 to head the property group at TLT. Kevin Murphy joined TLT in 2017.

Carson McDowell fields a team of ‘top performers’ that acts primarily for developers and retailers in high-value acquisitions and development projects. Emma Cooper is advising The Belfast Harbour Commissioners, a key client of the firm, on the site assembly, development and letting of the £250m City Quays development within Belfast Harbour, consisting of office, hotel and residential buildings. Property developer British Land is another key client, which practice head Rosemary Carson regularly advises on acquisitions and disposals. On the retail and landlord and tenant side, the team acts for Tesco, Greggs and JD Wetherspoons on high-value lettings and disposals, including JD Wetherspoons’ sale of a chain of Northern Irish pubs. Other highlights included advising McAleer & Rushe Group on its £72m sale of land to Queen’s University Belfast as well as securing the contract for the construction of student accommodation in Belfast.

Tughans attracts praise for its ‘excellent service, immediate response times and excellent advice’. The team regularly advises on high-profile and high-value property sales within the retail, energy, hotel and insolvency sectors, with shopping centre sales continuing to be a key feature of the Northern Ireland market. Newly appointed partner Rebecca Moffett led the advice to London Metric Property on the £30m sale of Damolly Retail Park which houses B&Q, Halfords and numerous national retail names. Student accommodation is another area of growing activity; David Jones led the advice to asset manager Curlew Capital on the acquisition of the former Belfast Metropolitan College building for the purposes of a new student accommodation development, which involved a complex forward funding transaction with the developer, followed by securing development funding from a syndicate of banks which would be converted into investment funding upon completion of construction and the students taking occupation of the premises. Phyllis Agnew heads the practice. Tracey Schofield left to join A&L Goodbody in May 2016.

Arthur Cox Belfast’s property team provides ‘an excellent service, with prompt responses and pragmatic and commercial advice’. The team, which primarily works with developers, has been active in the residential, retail and student housing sectors throughout 2016, and also handled a number of insolvency-related property sales and disposals. In a highlight for the team, solicitor Gareth Planck led the advice to Domus, a UK development firm back by a US investment fund, on £20m-worth of acquisitions of student housing developments across Northern Ireland and Great Britain. Practice head Alastair Todd is also advising Damolly Developments on the acquisition of a five-acre site formerly occupied by HMRC in Newry. Other clients include Four Seasons Healthcare, which the team advised on the sale of several premises in its Northern Irish property portfolio; Deloitte, which the firm advised on the sale of a regional shopping centre in Londonderry; and Marathon Asset Management, which the firm assisted with its property management and lettings strategy concerning two Belfast retail parks. Rowan White is another name to note.

Cleaver Fulton Rankininstils complete confidence in its clients’. The group continues to be active in retail, office, energy and hotel acquisitions, acting for developers, retail owners, and investment funds. Healthcare has been a key growth area; in 2016 the team advised Target Healthcare on the acquisition of a £5.4m care home in Warrenpoint. The group is continuing to advise on the Titanic Quarter development, a major waterfront mixed-use development in central Belfast. On the retail front, practice head Joe Marley (‘commercially astute and straightforward to deal with’) advised Home Bargains owner T J Morris on acquisitions across Northern Ireland worth in excess of £20m. Kathryn Collie regularly acts on hotel developments and is praised for being ‘very considered, logical and an excellent lateral thinker’.

Pinsent Masons Belfast LLP’s property team acts for developers and property funds in sales and disposals across Northern Ireland, with a particular focus on retail, although healthcare, student accommodation and housing have all been key growth areas. Practice head Andrea McIlroy-Rose (who is particularly well known for her retail expertise) led the team assisting asset manager Cordatus Real Estate on its £15m acquisition of Lisnagelivin Shopping Centre. On the student accommodation front the group continued to advise Queen’s University Belfast on acquisitions worth £71m. RBS and West Register are other key clients, which the group has advised on multimillion-pound factory outlet sales. Healthcare highlights included legal director Joanna Robinson’s advice to Medicx Fund on forward funding for the development of King’s Hall, Belfast into a primary care hub and care homes.

DWF is best known for its retail expertise, and has worked with household retailers and property developers on a range of acquisitions and landlord and tenant matters. Recent clients include Lidl, which the team advised on the redevelopment and construction of retail units. The firm also acts for a range of residential property development companies including Mayfair Homes and Killultagh Estates. The practice is headed by the highly reputable Mark Tinman.

Elliott Duffy Garrett’s ‘excellent’ property team handles a wide range of transactions, from acquisitions to leases and insolvency-related property sales. 2016 highlights included land acquisitions for multimillion-pound residential developments. Clients include British Land, Land Securities and Iceland. Christine Hamilton leads the team, which includes Leo Brown.

Millar McCall Wylie LLP’s property team is ‘highly recommended’ for its ‘ability to cut to the chase and identify the issues’, and for its ‘commercial acumen and ability to get the deal done’. The group handles a wide range of matters for clients including property developers, contractors and retailers, and recently acted for McAleer & Rushe Group on the multimillion-pound acquisition of land for a multi-tenanted building in Belfast city centre. Marks & Spencer are another key client, which Andrew Kerr advised on lease negotiations. Loan book sales have also continued to be an active area for the group, which acted for Salvare Group on the refinancing of part of a loan portfolio. The practice has also been handling insolvency-related acquisitions and disposals, recently advising Duff & Phelps on the sale of three multi-tenanted buildings in Belfast. Practice head Peter McCall is praised for being ‘highly pragmatic and solution driven’ and Simon Fleming is a ‘technical and commercially-minded lawyer who provides excellent service’.

Mills Selig’s property team has been handling high-value transactions throughout 2016 and has been particularly active across the retail, office and hotel sectors. The team acts for a large number of property developer clients, including The Quinn Group, Murdoch Property Group and Glandor Properties Limited. Real estate asset management firms are another key part of its client base; in 2016 newly appointed partner Anna-Marie McAlinden led the team acting for Northwood Investors on the sale of Kiltoot Business Park. Other highlights included advising Marcol Group (a new client for 2016) on the acquisition of a retail development. The highly regarded Anne Skeggs heads the practice.

Formed in 2013 with a niche commercial property focus, Davidson McDonnell Solicitors has retained its primary focus on commercial real estate matters despite the firm’s expanded remit, which now covers corporate and commercial matters as well as dispute resolution. The firm’s longstanding client base includes national property developers in the residential, student accommodation and office sectors; in 2016 the firm acted for Wirefox Group on the £30m acquisition of six office blocks. Other highlights included advising Lodge Road Properties on the £8.5m sale of a property in Reading. Northern Ireland-based residential developer Lacuna Developments is also a client. Ross Davidson and David McDonnell jointly head the team.

Noted for its ‘very good practical and commercial advice’, the team at John McKee Solicitors has been busy with office, residential, transport and retail property transactions, representing banks, developers and retailers. Highlights included advising Nationwide Building Society on the £3m sale of its Northern Ireland headquarters to a local developer, and acting for Moore Construction on the part sale of a mixed-use site to major local housing association, Apex. On the landlord and tenant side, the group acted for Keevy Limited on a 10-year lease at Quays Shopping Centre in Newry. Other key clients include Translink and Lightsource Renewable Energy. Practice head Gerard Small attracts praise for his ‘excellent service delivery’. Andrea McCanndeals with challenges with the upmost patience and offers practical solutions’; sheis best known for acting for pension trustees on the acquisition, disposal and letting of commercial properties.

TLT’s property expertise spans a broad range of sectors, including energy, residential, hotels and retail. Judith Allen, who joined the firm in August 2016 from A&L Goodbody, heads the department and has been leading the team advising domestic residential developer, Braidwater Limited on a number of high-value sales in the country. Other key highlights for 2016 included advising Kremlin Association on the £2.4m disposal of the War Memorial building in Belfast. Andrew Ryan is the key name on the energy front and acts for clients including Hadstone Energy and Gaelectric Development on land acquisitions related to solar developments. Former practice head Kathryn Forde left for an in-house position. Kevin Murphy was a new arrival in August 2017 from A&L Goodbody.

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Legal Developments in Northern Ireland for Commercial property

  • 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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