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  1. Commercial property: Beds, Bucks, Herts, Middx
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The ‘first-class’ practice at Dentons is praised by clients as being ‘responsive, creative, solution-oriented and commercial’. The department continues to have an active presence in the retail market, and regularly advises a cross-sector client base on development and construction, real estate finance, regeneration projects and international and domestic property portfolios. In a recent highlight, practice head Roland Gray advised Avis Budget Group on its proposed acquisition of French competitor FranceCars, assisting with property due diligence and acquisition documents. The team also acted for Network Rail in negotiations for the lease of 496 stations and 10 depots, and advised Sainsbury’s on the property aspects of its sale of an in-store pharmacy business. Other key individuals include ‘excellent lawyerRobert Wyatt, who specialises in real estate finance and acts for a broad range of banks, and Chris Denny, who has notable expertise in the retail, hotels and leisure sectors.

EMW Law LLP fields an ‘experienced and capable team of standout lawyers’ that attracts praise for its ‘good depth of knowledge across a broad range of topics’ and for its ability to ‘take the time to understand the client’s business inside out’. Clients include a mix of new start-ups and well-established businesses. Recent highlights included advising Santander on the portfolio sale of seven freehold properties, and on a leasehold acquisition of a new branch. The team also acted for Bidvest Foodservice on its acquisition of a new HQ building along with adjoining land for future development. Practice head Stephen Kay ‘achieves tight deadlines’ and ‘ensures that the right level of resource is allocated to projects’. He is ably assisted by property development specialist Caroline Hayward, who has ‘a good level of experience and knowledge’; and Joe Soul, who ‘provides useful commercial input’.

IBB (Iliffes Booth Bennett) has a notably active profile in development and investment work, and also handles the full range of portfolio management matters along with real estate finance, joint venture agreements, construction contracts, planning and letting management issues. Recent work includes advising BAM Properties on the £18m-plus sale of a building, and acting for Hudson Advisors UK on the high-value sale of two regional hotels as part of an ongoing strategy to rationalise a recently acquired portfolio. Recommended individuals include ‘highly experienced real estate lawyerJuliusz Wodzianski, who ‘has a good commercial awareness, strong negotiation skills and a good understanding of what is needed to get a deal across the finishing line’, and Gemma Coles, who specialises in bank securitisation and development transactions. Bill Bidder heads the practice.

Clients of Shoosmiths LLP’s ‘highly commercial’ team single out its size and ability to offer other forms of legal advice which can overlap with property work as key strengths. The group retains a strong client following in the retail and leisure sector, and also has a solid reputation in caravan park and motor home work, commercial development, investment, property finance and corporate occupancy. Recent work includes advising Balfour Beatty Group on the £20m acquisition of land for mixed-use development; acting for London and Continental Railways on the sale of development land in Oxford City Centre; and advising The Deltic Group on its acquisition of a well-known nightclub in Birmingham. Steve Wiltshire heads the team, and ‘is able to provide solid legal advice in a business context’. Catherine Williams advises a range of hotel operators on mixed-use development matters, and Lisa Williams is noted for her wind farm, agricultural and telecoms expertise.

Blaser Mills’s ‘excellent’ team ‘provides prompt and knowledgeable advice along with a reasonable fee structure’. The department advises SMEs on the full range of contentious and non-contentious property matters, and has significant experience handling transactional and contract-related work. The team also has strong development and residential property expertise, advising a mix of offices, shops, commercial units and hotels on land acquisitions and site setup. In a recent highlight, key figure David Michaels advised Ardmore on a £7m development project in Coventry, a matter involving a site acquisition, development with subsequent sales and the completion of a Compulsory Purchase Order. Other standout practitioners include ‘extremely knowledgeable’ practice head David Kemp, who is praised for his ‘great attention to detail’, and Louise Benning, who leads the real estate development team.

Debenhams Ottaway’s ‘responsive and well-informed’ team is noted for its ‘excellent attention to detail, strong advice and great value for money’. The group focuses primarily on landlord and tenant work, property development and secured lending, and also has solid experience handling sales and purchases of owner-occupied and investment property. Key clients include AXA UK, National Pharmacy Association and William Hill Trust; the firm recently acted for the last client on its £7m sale of a large portion of its estate to the Crown. In another highlight, key figure Jonathan Foy advised Cupcake Clothing on its £3m purchase of new headquarters on the outskirts of St Albans, a building currently belonging to the Ministry of Justice. The ‘exceptionalRuth Boulton heads the department.

The ‘highly experienced lawyers’ at Freeths LLPknow their chosen field remarkably well’; they ‘understand the business needs of each client, tailoring their advice accordingly’. The team is known for its expertise in the drinks, hospitality and leisure sector, acting for a wide array of clients including Premier Inn and Casual Dining Group, whose brands include Café Rouge, Bella Italia and Las Iguanas. The group also acts for a number of logistics companies, and continues to advise regional airports on day-to-day operations and transactional activity involving property. Practice head Valerie Warmanhas an incredibly thorough knowledge of the area’ and recently advised Advanced Computer Software Group on its lease of a new office space at The Mailbox in Birmingham. Shashi Chambers is advising Luton Airport on a number of retail and concession agreements.

Clients of SA Law LLP’s ‘hardworking team’ cite its ‘willingness to explain issues in a readily understandable manner’ and ‘ability to assist and guide the client to obtain the best possible results’. The practice has strong expertise in real estate finance and property development, advising on high-value deals in the banking, charities, healthcare and media sectors. Examples of recent work include advising Uavend Norris Castle on its high-value acquisition of Norris Castle on the Isle of Wight, a purchase involving the historic building and 200 acres of surrounding land. The team also assisted Uavend Taymouth with its acquisition of Taymouth Castle in Scotland for redevelopment into a hotel and conference centre. The practice is co-headed by Steve Kenneford, who specialises in residential property matters, and Terence Ritchie, who is recommended for property finance.

Taylor Walton LLP is noted for its expertise in the retail and charity sectors, handling work related to shops and care premises nationwide. The team also advises a sizeable cross-sector client base on development work, site assembly, overage arrangements and security lending. Recent highlights include assisting Capita Business Services with its high-value acquisition of the National Agri-Food Innovation Campus and a subsequent sub-sale to Lloyds Bank, and advising a property investor on the £7m acquisition of a mixed-use property for development. Angela Thomas heads the practice and handles the full range of commercial property transactions. Dermot Carey is the other key figure, and is particularly active in the retail, industrial and office park sectors. Barnardo’s, The Entertainer and The Jarvis Group are all longstanding clients.

Woodfines LLP acts for lenders on high-value property transactions, and also advises on the development of residential and commercial property, site assembly, planning promotion agreements, waste management and construction matters. The team was recently bolstered with the arrival of Michael Roche, who specialises in commercial property transactions, from Breeze and Wyles Solicitors Limited. Other key figures include practice head Sylvia Goulding, who has a specialism in licensed premises and planning promotion agreements; James Cardwell, who is known for his expertise across the full range of development work; and Neil Gibbs, who handles environment-related work. Highlights included advising Parrott Development on the £5m sale of a large development site to a housing association.

At B P Collins LLP, key areas of specialism include environment, mining and minerals, retail and development work, and the firm also advises a broad range of international entities on their UK-based properties, assisting with acquisitions and disposals and landlord and tenant matters. Practice head Michael Larcombe handles all aspects of commercial property work and is notably strong in transactional matters; he is ably assisted by Alison Taylor, who is recommended for portfolio management and commercial lease transactions, particularly in the leisure, retail and environmental sectors. Active clients include The Original Bowling Company, Biffa Group and Wycombe District Council.

Sherrards Solicitors LLP acts for a broad mix of clients including retail and food outlets, fashion houses and recruitment companies. the team is also highly active in the leisure and healthcare sectors. Real estate finance is another area of strength; recent highlights include advising Svenska Handeslbanken on a £4m portfolio financing and new loan facility for 12 multi-tenanted properties, and assisted with a £2.6m share purchase of an investment property in London. In another highlight, the team advised food outlet Chop’d on its acquisition of three new premises and the re-gearing of letting documents in connection with two existing premises. Terry Fendt and Charles Hodder jointly head the practice in St Albans and London respectively. Asha Ngai is also a name to note.

VWV (Veale Wasbrough Vizards) acts for a range of estate managers, developers and investors on the full range of real estate and commercial property transactions, and is also strong in the property development space, assisting with site acquisition, planning and construction applications. Huw Morgan handles construction and engineering contracts in the health, education, energy and aerospace sectors. Other key figures include David Power, who acts for developers on all aspects of commercial, residential and mixed-use schemes; Joe Kwok, who handles investment property and real estate finance matters; and David Marsden, who has notable planning law expertise.

Geoffrey Leaver Solicitors LLP works closely with its construction group on all aspects of commercial property projects, development transactions and investment and funding matters. The team has strong real estate finance expertise and sits on the panels of several major international banks, advising on property financing provided to a broad range of borrowers. Department head Darren Millis acts for national and local property developers on financing deals, and also has substantial experience handling land acquisition work, conditional contracts and landlord and tenant matters. Richard Willis is the other key practitioner, and represents a range of charities, investors, developers and lenders on the full gamut of non-contentious property issues.

Hewitsons has recently advised on a number of housing development projects within Milton Keynes, and also handles land sales and acquisitions as well as financing work. The firm also bolstered its investment and landlord and tenant expertise through the hire of partner David Wells, who arrived from Tollers LLP in September 2016. Tim Richards heads the team, which includes Yvette Morgan, who handles public sector real estate, and Patricia Kempson, who advises on asset management and commercial development. In a recent highlight, the group acted for Delapre Abbey Preservation Trust (DAPT) on an agreement for a lease, a partnership agreement and various ancillary documentation regarding renovation work to Delapre Abbey in Northampton. The firm also advised Mansfield College Oxford on a teaching and student accommodation project.

Longmores Solicitors LLP’ ‘pro-active and capable’ group ‘always acts in a timely and professional manner’ and ‘provides valuable support in complex processes’. Acting for a range of clients across the public and private sectors, the group handles the full spectrum of commercial property matters including investment sales and purchases, business leases and development site acquisitions. Partners Rachael Spalton and Stephen Stewart are ‘approachable and easy to deal with, offering clients excellent advice from a technical perspective’; Spalton recently advised NJ Richards Project on its £1.3m purchase of a residential development site in Royston, and Stuart acted for Sybron (UK) on a leasehold acquisition of two adjoining units in Harlow from The Rockspring Hanover Property Unit Trust. Other active clients include Viking Self Storage Group, Svenska Handeslbanken and Pulse Healthcare.

Nockolds Solicitors attracts a range of investor, developer and occupier clients nationwide, and has a strong reputation in sale and purchase matters involving sites marked for residential and commercial development. The team also advises on site assembly, property disposal and planning and infrastructure agreements along with joint ventures, sustainable developments and the disposition of land for local authorities. Michael Talbot heads the commercial property team and specialises in high-value residential development; other key figures include transactional expert Andrew Fernandes and senior associate Elena Nicolaou, who has notable expertise in regeneration projects.

The ‘responsive, knowledgeable and decisive’ group at Tees Lawmaintains a close link with its clients’, all of whom ‘benefit from the consistency of the individuals allocated to each project’. The practice continues to receive repeat instructions from a number of regional developers, renewable energy companies, national breweries and local landowners, and also advises several notable banks on secured lending transactions for property purchase. David Miller heads the practice, and recently acted for a local landowner and an international bank on a £6m re-mortgage secured against two commercial sites. The other name to note is Govan Bramley, who specialises in strategic land agreements, mineral exploitation and energy projects.

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Legal Developments in South East for Commercial property: Beds, Bucks, Herts, Middx

  • 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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