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  1. Commercial property: Bristol
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Who Represents Who

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Colin Ligman heads the real estate practice at Burges Salmon LLP, which handles the gamut of commercial property issues across a wide variety of sectors and ‘matches the service and performance of significantly bigger firms’. The ‘proactiveRoss Polkinghorne leads the real estate development group and is acting for Skanska in relation to three office developments in Bristol’s city centre. Other developer clients include Change Real Estate and St Modwen, the latter of which the firm is advising on urban regeneration projects. Real estate finance expert Paul Browne advised HSBC and RBS on a £280m syndicated loan agreement for the acquisition and development of student accommodation in Aberdeen and Portsmouth. Richard Read focuses on portfolio management and acted alongside the corporate team on the property aspects of YTL Hotel’s acquisitions of hotels in Edinburgh and London. The firm also assists on portfolio management issues for Virgin Active and Loungers. In one particularly high-profile matter, Richard Clark advised The Crown Estate on the regearing of the 125-year headlease of Canada House, which overlooks Trafalgar Square and is used as the Canadian embassy in London. Also recommended are Sally Jupp and ‘professional’ senior associate Drew Nesbitt.

Osborne Clarke’s ‘personable’ real estate group handles a range of property transactions, with notable emphasis in the energy, student accommodation and retail sectors. The department regularly works in conjunction with other practice groups; David North worked alongside the tax, planning and construction teams for Palmer Capital and Cubex Land on the forward funding of two towers comprising residential and leisure facilities. Other highlights included advising Global Student Accommodation on the purchase of a portfolio of student accommodation buildings in Germany through the acquisition of a German corporate vehicle. The ‘commercially minded’ Ian Wilkinson advised Texton Property Fund, a listed South African REIT, on the purchase of a portfolio of assets in South Africa and on the acquisition of BVI SPVs holding £25m of UK-based assets. Wilkinson also assisted DTZ Investment Management on the sale of a multi-let site In London’s Mayfair to The Crown Estate for £67m. Dolf Darnton heads the retail side of the property group, and acts for clients such as Marks & Spencer and Homebase/Bunnings. Also recommended are Kate Topp, Michelle McGurl and David Powell, who are in the residential development and regeneration team and act for clients such as Taylor Wimpey. Simon Speirs retired in 2016.

The property lawyers at Bond Dickinson LLP are ‘extremely prompt, proactive and commercial with their advice’. The team’s strengths include transactions related to energy, rail infrastructure, and public sector development, as well as institutional investment and secured lending matters. An ‘excellent lawyer and team manager’, Andrew Harding acted for Sapphire, a real estate fund managed by Tristan Capital Partners, on the acquisition, finance and redevelopment of a town centre development, which involved eight pre-lets to tenants including Starbucks, Nationwide, Holland & Barrett and F Hinds Jewellers. The group also handles portfolio management for Praxis Real Estate Management, RO Group and Clark’s Shoes. On the development side, the ‘extremely efficientKatherine Douglas advised Chelverton Deeley Freed on development agreements with Ceredigion County Council and Tesco related to a £26m development, as well as a lease agreement with Marks & Spencer. Simon Hughes regularly acts for renewable energy developers on the property aspects of multiple large-scale offshore energy projects, and managing associate Mark Li acted for National Rail Infrastructure on the real estate aspects of the grant of the East Anglia Rail franchise to Abellio East Anglia.

Clarke Willmott LLP attracts praise for its ‘deep industry knowledge’ in the housebuilder and commercial development market, where it ‘puts more expensive City firms to shame’. The team is especially active in the telecoms and renewable energy sectors, and also provides investment advice in relation to property portfolios, as well as property acquisitions and disposals. Clare Titchener led a cross-office team handling due diligence on behalf of Bank of America Merrill Lynch related to Digital Realty Trust’s $874m acquisition of eight data centres from Equinix. Working with the firm’s planning department, Beverley Pike is acting for Bath Abbey in relation to its Footprint project – a £19.5m modernisation effort funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The department is also involved in a number of development projects for energy companies and residential developers. Louise Brown heads the experienced practice, which includes Simon Day, Greg Lovett and Laurence Lacey.

DAC Beachcroft LLP’s ‘superb’ real estate department acts for corporate occupiers, handles commercial and residential developments, and acts for NHS Trusts and retail and shopping centre clients on their real estate portfolios. Julitta Yates, who specialises in asset management work, is acting for Land Securities on all landlord and tenant issues at Bluewater Shopping Centre. The ‘extremely professional’ property team is acting for the same client on landlord and tenant issues related to the Trinity Leeds shopping centre. Bristol practice head Graham Brothwood has ‘encyclopaedic knowledge of UK real estate law’ and ‘an incredible eye for detail’; he acted for Zurich Insurance on the £46m purchase of a freehold interest in a hotel in Piccadilly. The firm’s residential development work is spearheaded by Ben Pariser, who is recognised for his ‘assertiveness and perspicacious intellect’. Pariser’s clients include Persimmon Homes and Crest Nicholson, the latter of which he advised on the purchase of a 200-unit development site in Oxfordshire. Also recommended are Nick Knapman, who heads the firm’s real estate shopping centre group, and Anne Batanero, who leads the healthcare property team.

The ‘commercial and pragmatic’ real estate team at TLT attracts praise for its ‘continual efforts to improve the way it works’. The real estate department is among the largest at the firm and handles the full range of property matters, including commercial and residential development, investment and finance, and property portfolio management. Julian Mant led a team advising Fitness First Clubs on the real estate, corporate and commercial aspects of its £70m sale of 13 fitness locations to The Gym Group and Greenwich Leisure. In another highlight, David Smithen led a cross-departmental team acting for Matthew Clark Wholesale, Conviviality and A2 Contracting on the site purchase, development, leasing and ongoing investment of a 40,000 sq ft distribution warehouse. Maria Connolly heads the practice and specialises in the property aspects of large energy and infrastructure projects. Andrew Glynn, who specialises in property investment and asset management, advised Cadbury Pension Trust on the multimillion-pound sale of a high-street retail unit in Startford-upon-Avon.

Bevan Brittan LLP is particularly well known for acting for local authorities, but is also ‘as good as any at providing property advice to clients in the health sector’. The Bristol team recently recruited David Hobbs from TLT, who specialises in property portfolio management for clients such as Canal & River Trust. Department head Mark Calverley has an extensive track record advising public authorities on regeneration and development projects, and is advising the London Borough of Newham on the procurement of a JV partner for the redevelopment of Carpenters Estate in Newham. In one of the group’s longest-running matters, the highly regarded Rob Harrison is the sole legal adviser to NHS Property Services on its undocumented lease programme, which aims to address the some 4,800 undocumented health and commercial occupiers across 10% of its estate. David Wardle was promoted to partner in 2016.

Foot Anstey’s Bristol-based property team was strengthened in 2016 with the arrival of the new department head, Martin Hirst, who joined the firm from Blake Morgan LLP. Hirst is acting for a large residential developer on its the high-value purchase of several hundred homes in the UK. In another highlight, Richard Sutton is advising South Gloucestershire and Stroud College in relation to a brownfield regeneration project on the former Berkeley Nuclear Laboratory, which will be redeveloped as a new campus and technology park. The practice works closely with the firm’s corporate and banking teams; Imam Qazi advised Greenridge Investment Management on two separate property investment transactions using an Islamic-compliant structure. The team also acted for Rosette Merchant Bank and Wallace Properties on the £36.9m acquisition of a House of Fraser store in Cardiff.

The Bristol property team at Thrings LLP has a ‘broad spread of skills and knowledge’ and is especially strong in residential development, corporate occupier and investment work and portfolio management in the retail and leisure sectors. The group also acts for a number of high street lenders on secured lending transactions. The team was significantly strengthened in 2016 with the arrival of Ben Tarrant, who joined from TLT and specialises in portfolio management and transactional work for retail and leisure clients. Steve Schofield, who made partner in 2016, is acting for Allied Irish Bank in relation to a multimillion-pound financing of a holiday home development in St Ives. The ‘approachable and knowledgeableColin Stratton heads the practice and is assisting Newlands Homes Limited with a £12m acquisition of a site to provide 35 high-value dwellings in Toddington. David Mears acted for Renrod Motor Group on a multimillion-pound sale of the business and property assets of an auto-dealer. Real estate investment specialist Ben Jones is also recommended.

Noted for its ‘fantastic technical ability, and detailed and easy-to-understand advice’, the real estate practice at VWV (Veale Wasbrough Vizards) acts for a range of property developers, educational institutions, public sector groups and religious institutions. It is one of two firms in the country advising Highways England on property matters; practice head Steven McGuigan has been acting for the client in relation to the A21 motorway dualling projects, including handling land acquisitions and compensation involving more than 30 landowners. The ‘hardworking and technically ableSimon Linnitt has a wealth of experience in the education sector, and is acting for Harpur Trust on a three-phase £45m sale of a site to Bovis Homes and Linden Homes. Recently promoted partner Jessica Booz has handled various development matters, property disposals, and a complex refinancing. Gary Philpott retired.

Ashfords LLP’s Bristol-based team handles a range of commercial property work, from landlord/tenant matters in the retail sector, to acquisitions and disposals. Andrew Worley leads the team in Bristol and acted for Ovo Energy Group on the grant of a reversion of One Rivergate, Bristol, as well as the grant of a new office lease at Temple Back in Bristol. Worley also handled the property due diligence for Curtis Banks Group in connection with the client’s acquisition of Suffolk Life. Nicholas Lykke Dahn has wide-ranging experience of property matters.

Humphreys & Co.’s real estate group handles acquisitions, retail lease agreements and other property portfolio transactions for clients in the hospitality, retail and leisure sectors. Senior associate David Morris heads the commercial property group and is acting for a well-known chain of pubs and restaurants in relation to its acquisition strategy nationwide. The team also acts for high-net-worth individuals and corporates on residential property sales. Robert Humphreys is the firm’s managing partner and oversees the property group.

Meade King LLP’s ‘competent, thorough and commercial’ property department handles a host of commercial property matters, from disposals and investment to acquisition and development. The ‘responsiveEdward Langford heads the department, which has built a niche practice acting for dental surgeries and healthcare practices; in 2016, it acted on approximately 120 sales and acquisitions in the sector. Catherine Ainley is the key figure on the development side, while Simon East provides property portfolio management advice, and acts for one of the UK’s largest charity organisations.

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Legal Developments in South West for Commercial property: Bristol

  • 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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