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  1. Commercial property: The West Country
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Ashfords LLP’s property team has extensive experience of urban regeneration, pension scheme related property and real estate investment matters, and is especially well known for advising on large-scale property development for commercial developers as well as regional and national housebuilders. The firm leverages its prominent regional footprint to provide wide-ranging expertise across its Exeter, Taunton and Plymouth offices, the last of which was strengthened by the arrival of David Ellis from Foot Anstey. He acted for Progress Land in relation to a strategic land acquisition of a major South West development site, which involved negotiating with several different landowners. Taunton-based Michael Gay, who also joined from Foot Anstey, acted for Abbey Manor Developments on the £4m land disposal to multiple developers for future residential development. While the majority of the practice’s clients stem from the private sector, the firm also handles mandates for public sector entities; Andrew Rothwell assisted Exeter City Council with negotiations concerning the development agreement for the redevelopment of the Exeter Bus and Coach Station. In an illustration of its work on secured lending for banks and lenders, James Heath acted for RBS in connection with a grant of security over a long-leasehold city centre building, in addition to advising on the construction documentation related to the planning consent for the redevelopment of the building. Tim Heal heads the practice from the Exeter office, which includes Andrew MacMillan-Scott, who is active on the investment side.

Bond Dickinson LLP’s South West real estate team is noted for its expertise in energy projects, institutional investment, public sector development and secured lending, as well as its track record in LPA receiverships and corporate occupier and tenant work. ‘Commercial and technically sound’ department head Craig Moore manages the legal aspects of Flybe’s real estate portfolio, and acted alongside managing associate Nicola Jonas for Capital Industrial on the £79.5m acquisition of the Heston Airlinks Industrial Estate. Other clients include Plymouth University, for which the team acted on a 15-year lease for a laboratory facility and on the disposal of Rolle College in Exeter. Paul Bramall is also recommended.

Davitt Jones Bould is a boutique real estate firm with a ‘well-established and extremely impressive reputation in the South West’, thanks in no small part to its ‘historic and longstanding knowledge of the public sector’. The group acts for a variety of property investors and private sector occupiers, although the lion’s share of the team’s mandates come from the public sector. A team, led by ‘client-focused’ managing director, Madeleine Davitt, acted for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, on meeting property reduction and financial targets. In another noteworthy public sector highlight, Stuart Bould advised the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on the £15m sale of the Wave Hub, the world’s largest grid connected site for the testing and development of offshore renewable energy technology. Malcolm Iley, a town and city regeneration expert, splits his time between the London and Taunton offices. Kate Evans is also recommended, as is Tim Sylvester Jones.

Foot Anstey’s West Country real estate team acts for investors, corporate occupiers and developers in the public and private sectors and has a strong housebuilder focus, in addition to specialist knowledge of energy and infrastructure related property matters. Richard Walford heads the real estate department and is acting for Weston College on all real estate aspects of its £20m plan to create a new Law and Professional Services Academy. Walford also advised Screwfix on a forward-funded development agreement to take on a new 562,000 sq ft warehouse distribution centre. Duncan Tringham focuses on energy and infrastructure real estate and is acting for the London Borough of Tower Hamlets on its involvement in a three-party joint venture for the £300m regeneration of Blackwall Reach. Simon Gregory acted for Wessex Investors on the development of a new retail park in North Devon. The team also acts for infrastructure clients on high-profile property portfolio matters. Other key clients include Westco Properties, FirstGroup and Cornwall Council.

Noted for its ‘in-depth knowledge of property development’, Michelmores LLP’s real estate team is ‘among the best in the area’ for public sector mandates. In an illustration of its public sector prowess, Richard Honey advised The Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime on its phased disposal of 19 hectares of land at Hendon Police College in North London. David Howe (who attracts praise for his ‘wealth of experience across all aspects of commercial property’) acted for St Austell Brewery to carry out property due diligence in relation to the client’s takeover of Bath Ales. The group is led by Emma Honey, who specialises in property development and is particularly active in the education sector; she is handling a multimillion-pound transaction for a development site, and is advising an aggregate supply company on a promotion agreement. The ‘diligent, hardworking and professionalJoanna Damerell focuses on large commercial property projects and is acting for Yelverton Properties Developments on its acquisition of land from Exeter City FC, Exeter City Council and Yeo & Davey for the development of student accommodation. The ‘excellentStephen Newson has wide-ranging experience of transactional and development matters, as well as landlord and tenant issues. The highly recommended Lucy Smallwood leads the residential development team.

Clarke Willmott LLP’s Taunton-based real estate team covers commercial development, investment and housebuilder work, and plays an integral part of ‘the firm’s very well-established agricultural property practice’. Philip Brown acted for Scotsgrove Holdings on the acquisition and leasing of a significant office building in Bath, and assisted Metis Homes Limited with the acquisition of residential development property in Guildford from Waitrose. Roger Seaton specialises in real estate finance and corporate real estate work, and in 2016 acted for an estate agent client in connection with the multimillion-pound sale of land for a highly publicised development project. Nick Francombe handles freehold and leasehold property disposals and acquisitions, in addition to property management issues; his recent highlights include advising local and public authorities on property transactions. Tim Walker, who focuses primarily on residential development, is also recommended.

Stephens Scown LLP handles a range of commercial landlord and tenant work and advises on strategic development for landowners and promoters. The firm also has a very active housebuilder practice, and acts for lenders in real estate finance transactions. The ‘knowledgeable and professional’ real estate team has wide-ranging sector expertise covering mining and minerals, rural housing and agriculture, and renewable energy. Jonathan Hoggett heads the Exeter-based team and acted alongside Toby Pool for an investor client on the acquisition of multiple retail parks. Nigel Coveney has expertise in all aspects of property development and is acting on the negotiation of a planning and development agreement for a substantial number of houses in the South East. Also recommended are Hilary Pitts and Keith Wright, who act for housing associations such as Hastoe Housing Association and Devon & Cornwall Housing; and Simon Harding and Mike Northcott. Other clients include Wolf Minerals (UK), Strategic Land Partnership LLP and Venture Property Development Company.

Among the leading firms for public sector and affordable housing work’, the property team at Trowers & Hamlins LLP is regularly called on by institutional investors, housebuilders and national and local government entities to advise on issues where there is a crossover between public and private interests. In a notable example, Hugh Winterbotham acted for Devonshire Homes on the multimillion-pound acquisition of a residential development site for 100 homes. Similarly, the ‘knowledgeable’ Joseph Acton is acting for Galliford Try Partnerships and Westco Properties as JV partners on the Cornwall Land Initiative, a strategic development of 11 residential sites for the purposes of providing several hundred affordable homes across Cornwall. Christopher Rundle, who specialises in commercial property management and investment portfolios, advised Stage Electrics Partnership on the restructuring of its portfolio in connection with the launch of a new brand; this involved the disposal of an 80,000 sq ft office site, in addition to the acquisition of two separate sites.

The commercial property team at Kitsons LLP has particular expertise in property development and commercial landlord and tenant work in the leisure sector. Split between the firm’s Exeter and Plymouth offices, the department also has specialisms in the health and care and renewables sectors, and works closely with the Torquay-based corporate group. James Lang leads the Plymouth-based team and is acting for the funder of a £1.5m development of the former Prudential Building in Portsmouth. Heading the team in Exeter, Cameron Caverhill has ‘excellent industry knowledge’ and acted for a landowner client on the high-value sale of agricultural land to a national housebuilder. Caverhill also worked alongside the corporate team on the refinancing of two holiday parks for Worldteam Limited. Other notable clients include Teignbridge District Council, Wyse Homes and South West Holiday Parks Limited.

Maitland Walker LLP’s ‘very responsive’ commercial property department is praised for its ‘consistently excellent service’. The Taunton-based group has wide-ranging experience of property matters including acquisitions and disposals in the leisure and hospitality sectors, estate management and agricultural property work. ‘Professional’ department head Ben Slade specialises in property transactions and landlord/tenant law, and in 2016 handled disposals of high street commercial shops, redevelopment sites and motor-way service centres. Slade is also advising a leading gaming company with more than 150 locations nationwide on a variety of portfolio management issues. Hilary Coles, whose experience encompasses both contentious and non-contentious property work, handles land transactions and planning issues for agricultural and development land, as well as acting in landlord and tenant disputes.

OTB Eveling is known in the West Country for acting for commercial and residential developers and investors, and also handles work for landowners. Keith Biggs, who heads the real estate team and has particular expertise in the leisure sector, assisted LED Leisure Management with the conditional lease agreement for a new 11,000 sq ft facility in Seaton. On the lender side, the team advised NatWest Bank on the security aspects of the multimillion-pound financing of the refurbishment of a Georgian manor, which will be converted into a luxury hotel. Biggs is also acting alongside the corporate department on the property aspects of the disposal of Woodbury Park Hotel and Golf Course. The firm also has a property disputes practice led by Charlotte Curtis.

Trustworthy, reliable and prompt’, Porter Dodson LLP has developed experience in the retail and medical and care home sectors, and is particularly well known for its work with local housebuilders and developers. ‘Thorough and trustworthy’ practice head Bruce Weir is deeply involved in the department’s development work and is acting for a regional developer in the purchase of a residential development site. Weir also acts for corporate tenants. Other key figures include Louise Sanders, a ‘commercially minded’ partner in the firm’s Yeovil office; and Victoria Walker, who is assisting a medical practice with the sale of its business and assignment of its lease to an entity as part of a national pilot scheme to change the partnership model of GP surgeries. The ‘industriousBen Hingley is assisting a company director in a refinancing involving assets including agricultural land, a complex of holiday cottages and residential buy-to-let property.

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Legal Developments in South West for Commercial property: The West Country

  • 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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