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  1. Commercial property: Birmingham
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Eversheds Sutherland (International) LLP impresses with the strength and depth of its practice, and continued to be instructed on many of the most significant mandates in the region. Global practice head Gurjit Atwal advised Birmingham City Council on the sale of Grand Central to Hammerson for £345m, and together with Birmingham practice head David Jones, acted for the Paradise Circus joint venture on phase two of its premier office development in Birmingham city centre. In other highlights, the team handled a number of substantial private rented sector (PRS) mandates in the city centre, including Atwal assisting Nikal with its £100m PRS development scheme at Exchange Square, Masshouse, and Jones representing Seven Capital in the forward funding and sale of Landsdowne House, a 206-unit PRS scheme in Hagley road. On the residential side, the team is regularly instructed by the likes of Barratt and Taylor Wimpey; national head of residential development Philip Medford acted for the latter in the purchase of part of the landmark Rugby Gateway scheme for residential development. Another key player is Iftkhar Ahmed, who leads on work for major corporates and advised Nuffield Health on the acquisition of 35 gym sites from Virgin Active. The practice’s premier real estate client base also includes Land Securities and Hammerson.

Gowling WLG’s diverse client base encompasses investors, commercial and residential developers and corporate occupiers, and the substantial team remained highly active in 2016. In development work, for which the practice is perhaps best known, head of regeneration Richard Beckingsale is representing Barnet Council in the £4bn development of Brent Cross, Cricklewood, which includes redevelopment of a shopping centre, construction of 7,000 homes and up to 4m sq ft of new office space; and housing specialist Duncan Murphy was highly active on residential development schemes for clients such as Bellway and Persimmon. The practice is regularly instructed by a number of powerhouse investor clients, such as Blackstone and CBRE Global Investment Partners, and Michael Twining advised the latter in relation to the purchase of a retail scheme at Willowbrook Centre, Bristol. In other highlights, the team continued to be instructed on high-profile Birmingham city centre mandates, including Susan Bennett advising Ballymore on the £200m development funding from M&G Real Estate in relation to Three Snowhill, Queensway, and John Burns representing Carval on the purchase of StarCity, Watson Road. Practice head Richard Bate, and Mike Trainer, who specialises in development and investment in the industrial, retail and office sectors, are also names to note.

Gateley Plc’s practice is best known for its strong housebuilder following, and the team remained highly active in the residential space for the likes of Bellway and Persimmon Homes. Highly regarded practice co-head Callum Nuttall acted for Bloor Homes in a 4,115-home development at North West Cheltenham, and also represented Taylor Wimpey and Redrow in the development of 1,450 new homes together with a primary school, commercial area and health centre at Wrexham Road, Chester. The practice is jointly led by Rebecca Sherwin, who has a particular focus on residential development finance and the finance of investment portfolios, and in one example of work advised HSBC on facilities secured over eight shopping centres valued, in aggregate, at £25m. On the investment side, Richard Pettifor handled a number of international mandates, including assisting Mountpark/USAA with the £40m acquisition of a development site at Manchester City Airport; and James Madill advised Aldgate Property on the conditional long leasehold purchase and simultaneous conditional pre-let of new build independent cinema premises and two restaurant units in Central London. The practice expanded via the promotion to the partnership of Helen Roberts and Robert Thompson.

In 2016, Pinsent Masons LLP’s team secured the key role on a number of significant corporate and insolvency transactions involving real estate entities. Practice head Tom Johnson, who ‘combines good technical knowledge with commerciality’, advised on the property aspects of AMC Entertainment’s £921m acquisition of Odeon & UCI Cinema Group, and legal director Carl Scott, who ‘provides detailed advice within very quick turnaround times’, assisted KPMG with the property element of the pre-pack administration sale of Ed's Easy Diner Group to Giraffe Concepts. The team was also instructed on a number of significant investment mandates, with Lisa Middleton, who leads on investment work in the Midlands, acting for IM Properties on the £200m sale of an industrial property portfolio to Employee Provident Fund, and Tom Eastwood representing CBRE Global Investors in various purchases and sales, including the sale of a retail warehouse estate in Reading. Other names to note are David Meecham, who provides ‘good practical commercial advice’ to public sector clients such as the Homes and Communities Agency, regeneration specialist Kultar Khangura, and Joel Kordan, who was highly active in the transport sector. The practice enhanced its offering with several hires at the junior end, including senior associate John Adams from Charles Russell Speechlys LLP.

Shoosmiths LLPprovides an exemplary, first-class service and sound commercial advice’ to clients such as John Lewis Pension Fund and Kwik Fit, and the team continued to be busy in its key sectors of retail, automobile and education. Managing partner Jason Jackson, who is a ‘shrewd operator’, was highly active in the industrial property space, where examples of his work included acting for IM Properties on the £50m sale of the group’s warehouse portfolio; assisting with a joint venture between Bridges Sustainable Property Fund and Opus Land relating to the purchase and development of 283,000 sq ft of grade A industrial space at Kingswood Lakeside, Cannock; and representing new client Atlantic Leaf Properties in the £100m purchase of a portfolio of eight investment properties. Other names to note include James Needham, who focuses on commercial developments and acted for Stoford Developments on the purchase, development and construction of 80,000 sq ft of office and logistics space; finance specialist Andrew Tubbs; as well as head of housing Bhavesh Amlani and Gavin Le Chat, who lead on residential development work.

Squire Patton Boggs’ strong corporate offering ensures that the team is active on a range of mandates for corporate occupiers. Recent examples include Victoria Camfield representing PricewaterhouseCoopers in its relocation to a new building in the course of construction at Paradise in Birmingham City Centre, and managing partner Nick Green acting for London Taxi Company in its acquisition of a brownfield site for the development of a £250m manufacturing facility. The team is also regularly engaged on the property aspects of corporate transactional work, and in one highlight senior associate Mohammed Alam advised on the sale of MacDonald Humfrey (Automation) Limited to L-3 Communications. Sector strengths include hotels, hospitality and leisure, healthcare and charity, and Green assisted Amaris Hospitality with the £500m refinancing of the Jurys Inn portfolio. Another name to note is Neil Taylor, who focuses on residential development work for the likes of Orbit Group and Persimmon Homes. The practice was diminished by the retirement of Anne O’Meara, and the departure of Monique Sutherland to DLA Piper UK LLP.

DLA Piper UK LLP’s ‘very commercial’ team has ‘significant knowledge and experience and finds solutions to difficult issues’. The ‘extremely reliable’ Roger Collier leads on corporate occupier work and acts for the likes of Busy Bees Group and Aggregate Industries UK; Collier advised on the real estate aspects of Amber Real Estate Investments purchase of Bernard Matthews Foods. Another key player is Monique Sutherland, who joined the firm from Squire Patton Boggs. Sutherland, who ‘takes ownership of legal discussions’, was busy on a range of mandates for the public and third sector, including advising Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council on variations to a housing development in Nuneaton, and representing the Land Restoration Trust in the acquisition of eight sites. Sutherland also regularly advises the National Grid on regulated and unregulated real estate transactions. The practice is led by development specialist Fiona Thomson, who is acting for Gulf Ventures in relation to the ongoing development and unit disposals of a £40m distribution park in Warwickshire.

Fieldfisher LLP is probably best known for its work in the development space, where Sue Simpson’s combined planning and property expertise benefits clients such as Cambridge Medipark and CALA Group. Simpson is acting for Skanska on the £150m development of 1,250 homes and a commercial centre at the former army barracks in Deepcut, Camberley, and is also advising Jumbuk on the development of three commercial units at Mill Race Park, Stourbridge. Another important figure in the development space is Jonathan Wright, who handles a mix of commercial and residential development for clients such as Countryside Properties. On the investment side, former chartered surveyor Mark Lee continued to be active on a number of mandates for key client IM Properties, including advising in relation to the £46m sale of a multi-let retail park in Croydon to LaSalle Investment Management.

Shakespeare Martineau LLP’s practice demonstrates ‘very good depth of knowledge, with a varied-ability team to deal with both day-to-day transactional work right up to complex strategic property advice’. Key players include Kevin Nagle, who provides ‘clear-cut advice in a no-nonsense manner’, and James Gooch, whose caseload takes in cross-border investment work; Nagle and Gooch advised Ceva Logistics on an agreement with Nike for a 10-year lease and the construction of a new warehouse. The practice also has a number of recommended finance lawyers, including Islamic finance specialist Mohammed Saqub, who ‘always adds value to processes and understanding’, ‘quasi guru’ Stephen Lane and the ‘diligent’ Alexander Price. On the residential development side, national head of practice Debbie Irwin acted for Persimmon Homes in relation to the conditional purchase of a site in Tyseley for 200 homes, and also advised BDW Trading on the £75m acquisition of a development site for 13,000 plots. Leicester-based John Edmond heads the practice.

Browne Jacobson LLP’s practice is probably best known for its expertise in the public sector, where clients include Telford and Wrekin Council, Coventry City Council and the Department of Business Innovation and Skills. In one example of work, Lisa McGinn is advising the Homes and Communities Agency on the £3m disposal of a site in Aston to Aviva. Thomas Howard focuses on the health sector and regularly acts for NHS trusts on property mandates, while Dominic Swift specialises in strategic site assembly for multi-academy trusts such as Shrewsbury Academies Trust. The team is also handling an increasing amount of work for private sector clients, and McGinn represented Summix on the £1.8m acquisition and sub-sale of a long leasehold interest in a prime canal-side site in central Birmingham from the Canal and River Trust.

At DWF, head of hospitality Melanie Williams has particular expertise in the acquisition of hotels, development and refurbishment projects and asset management for investors. Williams handled a number of mandates for Premier Inn and Whitbread Group, including advising on the sale of freehold and leasehold land, forward funding and development of a hub hotel at King’s Cross, London; she also acted for Maven Capital (Shire Hall Durham) in the acquisition and development of a Grade II listed building into a four-star 81-bedroom boutique hotel. Another area of expertise is the public sector, and the team represented key client, the Homes and Communities Agency, in relation to the acquisition of land at Warwick Bar. National head of practice Toby Askin specialises in the retail sector, where he advises landlords, developers and investors on shopping centres and retail park schemes; Askin divides his time between Birmingham and London.

Emms Gilmore Liberson’s team ‘has a personal touch lacking with larger practices, and shows attention to detail at all levels of the business’. Head of practice Mark Dakeyne, who has a ‘razor-sharp mind and is always able to see the bigger picture’, has a strong developer following, which includes Stoford Developments and Ashford Developments. Dakeyne acted for Shirley Advance in the £16m sale of a mixed-use town centre redevelopment scheme in Shirley, Solihull. The team is also regularly instructed by private landowners on development and disposals, and in one example, associate Beth Margetson, who is ‘always one step ahead and consistently provides a solution to any problem faced’, represented the Gooch Estate on the £4m disposal of a site at Upper Dean Street, Birmingham. Associate Simon Jobson is ‘reliable and customer-focused’ and is advising Warwickshire College on the sale, leaseback and development of new student accommodation adjoining the main campus.

Irwin Mitchell’s team is led by Ben Acheson, who has particular expertise in mixed-use development schemes; Acheson acted for key client Henry Davidson Developments in a number of mandates, including advising on a £10m mixed-use development scheme in Peterborough, and assisting with the acquisition and development of land in Queens Hills, Norwich for use as a care home, mixed-use residential and retail building, and various town houses. The team was enhanced by the hire of dual-qualified (UK/Scotland) Martin McQueen, who joined from Shakespeare Martineau LLP. McQueen specialises in residential development and cross-border acquisition, disposal and refinance work, and in a recent matter he assisted Barratt Homes West Midlands with the £6m acquisition and site set-up of a former latex factory in Stoke Prior, Bromsgrove, for the development of a 250-unit residential estate. On the finance side, Acheson and McQueen advised SEP Properties on the refinance of a 49-property portfolio with Handelsbanken. Persimmon Homes and Lloyds Bank are also clients of the practice.

Mills & Reeve LLP provides ‘rapid, considered and pragmatic advice’ to a range of education sector clients, including Aston University, the Auriga Academy Trust, and Hammersmith & West London College. Christian Bull has a ‘very good understanding of the university sector’ and is representing Coventry University in its £14m Scarborough campus project; and in another example of higher education work, Bull is assisting Birmingham City University with the relocation of the Birmingham Conservatoire to a new £40m facility at Millennium Point. Principal associate Robbie Turner leads on automotive work and delivers ‘sound advice in a clear, concise way’, and Michael Whatley, who specialises in acting for corporate occupiers and clients in the healthcare sector, advised Bright Horizons Family Solutions on the property aspects of its acquisition of Asquith Day Nurseries and Pre-Schools. Beverley Firth heads the department from Cambridge.

Trowers & Hamlins LLP’s newly formed team is led by regeneration specialist Amanda Hanmore and includes Christopher Plumley, who joined from Anthony Collins Solicitors LLP, and senior associate Simon Robinson, who joined from Gowling WLG. The team handles a good mix of public and private sector work, with recent examples including advising West Midlands Metropolitan Pension Fund on the acquisition of a retail park in Pontefract, and acting for Inox Group in a joint venture with Henry Boot Developments in relation to the acquisition and development of a mixed-use retail site including 200 residential units. Plumley has particular expertise in advising public sector clients on mixed-use developments and is assisting Tamworth Borough Council with its proposed joint venture town centre redevelopment.

At VWV (Veale Wasbrough Vizards), Clive Read and senior associate Julie Newell were busy on a variety of investment and development mandates for local authorities and education providers. For key client Coventry County Council, the team acted in the development of a mixed-use scheme (with a substantial student housing component) in Coventry city centre, and also advised on the proposed sale and redevelopment of brownfield parcels of land to Whitefriars Housing Association. Mandates in the education sector included representing Barnet and Southgate College in the sale of a former campus to Enfield Council, and assisting the University of Cumbria with the sale of a site in Ambleside to a developer. Consultant Adrian Watson, who handles private sector work, and charity sector specialist Anne Holmes are the other names to note.

Anthony Collins Solicitors LLP is ‘especially good with charitable and not-for-profit organisations’ and the team remained active in this regard in 2016: senior associate Dominic Curran advised ADA – NCDS on various matters, including a lease for a short-term business site, and a development agreement for a site in Tottenham Hale. The team also handled instructions for clients such as Sense and the Riverside Group, and practice head Robert Hallott assisted a number of housing associations with joint ventures for a mixture of affordable housing and for-sale housing.

For one commentator, Bevan Brittan LLP is ‘one of the best in the field for working on NHS disposals’, and the practice has a strong relationship with NHS Property Services, for which it remained busy in relation to development work as well as lease acquisition and disposal. Another important client is City of London Corporation, and Sandy Munroe acted for said client in the redevelopment of the former Richard Cloudesley School site and the adjacent Adult Education Centre to create a free school and 70 social housing units. Munroe, who ‘works like a Trojan and will turn documents around quickly in time-pressured transactions’, also assisted Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation with its leasehold portfolio management.

Clarke Willmott LLP’s team is probably best known for its work in the retail sector, where it regularly handles development and investment instructions for one of the leading international supermarket chains. Other clients of the practice are David Wilson Homes North West and Ingersoll-Rand. Key contacts include practice head Iain Harrison and Jonathan Morton, with the latter praised for ‘offering a high level of professionalism and commercial service’.

At Freeths LLP, managing partner Richard Beverley and Mitchell Ball continued to be active in the retail sector, where clients range from major supermarket chains to fashion boutiques. The team is also regularly instructed by the public sector, and advised Central Bedfordshire Council on its public-private partnership with Telereal Trillium to dispose of a 168-acre site at Arlesey.

Sydney Mitchell LLP’s team includes the ‘knowledgeable, prompt and efficientStewart Coles, who has particular expertise in dealing with property transactions involving pension schemes, and regularly acts on behalf of SIPPs and SSASs on the purchase, sale and leasing of commercial premises. Coles also represents clients in the retail and hospitality sectors and in 2016 he advised investors on a number of hotel acquisitions. Head of practice Div Singh and finance specialist Fahmida Ismail are the other main contacts.

Weightmans LLP’s practice is led by Zo Hoida, who specialises in public sector regeneration projects for the likes of Walsall Council and Royal Borough of Greenwich. Hoida’s varied caseload also takes in investment mandates for foreign investors and secured lending, and recent examples of her work include acting for a Chinese investor on the £1.3m purchase of an investment property in Wolverhampton, and advising Santander on various financings, including a £7m facility for Panorama Property Investments secured over eight separate titles. West Midlands regional head Richard Osborn divides his time between the firm’s Birmingham and Leicester offices and ‘provides a good, personalised service that is flexible, adaptive and responsive’.

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Legal Developments in West Midlands for Commercial property: Birmingham

  • 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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