Agriculture and estates in East Anglia
The well-established agriculture and estates practice at Ashtons Legal has three vastly experienced partners handling the affairs of farm businesses and landed estates. Practice head Jonathan Long, rural property expert Simon Cunningham and Jeanette Dennis, who has 29 years' experience in farming and estate management matters, are the key contacts. Their client base ranges from local to national owners and occupiers of small farms through to regional and national institutions covering thousands of acres, including several Cambridge Colleges.
“I have dealt with both Simon Cunningham and Jeanette Dennis and their knowledge and attention to detail has been first-class when assisting with bank security work ensuring our interests are protected.”
- A Cambridge college owning property in East Anglia had, since the 1950s, granted various written and unwritten tenancies to a farming family, and on the death of the surviving tenant we were instructed to serve a case G notice to quit.
- Instructed in a number of applications to the Land Registry for voluntary registration of unregistered land.
- Sale of approx. 120 acres of land in Mid Suffolk with residential properties, farm buildings and commercial buildings.
- Instructed by various lenders including Clydesdale, Lloyds, Barclays, NatWest, AMC, HSBC and AFP with regards to finance offered to agricultural clients.
- Acting for landowners in connection with complex overage agreements, option and promotion agreements.
'This is one of the best agricultural law practices in the UK, they have strength in depth and really know their stuff', says a client of Birketts LLP. Another remarks that the firm is 'a dominant force within the East Anglian agricultural legal sector and is now highly regarded as one of the region's leading firms'. Practice head Jack Royall, Neil Sparrow and Christopher Coupland in Norwich, Rachel McKillop-Wilkin in Cambridge and James Dinwiddy in Ipswich are key practitioners in one of the largest agricultural practices in England. The firm acts for private families, banks, utility companies, charities, the Environment Agency and local authority clients across the UK, and handles ecclesiastical and agricultural property work for three of the main East Anglian diocese offices.
Other key lawyers:
“Chris Coupland has unrivalled industry knowledge and provides excellent client care. Practical solutions are provided in clear layman’s language.”
“Rachel McKillop-Wilkin and Ruth Lambillion are both a pleasure to work with. They have excellent legal knowledge, give sensible advice, take a commercial approach and are cost effective.”
“The agriculture team I deal with led by James Dinwiddy is competent, efficient and is always available to address any issue. Despite the longstanding relationship between us and Birketts, there is no sense of complacency in the service provided.”
“A very engaging team who clearly work well as a group to ensure a smooth process.”
“Chris Coupland is very knowledgeable and a calm, safe pair of hands who manages the process and clients extremely well.”
“Daisy Darrell is extremely amenable and has always proved to be efficient when we have worked with her. She also makes a real point of networking within the wider property sector, something that has been well received by our business.”
“Pre-eminent in its field with a strong and large team. The dominant rural property lawyers in East Anglia.”
“User-friendly and proactive. It seems unfair to pick out individuals as they have so many strong operators. Jack Royall, Chris Coupland and Sophia Key know about getting a deal done and have great client understanding.”
“With a depth of strength and support, they provide expertise in all agricultural matters.”
“A strong, proactive and cohesive young team providing excellent support and delivering a first-class and efficient service with an ability to get transactions completed without creating unnecessary obstacles or delays.”
“They are personable and approachable.”
“They are commercial, affordable and give ‘no-nonsense’, timely advice.”
“Rachel Mckillop-Wilkin and Ruth Lambillion are simply a delight to deal with. They are fantastic communicators, they really take time to understand what their clients want and deliver on promises.”
“The private client and agriculture and estate teams are well known in the local area and have a wealth of experience and expertise.”
“Personable, knowledgeable and willing to help.”
- Helped Lloyds Bank Plc to facilitate their customer’s purchase of a £6,500,000 farm supported by £10,800,000 additional security.
- Advised Suffolk Wildlife Trust on the purchase of further land at Carlton Marshes with lottery funding (purchase price £2,087,700).
One client recommends Hewitsons for its 'breath of knowledge and ability to provide the right person with the correct skill set for the task in hand'. The firm has a large cross-office team led from Cambridge by the 'extremely trustworthy' Denise Wilkinson , who handles complex property and family issues in the rural sector, whether for smaller farmers, landed estates or major institutions. Legal director James Frankland and consultant Charles Hewitson also have excellent reputations for handling agricultural property transactions.
“Charles Hewitson is involved at all levels on a personal and business level. He is an excellent leader and ambassador for the firm.”
“Denise Wilkinson exhibits great knowledge and attention to detail.”
“I work regularly with Denise Wilkinson who is exceptional in every way.”
“Hewitsons has high professional standards. They are well informed, cover all of our necessary disciplines and cover them well. They are always available at short notice when required.”
Denise Wilkinson specifically gives advice on charity issues; agricultural and commercial. Her great strength is to be able to see an issue from all angles, thinking on her feet. She has experience in contractual arrangement that are not conventional, and always give very sound advice.”
“A dynamic yet pragmatic approach to getting the job done.”
“Denise Wilkinson provides excellent advice on a range of property matters in a concise and clear way which is readily understood.”
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
The Philpot Family and Associated Companies
National Farmers Union (NFU)
- Advising on the sale and purchase of a large farm plus equine business and attendant issues.
- Sale of large landholdings following the death of the owner.
- Advising two landowning charities entering into an option re renewables.
- Renegotiation of cross overages and inter-family corporate landownership.
- Advice regarding unusual ownership structures and the effect of owning only an equitable share of a 3,000 acre Estate.
Howes Percival LLP has a large and diverse client base of substantial landowners, trusts and partnerships. Catherine Scott leads a thriving agricultural property practice that handled large farm transactions and tenancies, basic payment and environmental schemes, and the investigations and registration of complex unregistered titles. Estate management for landed estates included specialist advice on agricultural holdings and protected tenancies. The firm also calls on its specialist tax practice to advice rural clients on matters such as iheritance and capital gains tax. Another key name to note is rising star Katharine Danks.
Other key lawyers:
Stuart Maggs; Katharine Danks
“They are friendly, personal, professional and efficient. So many firms delegate to team members and the relationship is diluted.”
“Catherine Scott and her team are very efficient.”
Cholmondeley Estates (Norfolk and Cheshire)
The Holkham Estate
The Sutton Hall Estate
The Gasthorpe Estate
- Acted on the sale of the Sutton Hall Estate, which was a significant sale of a ring-fenced Estate in excess of 2000 acres in Suffolk, for a sum in excess of £30m.
- Acted on the sale of the Lodge Farm Estate, Gasthorpe which included approximately 1,000 acres of land and residential property.
At Mills & Reeve LLP, Michael Aubrey in Cambridge is joint head of the firm’s food and agribusiness sector group and has a national reputation as an expert on all areas of agricultural law. Tim Ryan in Norwich acts for landowner clients on multimillion-pound, complex collaboration, promotion, option and contribution agreements as well as in relation to general acquisitions and disposals. Amanda Tagg handles matters relating to agricultural land diversification. These three standout practitioners, backed by an experienced junior team, give the firm a prominent role in some of the largest and most complex deals nationally in the agricultural and landed estates sector.
Michael Aubrey; Tim Ryan
Other key lawyers:
Amanda Tagg; Matthew Hesketh; Paula Mostari; Sarah Pateman
‘They are without doubt the pre-eminent agricultural team in the country, with a great balance of expertise and pragmatism.’
‘Michael Aubrey has huge experience and is very easy to work with.’
Barclays Bank Plc
John Innes Foundation
Christ Church Oxford
Trinity College Cambridge
Greenyard (formerly Univeg)
The Countryside Restoration Trust
- Acting for the Bank in connection with transactions where the Borrower had to be separately advised due to the high values of the properties.
'They look at the detail and are well versed in agriculture problems', says a client of the practice at Roythornes Solicitors, which has a growing presence in East Anglia through its offices in Peterborough and Alconbury. Key partner Julie Robinson, whose career includes a stint as chief legal adviser at the National Farmers’ Union, leads the single agriculture team that works across all of the firm's offices and incorporates property, private client, family, company commercial, litigation, renewable energy and planning expertise. Associate Kirsten Rimmer is a rising star in commercial and agricultural property matters.
Other key lawyers:
Kirsten Rimmer; Jonathan Williams
“Julie Robinson has huge knowledge, understanding and experience, all available to me as if on tip of her tongue. She provides a huge amount of care and attention, and understands the commercial and personal implications of words in contract – not just the legal implications.”
“Experts in each field under one firm. Each team member we have dealt with so far has offered exceptional service. Transferring to Roythornes is the best move we made.”
The Woodland Trust
- A complex £30m purchase of a significant farming interest involving in excess of 40 titles.
- A multimillion-pound sale of agricultural land for development.
- In March 2018, we were instructed by our client, the farming arm of a significant estate in East Anglia to act for them in relation to two sites where Farmcare were ceasing operational farming.
- The £27m acquisition of a substantial agricultural estate in East Anglia.
- Actomg for fourteen land owners and four agricultural tenants in agreeing terms with the Witham Fourth District Internal Drainage Board who were spending funds from the UK government and the European Union.
Taylor Vinters has 'one of the strongest agricultural teams in the region with unparalleled knowledge and a pragmatic attitude to all instructions' and client praise its blend of 'depth and breadth, experience and youth'. Head of farms and estates Rupert Melville-Ross and head of real estate Helen Mutucumarana combine their strengths to lead a practice that large, complex and high-value farm transactions, Agricultural Holdings Act tenancy work, succession and tax planning, farming partnerships, small-scale development work and renewable energy projects for both landowners and developers. Key names to note are Adrian Horwood-Smart, who is a 'master of his craft', and Andrew Williamson who has 'excellent technical knowledge'. Associate Louise Moore is recognised as a rising star.
Rupert Melville-Ross; Helen Mutucumarana
“The firm has good knowledge but most of all works quickly and inclusively with other professionals to deliver job in cost-effective way.”
“Both Rupert Melville Ross and Andrew Williamson are standout operators in their field. delivering what the client wants in a proactive way. They quickly understand what is important and what is not to get the job done. I have never been disappointed and have used them many times.”
“Compared to some legal firms I find Taylor Vinters very good at following a brief. If we need something doing quickly they pull out all the stops. If we need to be collaborative rather than aggressive they act accordingly.”
“The firm will always help when unplanned circumstances arise with little fuss. As a firm they endeavour to have a picture of my personal and business needs so that they can be as relevant as possible in different circumstances.”
“The individuals that we work with are extremely diligent. We recently completed a large deal and I lost count of the number of Friday nights we were exchanging correspondence after 10pm to ensure that deadlines were being met.”
One of the partners oversees my relationship with the firm and it gives me great comfort to know that he is looking out for my interests no matter which area of expertise we are working with. He also takes a personal interest in my plans.”
“This is a highly experienced and exceptionally competent team. Acting for several long-established clients, it has refined an expertise in this field that is virtually unique.”
“Adrian Horwood-Smart is the best: a master of his craft.”
“Andrew Williamson is a talented and very intelligent person who is developing formidable ability. Rupert Melville-Ross is also cast out of the same mould.”
“In my experience the team are readily able to provide solutions to complex matters of Agricultural law. I am always greatly reassured when Taylor Vinters are involved that matters will progress quickly and efficiently.”
“Experienced, practical and with impressive technical knowledge, the team is always on hand to offer advice.”
“Rupert Melville Ross is one of the best known lawyers in the sector.”
“Andrew Williamson is a key member of the real estate team with excellent technical knowledge.”
“Louise Moore is a rising star in the firm – responsive, knowledgeable and personable.”
“Adrian Horwood Smart and is utterly reliable and fully trusted to provide sage advice.”
“I have such confidence in Andrew Williamson to have recommended him to valuable clients on farming matters without disappointment.”
“Louise Moore is current , modern and understands farming joint ventures , whether partnerships, contract farming agreements or other arrangements.”
“Rupert Melville-Ross is very visible, active and approachable.”
Jockey Club group – national horseracing group established in 1750, managing many of the UK’s racecourses
AgReserves Limited / Farmland Reserve (UK) Limited – USA-based global landholding charity
G’s Marketing Ltd – multinational salad and vegetable producer
Mr T Behrens – German investor into UK farmland
The Crown Estate
J E Piccaver & Co – large-scale commercial farmers based in Lincolnshire and Essex
Farcet Fen Limited – International farming company based in Spain
The Thorpe & Asgarby Estate Limited – owner of £20m landed Lincolnshire estate
Blackheath Farms LLP – large scale farmer in Suffolk
Tompsett Burgess Growers – largest carrot producer in the UK
Braemar Agricultural Land Investments Limited – agricultural land investment fund
E W Pepper Ltd – highly diversified and entrepreneurial farmer based in Cambridgeshire
- Acted for Thurlow Estate on £7m+ disposal of four farms to institutional buyer.
- Purchase of mixed arable land and woodland on the Shortgrove Estate – represented overseas investor on £3m acquisition of farm.
- Represented Ward Farming in the sale of a £27.5m farm.
- Option agreement for leases of land in the event of a grant of planning permission over large areas for environmental purposes.
- A complex partnership reorganisation which involved off-shore trusts and bringing assets onshore and working with cross-border counsel and accountants to enable a purchase of land and a partnership reorganisation.
Barker Gotelee has extensive experience in dealing with substantial transactions for farmers and landowners across the country. During 2018, the practice, led by Andrew Nicholson, acted in the sale and purchase of farms and land for residential, commercial and renewable energy developments, and for landowners in relation to the proposed Sizewell C development. The firm also assisted clients who entered into the surrender and re-grant of existing secure agricultural tenancies to secure full relief from inheritance tax.
Other key lawyers:
Toby Pound; Miles Coates; Fenella Eddell; Sam Read
Greene & Greene has 'a strong regional team that is highly regarded and provides excellent all round agricultural legal advice and expertise'. The firm acts for a diverse range of clients ranging from long-established estate owners to new investors in the agricultural sector. The practice, led by Jonathan Mathers, assists with farm sales and purchases, Settled Land Act estates work, agricultural tenancy issues, succession planning, general taxation issues, and agricultural and business property matters.
Other key lawyers:
Neil Walmsley; Selene Holden; Wayne Perrin; Mark Daly; Julia Routledge
“The firm, and partner Jonathan Mathers, have been a breath of fresh air in comparison to my previous firm, which was were totally reactive and never proactive.”
“Jonathan Mathers stands out as being very easy to work with – pleasant, straightforward, helpful and quick to respond. All dealings with him have been clear and prompt.”
“I cannot recommend Jonathan Mathers him highly enough.”
“The partners within the agricultural department are approachable and contactable and bring with them a wealth of experience and expertise.”
- Acting for the Buyer in the purchase of a large farm including land, farm buildings and a Grade I listed farmhouse in Suffolk.
- Acting for the Seller on sale of a large unregistered farm on the Essex/Suffolk border.
- Acting for the buyer on the purchase of a farm for an investor client with a refinancing element.
- Acting for the seller on the disposal of all farming assets.
- Split of family farm and sale of 9 lots.
Greenwoods GRM has a new head of its agriculture and rural business practice in senior associate Emily Pumfrey, following Jeremy Stanton's move to Birketts LLP. Pumfrey, like many in the practice, comes from a farming background and she is a Fellow of the Agricultural Law Association. The practice draws on the expertise of its corporate, private client, property and employment practices to assist clients in the agriculture sector, and corporate partner Alastair Gunn plays an active role in its high-profile transactions.
Other key lawyers:
Alastair Gunn; Clare Harris; Stephanie Wilcox; Amy Castleman; Caroline Gumbrell; Kelly Peck
“They understand the personality and idiosyncrasies of their clients.”
“The Greenwoods team is a friendly and dynamic team, which strikes the perfect balance of being approachable and giving first-class advice.”
“All of the team members are willing to give their honest opinions on matters, which has become an increasingly rare asset. The team work extremely closely, which gives them a wide knowledge base, and you always get the feeling that you are getting many minds for the price of one!”
“I deal predominantly with Kelly Peck and Emily Pumfrey. Both individuals have in-depth knowledge of a wide range of subjects. Emily is the epitome of calm, and has handled a number of complex and tricky matters in recent months, with a combination of efficiency and reasoned advice which has helped clients reach successful conclusions in every instance.”
Norwich Livestock Market Limited
RE Evans Farms Limited
Produce World Investments Limited
- Advised Norwich Livestock Market Limited on the Judicial Review of Norwich City Council’s decision to surrender its lease, and ultimately all of its propriety interests in the land Norwich Livestock Market occupies.
- Negotiated a bespoke option agreement for the acquisition of 125 acres of farm land in rural Pembrokeshire, followed by the subsequent completion of the acquisition, adding to RE Evans Farms Limited growing dairy business in Wales.
- RE Evans Farms Limited struck a deal with two brothers to add a further 90 acres of land to their farm holding, and Emily Pumfrey assisted with completing both transactions.
- Produce World Investments Limited recognised the need to re-purpose the site at Swinderby, Lincolnshire and after obtaining planning consent for change of use, struck a deal to sell the site for in excess of £3,000,000 to a housebuilder.
- Offering regular employment advice to one of the world’s largest fresh produce providers.
Hunt & Coombs LLP has three long-serving and knowledgeable specialist partners who have extensive experience in dealing with rural estates. Agricultural property expert Anna Spriggs and wills, trusts and probate specialist Henry Anstey in Peterborough, and Paddy Appleton in Oundle, who handles tax planning, trusts and estates, are the key names in a practice that acts for numerous landed estates. Last year, the firm handled the refinancing of landed estates with a combined value in excess of £10m.
The Peterborough Diocesan Board of Finance
East of England Agricultural Society
- Advised The Peterborough Diocesan Board of Finance on complex covenant releases and reverter provision, statutory vesting procedures, disposal of glebe land for development, management of glebe land, farm business tenancies and surrenders – including promotion agreements, collaboration and option agreements on a number of sites all in excess of £1m.
- Proposed residential development of 200 acres of agricultural land.
- Option Agreement for a proposed garden village.
- Collaboration Agreement with adjoining landowner.
- Grant of an option of land.
The rural practice at Tees Law brings together lawyers from a wide range of practice areas including private client and property to advise clients ranging from small family farms to rural estates and large agricultural businesses. Catherine Mowat leads the practice that handles succession planning, land development, diversification projects, employment, company and partnership formation, dispute resolution, restructuring, and sales and acquisitions of commercial enterprises. The firm is on the legal panel of the National Farmers Union. Another key name to note is the 'extremely efficient' Alex Waples.
Other key lawyers:
James Dowson; Alex Waples; Rebecca Quick
“There are individuals with good areas of knowledge in a good spread of business areas. The practice is easily contacted and connects quickly to the relevant person.”
“Alex Waples particularly efficient, he replies to emails quickly and acknowledges every email he gets. This has made working with Alex at Tees a real pleasure over the past couple of years.”
- Inheritance tax review and planning advice for rural landowner taking into account available agricultural reliefs and opportunities.
- Represented client in agreement to unlock value in harvestable forest land.
- Comprehensive advice and service offering to farming client, combining cross-departmental co-operation to achieve client’s diversification and estate planning strategy.
- Sale of agricultural land, pursuant to a Promotion Agreement.
- Assisted clients with structuring Wills and Powers of Attorney to ensure suitable succession for farming business.
Blocks in Ipswich has a long-established client base of multi-generational farming families, landowners and businesses that turn to key partner Gerry Field. The firm advises landowners and farmers on high-value energy projects and development matters as well as estate planning matters. It also has handled promotion agreements and options with developers for large-scale development of agricultural land, and its private client practice handles estate planning and trusts for rural clients.
- Advising client on the development of land at Wickham Market, which included Option Agreements, Promotion Agreements and Conditional Contracts, as well as the settlement of trusts.
- Advising client on the development of land at Stutton Hall, which included Option Agreements, Promotion Agreements and Conditional Contracts, as well as the settlement of trusts.
- Advising client on the development of land at Stradbroke, which included Option Agreements, Promotion Agreements and Conditional Contracts, as well as the settlement of trusts.
- Advising client on the development of land at Stowupland, which included Option Agreements, Promotion Agreements and Conditional Contracts, as well as the settlement of trusts.
- Advising client on the development of land at Stowmarket, which included Option Agreements, Promotion Agreements and Conditional Contracts, as well as the settlement of trusts.
The agriculture practice at Fraser Dawbarns incorporates members of commercial, corporate and private client departments. Led by Jenny Rushmer and Kieren Cross, its agricultural clients include some of the larger farming families in East Cambridgeshire and West Norfolk. Daniel Ball is well regarded for his knowledge on renewable energy installations and has advised numerous farms on onshore wind, solar power and battery storage facilities.
Kieren Cross; Jenny Rushmer
- Acting in connection with the sale of a farm and negotiating and settling a private drainage agreement.
- Administration of Estate comprising of agricultural and commercial property and dealing with succession planning for the next generation.
- Acting on a sale of farm land involving a very complex and unique pre- emption agreement over retained land.
- Three Farmers came together to promote their respective holdings as a single arrangement or series of schemes for the promotion of multiple sites for an intermittent energy project consisting of gas peaking plants/ battery storage or hybrid facility.
- Acting on behalf of farming clients in converting Agricultural Holdings Act Tenancy to a Farm Business Tenancy as part of a wider Tax planning strategy.
The agricultural team at Steeles Law draws together expertise from a range of legal disciplines, including commercial property, private client, employment and company commercial. The practice led by associate Karen Bacon has substantial experience in agricultural property transactions in Norfolk and Suffolk. Bacon frequently handles matters of inheritance tax and succession planning for agricultural clients.
H Irwin Limited
A R Hall & Sons