Agriculture and estates in East Anglia

Ashtons Legal

Ashtons Legal has 'a very practical group of lawyers with a wide range of knowledge of rural and agricultural business'. The firm handles everything from rural land sales to compulsory purchase and renewable energy projects in the rural sector, including agriculture financings, overage and promotion agreements, succession planning issues and public rights of way. Practice head Jonathan Long and Jeanette Dennis in Cambridge, Simon Cunningham in Norwich and senior associate Rebecca Gatens in Ipswich give the firm broad coverage across the region and bring decades of experience to the table as well as 'thoroughness and professionalism, whilst keeping a personal sympathetic attitude towards clients'.

Practice head(s):

Jonathan Long

Other key lawyers:

Jeanette Dennis; Simon Cunningham; Rebecca Gatens

Testimonials

‘Ashtons team are reactive and interact together to ensure all areas of your case are covered, often there is more to a legal issue than one specialism. Communication between the team members and client is excellent and followed up.’

‘All the individuals at Ashtons whether solicitors or assistants and administration staff have shown thoroughness, professionalism whilst keeping a personal sympathetic attitude towards their client. They express and show in their work method and approach to do their best in avoiding litigation but show all parties the law and reasoning of your case. They do so in a very open manner that gives confidence to you as a client.’

‘We deal almost exclusively with one partner, Simon Cunningham, who has been our my main contact over the last 5 years. Simon is extremely knowledgeable regarding agricultural security matters and I have found him to be very practicable in coming up with solutions.’

‘Simon Cunningham is extremely knowledgeable regarding agricultural security matters and I have found him to be very practicable in coming up with solutions. He has helped us out on numerous occasions in overcoming tricky situations and has been determined to get the right result for us despite the other parties solicitors trying to state that his points are non-issues; he is usually correct. He is hardworking and has demonstrated a willingness to work late or at weekends to meet tight deadlines. Simon has been helpful on billing when transactions have been aborted.’

‘The Ashtons team contains some very capable lawyers with a wealth of experience in the sector. They offer a great blend of technical knowledge, practical know how and genuine insight into the rural sector, with various members of the team coming from a farming background.’

‘Jonathan Long is an excellent adviser. He has the ability to get to the heart of complex matters and communicate these to his clients in bitesize chunks that can be understood and acted upon. Jonathan has a wealth of knowledge about the clients that he has acted for over a number of years which is incredibly valuable when assisting them with their affairs. Jonathan is also always happy to work alongside other professional advisors to ensure that his clients are well looked after.’

‘Jonathan Long goes above and beyond on every level. We are continually impressed by Jonathan, Rebecca Gatens and the Agriculture Team at Ashtons.’

Work highlights

  • Instructed by three private estate-owning families in a promotion agreement for several acres of warehousing on sites resulting from the recent completion of the A14 upgrades in Cambridgeshire.
  • Acting for a landowner in the negotiation of Option and Lease for large-scale solar on their land.
  • Instructions from various farming partnerships within Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and Essex for the preparation of Partnership Agreements or Supplemental Partnership Agreements to record the current business arrangements.

Birketts LLP

Birketts LLP has a five-partner rural practice, making it one of the largest in England. The firm handles work from across the UK, including energy project developments, strategic land transactions, agriculture finance work and advice on public rights of way. Jack Royall leads the practice from Norwich, where Chris Coupland is also a key practitioner. In Ipswich, James Dinwiddy is 'thorough and always available', while senior associate Tom Verrill is 'exceptional'. The 'very personable and incisiveRachel McKillop-Wilkin in Cambridge and Sophia Key in Norwich have strong reputations in the sale and purchase of agricultural land. The firm is currently advising dozens of landowners on the negotiation of an option agreement and lease relating to cables crossing Norfolk from the Hornsea Project Three Offshore Wind Farm.

Practice head(s):

Jack Royall

Other key lawyers:

Chris Coupland; James Dinwiddy; Rachel McKillop-Wilkin; Tom Verrill

Testimonials

‘Under the watchful eye of one individual I have been extremely impressed with the efficiency all the different departments, how they have appreciated our needs, responded to our requests and offered understandable and good advice relevant to our situation. To have achieved all the above during the Covid crisis when access to the office was limited is also very impressive – their existing set up of remote access served them well.’

‘They seem very professional and very helpful. They are always happy to help whatever the query whatever time of the day that might be or a weekend. You don’t tend to get that with many firms.’

‘We have dealt with Birketts on a number of land transactions and have found them to be very good communicators, adaptive to the situation and helpful. They adopt positions in varying stages of robustness reflecting the situation in hand not just using the same playbook in every situation. Tom Verrill in particular is very good and to be recommended. He is forthright where needed and more emollient where required, good knowledge and sensible with his billing.’

‘Honesty and integrity, not too cautious but ready to engage or withdraw as required. Proper real wold advice not a load of flannel. Tom Verrill is very good and adapts to our way of doing business, honesty and integrity.’

‘Rachel Mckillop-Wilkin is very personable and able to be incisive to see through a problem.’

‘They handle the very complex matter of farm conveyancing (amongst of course many other things) and have proved to be highly competent and efficient in their delivery of this service.’

‘Very knowledgeable and quick to resolve the many matters that arise. Very thorough and place great emphasis on good customer service.’

HCR Hewitsons

The Cambridge office of HCR Hewitsons is home to a substantial part of the firm's agriculture, food and rural business practice, including lead partner Denise Wilkinson, who has a long-standing reputation for providing practical advice on complex property and family issues to farmers, landed estates and large agribusinesses. Wilkinson is 'exemplary - extremely knowledgeable and commercially savvy, she is devoted to her clients', and client praise the firm as 'professional, technically reliable, accurate and responsive'. Litigation partner Simon Biggin, legal director James Frankland and consultant Charles Hewitson are also heavily involved in the practice.

Practice head(s):

Denise Wilkinson

Other key lawyers:

Charles Hewitson; Simon Biggin; James Frankland; Alex Wensor; Elizabeth Davies

Testimonials

‘I find the service professional, technically reliable, accurate, responsive and timely delivered at a value for money price by nice people.

‘I deal with Simon Biggin and Alex Wensor mainly who are always extremely thorough, very pleasant to deal with and represent very good value for money.’

‘I have found them to be prompt, efficient, professional and courteous.’

‘Professional, knowledgeable and efficient.’

James Frankland and Elizabeth Davies are brilliant at their jobs, working all hours, efficient and great communication.’

‘Excellent in understanding our requirements. Particularly good on rural property and charity matters. Maintained excellent communications during lockdown.’

‘They are multi-disciplined and able to provide a wide range of quality advice.’

‘My dealings with Denise Wilkinson have been exemplary. she is extremely knowledgeable and commercially savvy. She always calls back and is devoted to her clients.’

Key clients

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds

The Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire & Northamptonshire

Howes Percival LLP

Howes Percival LLP in Norwich has a 'helpful and thorough' estates practice that 'inspires total confidence, is pragmatic in its approach and is highly productive'. Its work spans the full range of land sales and purchases, agriculture financings, environmental schemes, business sales and matters concerning agricultural holdings and protected tenancies. Practice head Catherine Scott has many years' experience working with farmers and landowners on complex and high-value property matters. Up-and-coming partner Katharine Danks is 'a consummate professional with a forensic eye for detail' and tax and trusts specialist Stuart Maggs 'sees through problems and grasps the complexity'.

Practice head(s):

Catherine Scott

Other key lawyers:

Katharine Danks; Stuart Maggs

Testimonials

‘The solicitor came highly recommended and excellent advice and all work is carried out to a very high standard.’

‘We only really use HP. They are very helpful but also I have confidence that they are very thorough.’

‘The Howes Percival Agriculture and Estates team is able to grasp the complexity of a problem and deliver solutions. They inspire total confidence, pragmatic in their approach and always quick to call or respond to our questions.’

‘As clients we felt they were a highly productive team who brought their own individual skills liaising in house to offer effective, honest advice. We felt they cared and had our best interests in mind at all times.’

‘Katharine Danks is a consummate professional with a forensic eye for detail. She managed some time critical situations and was not afraid to stand her ground and hold others to account in a highly skilled manner. Her specialist knowledge was incredibly impressive and invaluable to us. She provided an exceptional and uncompromising service.’

‘Stuart Maggs offered excellent advice in a precise and easy to understand format. He sees through problems and grasps the complexity. So knowledgeable and efficient, responding and maintaining excellent communication with us. Succession issues can be sensitive but Stuart understood that behaviour and emotion must be taken into account in family relationships Always looking for solutions his advice was well considered and delivered the outcome that enabled us to move forward.

Key clients

The Cholmondeley Estates (Norfolk and Cheshire)

The Holkham Estate

Mills & Reeve LLP

Mills & Reeve LLP is frequently involved in some of the largest rural land transactions in East Anglia and across the UK. It frequently acts for traditional farming clients, as well as landowning Cambridge and Oxford colleges, pension funds, landed estates and large agribusinesses. Michael Aubrey and Amanda Tagg in Cambridge, along with Tim Ryan in Norwich are the lead partners. Aubrey has a national reputation for advice to  institutional and corporate landowners on structuring transactions, major infrastructure and development projects, and large-scale renewable energy projects. Tagg advises institutional investors on agricultural property portfolios and Ryan assists landowners with collaboration, promotion, option and contribution agreements, and renewable energy projects.

Practice head(s):

Michael Aubrey; Amanda Tagg; Tim Ryan

Key clients

The Dean and Chapter of the Cathedral Church of Christ in Oxford of the Foundation of King Henry the Eighth

TOF Corporate Trustee Limited

National Farmer’s Union

Luggala Estates Limited

Albanwise Limited

Barclays Bank PLc

John Innes Foundation

Northumbrian Water

The Countryside Restoration Trust

Work highlights

  • Acting for TOF Corporate Trustee Limited on the £7.75m purchase of The Urlar Estate in Perthshire, comprising approximately 7,500 acres and including a twin turbine site and land known as “The Heart of Scotland”.

Roythornes Solicitors

Specialist agriculture and estates firm Roythornes Solicitors has a growing presence in Alconbury, where the team advises farming businesses and estates across England on property and development work, as well as taxes, trusts and estate management. The firm is 'efficient, professional and delivers excellent service'. Clients remark that practice head Julie Robinson is 'highly professional and communicates very strongly'. In 2020, Tim Russ moved over from the Spalding office, bringing his experience in Agricultural Holdings Act tenancies, and contentious farm partnership and property claims. Newly promoted partner Claire Hindmarsh and senior associate Kirsten Rimmer are agricultural property specialists.

Practice head(s):

 Julie Robinson

Other key lawyers:

Tim Russ; Claire Hindmarsh; Kirsten Rimmer

Testimonials

‘I have consistently been impressed with Julie Robinson. She always has a quick and keen grasp of the issue(s), a rigorous approach and a very pleasant manner. And she is highly responsive and reliable.’

‘Efficient, professional, on time and in keeping with what was quoted. Roythornes delivered excellent service to me over a number of months in dealing with them and I wouldn’t hesitate to use them again.’

‘Julie Robinson was highly professional throughout my project and communicated very strongly at all times.’

Key clients

Elveden Estate

Cheveley Park Farms

Countryside Alliance

Huntingdon Freemen’s Trust

Woodland Trust

Work highlights

  • Advised on the purchase of farmland on behalf of a farming partnership, together with a £9m refinancing.
  • Advised on the purchase of the freehold of unregistered farmland, buildings and farmhouse by a sitting tenant and associated parties.
  • Acted for a landlord in the grant of a long-term farm business tenancy over approx. 300 acres of agricultural land coupled with a pre-emption agreement giving the tenant the right of first refusal to purchase the holding if the landlord expressed an intention to sell all or part of it during the term.

Taylor Vinters

At Taylor Vinters in Cambridge, Rupert Melville-Ross (who 'takes the time to understand what clients really need') is head of the farms and estates practice, with head of real estate Helen Mutucumarana providing advice on land and property transactions. Andrew Williamson, who is an expert in Agricultural Holdings Act tenancies, partnerships and landed estate succession planning issues, is 'outstanding - highly intelligent, quick on the uptake and unfailingly effective'. Associate Louise Moore is also recommended for development projects and agricultural tenancy matters. Veteran partner Adrian Horwood-Smart retired in 2020.

Practice head(s):

Rupert Melville-Ross; Helen Mutucumarana

Other key lawyers:

Andrew Williamson; Louise Moore

Testimonials

‘Due to the interaction that I have with individuals within the practice I receive useful information and feedback relevant to my business. I find TV don’t wait for me to pick up the phone so to speak. We always find TV are prompt in their work. We find that a lot of professional services can be sometimes slow to respond or complete work. TV aren’t like that.’

‘I work mainly with Rupert Melville-Ross. What I particularly like about Rupert is the time he takes to understand what it is that I really need from any given situation. He also follows up on any issues without placing me under undue pressure. His general advice is also welcome.’

‘I and my companies have dealt with Taylor Vinters for a long time. There is an inherited understanding of and empathy towards our affairs that would be difficult to replicate with another law firm.’

‘Andrew Williamson is an outstanding individual. Highly intelligent, quick on the uptake, duly modest, easy to deal with and unfailingly effective. He knows the law relating to his field and understands the “mind of the law” relating to it. We require ongoing advice for estate management purposes with matters, large and small, that arise. He’ll tell us robustly the strengths of our position on any given matter and also, with due diplomacy, the limitations or weaknesses. What more can one say?’

Key clients

Jockey Club group

AgReserves Limited / Farmland Reserve (UK) Limited

G’s Marketing Ltd

Longrove Farms Limited

C. Hoare & Co

J E Piccaver & Co

Farcet Fen Limited

The Thorpe & Asgarby Estate Limited

Blackheath Farms LLP

Tompsett Burgess Growers

Barker Gotelee

Barker Gotelee in Ipswich handles some of the largest agricultural land transactions in East Anglia, combining its expertise in property matters, tax issues, trusts and dispute resolution. The firm has a large roster of farming family clients, as well as acting for numerous local agents. Practice head Andrew Nicholson is 'an excellent conveyancer who provides a prompt and courteous service'. Clients praise his 'no-nonsense approach and pragmatic solutions'. He recently advised on the £6.6m purchase of a 565-acre arable farm.

Practice head(s):

Andrew Nicholson

Testimonials

‘My main experience is with Andrew Nicholson, who is an excellent conveyancer and provides a prompt and courteous service to clients and fellow professionals.’

‘Andrew Nicholson is a consummate professional and great to deal with. He has a no nonsense approach and looks for pragmatic solutions. He is very efficient and performs in timescales that many solicitors don’t achieve.’

Key clients

Felixstowe Hydrocycle Limited

Wentworth Nominee Trust

National Gamekeepers Organisation Educational Trust

Work highlights

  • Acted on the £6.6m purchase of Chelmshoe House Farm near Halstead in Essex, a 565-acre arable farm with a principal house, three additional dwellings and a range of agricultural buildings.
  • Advising Felixstowe Hydrocycle on the property law aspects of a private, grant and member-funded irrigation pipeline taking water from a source near the coast across numerous farms up to 7km inland.
  • Acting for Wentworth Nominee Trust on the conditional sale of development land in Yorkshire for £4.8m.

Greenwoods GRM

Greenwoods GRM has a dedicated rural practice that advises agri-businesses and landowners on a wide range of real estate, business, employment, regulatory and wealth preservation matters. Newly promoted senior associate Emily Pumfrey leads the practice from Peterborough, supported by business and finance partner Alastair Gunn and Cambridge-based head of wealth preservation Clare Harris. Pumfrey recently assisted the owners of a farming business with succession planning and land registration matters.

Practice head(s):

Emily Pumfrey

Other key lawyers:

Clare Harris; Alastair Gunn

Key clients

Produce World Group

Fenmarc Produce

Deans Farms

Hunt & Coombs LLP

Hunt & Coombs LLP has a multi-disciplinary practice that advises on property, corporate and private client matters, often for landed estates and clients in the agricultural sector. Practice head Anna Spriggs in Peterborough is a specialist in agricultural property work and ecclesiastical law, handling complex and obscure matters of land law ranging from reverter rights to the acquisition and disposal of ecclesiastical properties including parsonages and glebe properties. She is supported by tax, trusts and estates partners Paddy Appleton in Oundle and Henry Anstey in Peterborough.

Practice head(s):

Anna Spriggs

Other key lawyers:

Paddy Appleton; Henry Anstey

Testimonials

‘Hunt and Coombs has the ability to deal with a wide range of legal issues.’

‘Anna Spriggs is excellent.’

Key clients

The Peterborough Diocesan Board of Finance

Handelsbanken Plc

Work highlights

  • Handling various matters for The Peterborough Diocesan Board of Finance including: Complex covenant releases and reverter provision, statutory vesting procedures, disposal of parsonages and land for development, disposal and management of glebe land, commercial leases and licences for church and/or education use – including acquisition of new church sites, promotion agreements, collaboration and option agreements.
  • Advised The Peterborough Diocesan Board of Finance on the sale of glebe land for development with complex S106 and title issues.

Tees Law

Tees Law provides agricultural legal services to clients in East Anglia and across the Eastern region, drawing together a multi-disciplinary team. Catherine Mowat is head of the Cambridge rural team and assists private landowners and farming families with the administration of complex rural estates and succession planning issues, as well as wills and powers of attorney. James Dowson and associate Alex Waples lend the practice considerable expertise in commercial and rural property transactions.

Practice head(s):

Catherine Mowat

Other key lawyers:

James Dowson; Alex Waples

Testimonials

‘I cannot praise Catherine Mowat enough for her knowledgeable advice , patience and professionalism in this matter.’

‘James Dowson is reliable and also ensures the commercial aspects of the deal are not lost in detail.’

‘Good knowledge of client base and provision of good pragmatic advice.’

‘James Dowson has depth of knowledge of the relevant issues for our mutual clients and ability to provide sound guidance through challenging issues.’

‘Alex Waples provided an excellent level of client care and had a full understanding of the property being sold.’

‘Our transaction with Tees was quite protracted and complex. At all stages we were kept well informed and updated regularly. The information we were given was well explained and relevant. We were well taken care of and treated respectfully and courteously. I would recommend Tees Law.’

‘Alex Waples was the person who handled our transaction. Everything was explained carefully and any questions answered knowledgeably and accurately. We were regularly contacted to be updated on progress. Meetings were conducted in a professional but comfortable and relaxed manner.’

‘Catherine Mowat is technically very good and is good at solving client problems by taking a holistic view of their affairs. She has great empathy when dealing with clients. She is also very easy to work with.’

Work highlights

  • Handled the sale of a large farming business as a going concern with multiple lots, to a consortium purchasers with clawback overage arrangements and elements of deferred consideration.
  • Acting for a family landowning trust in connection with the sale of 34 acres of land in Suffolk by way of option agreement to a major regional developer, Hopkins Homes.
  • Strategic estate planning advice for a farming family, including consideration of trusts, partnership and company interests, and the following sale of commercial site with a view to benefitting the next generation in a controlled and tax efficient way.

Spire Solicitors LLP

Spire Solicitors LLP has recently seen its flow of agricultural property work grow. Carl Heywood in Attleborough leads the practice, which brings together private client and property expertise to advise clients on probate and estate planning issues, disputes, succession planning claims, partnerships and the buying and selling of agricultural land. The firm also advises on renewable energy projects and environmental issues. Heywood is supported by private client specialist Alisdair Liddle and property litigator Jane Liddle.

Practice head(s):

Carl Heywood

Other key lawyers:

Alisdair Liddle; Jane Liddle

Testimonials

‘Always willing to help, go that extra mile to solve any issues.’

‘Friendly and helpful team.’