'The personal approach is unique and you feel that the job is being done in the optimal way for you as the client,' says a client of Ashtons Legal. Jonathan Long in Bury St Edmunds leads a three-partner practice. Jeanette Dennis in Cambridge has 30 years' experience in acting for East Anglian farmers. The 'extremely efficient' Simon Cunningham in Norwich also has a long track record in acting for farmers, landowners, and agricultural businesses. He focuses mainly on compulsory purchase matters and renewable energy projects in the rural sector. Ipswich-based senior associate Rebecca Gatens is highly recommended.
Agriculture and estates in East Anglia
‘From my experience with them, Ashtons Legal make full use of technology in all communications which is far more efficient and often speedier than those legal firms that still rely on paper and post.‘
‘Simon Cunningham was my main contact and he always dealt with our communications in an efficient and knowledgeable way; even to the point of making contact out of office hours and taking calls when away from the office.‘
‘The personal approach is unique to understand what the client really needs. You feel that the job is being done in the optimal way for you as the client. Ashtons is pragmatic and the work is undertaken efficiently without being drawn out like competing firms.‘
‘The understanding of my business and wider strategy is a differentiator. They can see the big picture to ensure the end objective is achieved without excessive time taken from me. I can leave a project with the Ashton’s team knowing that it will be completed efficiently, enabling me to focus on my business.‘
‘The firm’s strength is in the bringing together of specialists in all the different fields for the benefit of their clients. They have also demonstrated how well the individuals work separately but also as part of a team.‘
‘We have worked specifically with Simon Cunningham on more than one occasion now. He is extremely efficient and competent in his work and puts himself out to make sure the client is fully happy.‘
- Instructed by two brothers in connection with consideration for inheritance tax purposes gifts and to include succession planning for the next generation; important as the decisions made ensure that this significant high-profile farming partnership continues for at least two more generations; interrelated six transfers for deeds of gift; related tax planning and wills with the farm partnership.
- Advising farm partnership regarding Inheritance Tax and property issues particularly in view of potential for development on an old air field site: particularly important for ring fencing and protecting existing Inheritance Tax reliefs before uplift of land values on securing development potential on planning.
- Acting in the redemption of a vendor loan taken out in 2016 for in excess of £20m. Staged repayments, involving development land; the site being gradually built out and stage payments to reflect that development coupled with various sales off and cross easements; interrelated restrictive covenants.
The team at Birketts LLP is 'capable, technically knowledgeable but also approachable'. The firm has one of the largest specialist agriculture teams in England and acts for a national client base in matters of ecclesiastical law, public access, aggregates extraction, renewable energy, property sales, tenancies, succession and taxation. In Norwich, practice head Jack Royall and agricultural property specialist Chris Coupland are the key practitioners. James Dinwiddy continues to build the practice's presence in Ipswich for high-value property transactions. Up-and-coming partners Rachel McKillop-Wilkin in Cambridge and Sophia Key in Norwich are recommended for agricultural property issues.
‘The firm is strong across the board in this sector with several capable and approachable individuals.‘
‘Capable, technically knowledgeable but also approachable – not ones to hide behind the telephone.‘
‘Excellent response times, going above and beyond to ensure matters progress diligently and as expeditiously as possible.‘
‘James Dinwiddy has a very pragmatic approach, is commercially-minded and got the deal done.‘
‘The agriculture and estates team has a strong and broad capability which sets them apart from their competitors. I am always confident that in making referrals to the team, my clients will be receiving honest and competent advice. The team always works well as part of a wider professional advisory group and clients always feel comfortable that they are represented by the best.‘
‘Senior associate Tom Verrill’s ability to understand the key barriers to a deal and provide potential solutions marks him apart from his competitors. He has a detailed understanding of the application of law which allows him to represent his clients’ interests better than others. His communication with his opposite numbers and his clients ensures that all those with whom he is dealing know exactly what is happening with their project.‘
‘The close team within the agriculture and estates department has excellent working knowledge of the industry and regardless of who you deal with you feel confident in the advice provided. The team is always available and is always quick to respond or call. I feel confident in recommending the team to my clients.‘
‘The individuals within the team are personable and professional and you get the sense they really care about the work they are doing. Having worked closely with James Dinwiddy and Imogen Grainger they were always friendly, approachable and open in the advice being given and cut through the normal jargon to get to the crux of matter. The main qualities I valued were their clear and concise advice and willingness to work with me for the benefit of our mutual client.‘
‘Birketts offers a degree of specialism that gives comfort not only to their clients but to counsel who are instructed by them. They are in my opinion, at the top of their field when it comes to agricultural disputes and issues.‘
‘Sophia Key is a consummate professional, with a depth of personal and professional experience that not only makes her very easy to deal with, but also inspires confidence. She is personable and astute.‘
‘The most comprehensively resourced practice in Norfolk by a distance – well led by key partners with profile and gravitas. Able to work nimbly to deliver a broad range of work effectively, notably in the transnational and infrastructure markets.‘
‘A more plural, open dialogue delivering clear and pragmatic advice. Characters of partners and associates well balanced – Jack Royall, Chris Coupland and Sophia Key.‘
‘The firm has strength in depth and good knowledge of its subject area, and it is accessible and available.‘
‘Tom Verrill , Chris Coupland, Katy Moss and James Dinwiddy. They have a good depth of knowledge, offer clear advice and they are readily available and turn matters around very quickly.‘
- Representing a range of clients in the negotiation of an option agreement and lease relating to cables crossing Norfolk from Hornsea Project Three Offshore Wind Farm and an option agreement and easement relating to cables crossing Norfolk from Norfolk Vanguard and Norfolk Boreas Offshore Wind Farms.
'The team is responsive and provides top-quality advice in an efficient and cost-effective manner,' remarks a client of HCR Hewitsons, which has 12 partners across its offices. The bulk of the practice is in Cambridge, where practice head Denise Wilkinson and key partner Charles Hewitson are the lead practitioners. They handle tax, trust and succession issues for rural clients; options, contracts and promotions for landowners; and property matters for a nationwide client base of farmers, landed estates and large agricultural businesses. Legal director James Frankland is also recommended.
‘The team is responsive and provides top-quality advice in an efficient and cost-effective manner. It believes in building long-term relationships and is always prepared to go the extra mile.‘
‘Denise Wilkinson is exceptional, she provides the very highest level of advice in a practical and fully engaged manner. Her manner and delivery ensures her work is completed quickly and always on time and to budget.‘
‘An excellent team with the ability to deal professionally with a wide range of complex and strategic matters.‘
‘Denise Wilkinson is extremely knowledgeable on a wide range of legal matters. She is very thorough in her advice, Denise always provides a pragmatic solution and gives consideration to the wider picture and the impact on our business.‘
‘James Frankland was contactable, helpful and explained things very well.‘
‘Denise Wilkinson is an excellent solicitor – capable, knowledgeable , and willing to go out of her way to assist her clients.‘
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
The Philpot Family and Associated Companies
The estates group at Howes Percival LLP in Norwich acts primarily for substantial landowners, trusts and partnerships. It handles agricultural property matters including farm and estate sales, purchases and tenancies, long-term funding, environmental schemes and the registration of titles. Its estate management work for landed estates is closely tied to the firm's expertise in tax planning, succession issues and farming partnerships. Catherine Scott leads the estates practice and the private client services group. Wealth management specialist Stuart Maggs also plays a key role in the practice. Newly promoted partner Katharine Danks is a Fellow of the Agricultural Law Association.
Other key lawyers:
The Cholmondeley Estates (Norfolk and Cheshire)
The Holkham Estate
Mills & Reeve LLP handles the complete range of matters relating to rural land, including some of the highest-value and most complex deals nationally. It advises traditional farming clients, several landowning Cambridge and Oxford colleges, pension funds, landed estates and substantial national farming businesses. Michael Aubrey, who is one of the heads of the firm's national agribusiness practice, and Amanda Tagg in Cambridge, along with Norwich-based Tim Ryan, are the firm's key partners in East Anglia. Their clients are located throughout the UK and overseas.
Barclays Bank Plc
Strutt and Parker Farms Limited
John Innes Foundation
Christ Church Oxford
Trinity College Cambridge
The Countryside Restoration Trust
- Acted for Strutt & Parker (Farms) Limited, one of the largest commercial farming operations in the UK, on the legal aspects of its sale to Robigus.
- Acted for TOF Corporate Trustee on the sale of an agricultural estate in three lots; this included the surrender of tenancies and the sale of 880 acres and a large Grade II farmhouse together with other outbuildings.
- Advised MHS Farms Limited on the purchase of Wrydelands and Dearloves Farm consisting of 1,000 acres.
'The depth of knowledge, particularly in agricultural matters, is excellent,' says a client of Roythornes Solicitors. The firm operates as a single agriculture practice across five offices, two of which are in East Anglia. Julie Robinson in Alconbury is the key partner, with Tom Foottit working in both Alconbury and Spalding. The firm acts for farmers, tenants and developers, as well as some family estates. It primarily handles property and private client matters involving agricultural land and estates. Its property work ranges from residential and small leasehold arrangements to complex development and financing arrangements. Senior associate Kirsten Rimmer is also recommended.
Other key lawyers:
‘The depth of knowledge at Roythornes, particularly in agricultural matters, is excellent.‘
‘Julie Robinson is able to grasp matters immediately and turn the job around efficiently and cost-effectively.‘
The Woodland Trust
- Acting in the purchase of a substantial commercial and residential farm in Cambridgeshire.
- Advising on the implications of buying a company with the benefit of an Agricultural Holdings Act tenancy of a fully equipped farm.
- Advising on a joint venture between two substantial East Anglian farming estates.
The farms and estates practice at Taylor Vinters in Cambridge is 'joined up, collaborative, responsive and pragmatic'. Its work consists of large, complex and high-value farm transactions, Agricultural Holdings Act tenancy work, succession and tax planning, farming partnerships, and all aspects of land development projects. Practice head Rupert Melville-Ross and head of real estate Helen Mutucumarana are the lead partners, while Adrian Horwood-Smart is 'a master of his craft and top of his game'. Andrew Williamson handles land sales and landlord/tenant matters. Associates Louise Moore, who handles all aspects of farms and estates work, and Thomas Andrews, who deals with agricultural property matters, are also recommended.
Other key lawyers:
‘Joined up, collaborative, responsive and pragmatic.‘
‘The team at Taylor Vinters has responsive, highly intelligent, deeply knowledgeable, efficient and effective purveyors of jurisprudence. They are also pragmatic when required. What more can one ask?‘
‘Taylor Vinters is so good that I don’t use competitors in the field of residential estate management. My interface is when other law firms act on the other side in transactions. Adrian Horwood-Smart is an absolute gem, a master of his craft and top of his game. Andrew Williamson is out of the same mould and exceptionally bright. Both – for what it’s worth – are very nice people, indeed.‘
‘With unrivalled knowledge in agricultural law, Taylor Vinters has dependable and approachable solicitors. They have a long-established reputation amongst the farming community and are able to advise on a broad range of agricultural matters.‘
‘Rupert Melville-Ross is a well known and greatly respected solicitor. Andrew Williamson has strong technical knowledge of agricultural law.‘
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
Braemar Agricultural Land Investments Limited
E W Pepper Ltd
- Handled a multimillion-pound farm sale for Threlfall, which included a complex first registration prior to the sale of 350 acres of arable land and woodland and an extensive range of modern and traditional farm buildings. The sale included holdover rights, the construction of a new accessway and a complicated water sharing arrangement between ten plus properties.
- The breaking up and division of a major 10,000-acre estate held in trust and the appointment to new trustees and beneficiaries. This highly complex transaction involved multiple beneficiaries over multiple jurisdictions and a variety or agricultural and residential properties and complex overage arrangements.
- Handled the purchase of land at Shortgrove Estate for an overseas investor.
Barker Gotelee in Ipswich handles large agricultural matters in East Anglia, combining property, tax and trusts advice to service farming families across the region. The firm draws heavily on the strength of its private client practice, but lead partner Andrew Nicholson has 25 years' experience in agricultural law and property transactions. His work includes the sale of land for residential development. Property litigator Mark Wrinch, who joined from Birkett Long LLP, and property-focused associate Miles Coates are also recommended.
‘Communication is key – they return calls and get things done. What more could one ask?‘
‘Miles Coates is knowledgeable, efficient and, as his names suggests, goes the extra mile.‘
‘Barker Gotelee is a reliable law firm that consistently delivers on a wide range of property-related transactions.‘
‘Andrew Nicholson is a very diligent lawyer and an extremely strong communicator. His collaborative and pragmatic approach allows for issues to be dealt with promptly and solutions to be found.‘
Insight Agriculture Ltd
British Christmas Tree Growers Association
Trustees of the Monks Hall Estate, Syleham (as executors of the late John Leader)
Wentworth Nominee Trust
- Advised Trustees of the Monks Hall Estate, Syleham, on the sale of 785-acre estate comprising arable land, grazing, a 15th Century Manor House and a number of other properties for £8m.
- Acting for Wentworth Nominee Trust in the sale of agricultural land in Yorkshire to the existing tenant. Simultaneously dealing with the surrender of other tenanted land to enable the sale of that land for a residential development of approximately 200 houses.
The agricultural and rural affairs group at Greene & Greene has six partners handling trust and taxation matters, farm sales and purchases, employment contracts, succession planning and business property issues. In 2019, the firm advised on poultry rearing agreements across five separate farms and it continued to administer 85 trusts, many of which include agricultural property. Jonathan Mathers leads the practice and he is 'an incredible, highly trusted solicitor'. Clients praise the 'very good group of solicitors offering a very personal service'.
‘Great knowledge among a very good group of solicitors offering a very personal service.‘
‘Jonathan Mathers is an incredible solicitor who is always happy to pick up the phone. He is a swift communicator and is highly trusted. I have no hesitation in recommending him.‘
- Acted for owner of a large estate in the same family since the 17th Century in registering a highly complex and valuable title at the Land Registry.
- Advising three company clients in a linked transaction involving five farms, securing long-term poultry rearing agreements to ensure future viability of the farms.
- Representing a client in a number of transactions to piece back together a large agricultural estate that was fragmented over the last century.
Greenwoods GRM in Peterborough advises agribusinesses and landowners on a wide range of property, commercial, employment, regulatory and private client matters. Associate Emily Pumfrey, who is a member of the Agricultural Law Association, leads the practice and advises on property matters including farm acquisitions and disposals, agricultural tenancies and commercial investments. She is 'consistently able to solve problems and find solutions that protect her clients' interests'. Corporate partner Alastair Gunn plays a key role, as do key members of the employment, private client and litigation practices.
Other key lawyers:
‘Greenwoods has a friendly and approachable practice, that is small enough to retain the personal feel, but large enough to offer wide-ranging advice.‘
‘I have worked with Emily Pumfrey on a number of projects. Emily is a rising star with unique insights into the world of rural property. Emily always adopts a pragmatic approach and is consistently able to solve problems and find solutions that protect her clients’ interests.‘
RE Evans Farms
- Acted for the majority shareholders of an agribusiness in the buyout of minority interests, ensuring the company returned to family ownership and its traditional roots.
- Acting for an agribusiness in the sale of its onion processing factory to Aerotron Limited.
- Advised a farming business on a discretionary trust/ estate planning issue for a family partnership.
Hunt & Coombs LLP is known for its property, trusts and probate work, which are key issues for its agricultural clients. The practice has particular experience in advising landed estates, with its recent work including refinancing matters with a value in excess of £10m. In Peterborough, lead partner Anna Spriggs is an agricultural and ecclesiastical property expert and Henry Anstey has extensive experience in dealing with rural estates, as does Paddy Appleton in Oundle.
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 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 on a number of sides all in excess of £1m.
- Acted for The Peterborough Diocesan Board of Finance in the £10m sale of glebe land for development (Kettering) with complex S106 and title issues.
- For Deene Park family estate, the firm handled the drafting of numerous farm business tenancies for the estate including a surrender of an Agricultural Holdings Act tenancy.
Tees Law has a multi-disciplinary team in its Cambridge office that acts for clients ranging from small family farms to rural estates and large agricultural businesses. Head of the private client practice Catherine Mowat has 20 years’ experience in advising private landowners and farming families on the administration of complex rural estates and succession planning, as well as wills and powers of attorney. Commercial property partner James Dowson and associate Alex Waples handle farm and land transactions, as well as leaseholds and development projects.
‘Tees has great depth of experience across the rural sector and we have worked with a number of their private client team over the years on a variety of straightforward and complex estates where they have been proactive and open to exploring all avenues to ensure sound advice and positive outcomes.‘
‘Catherine Mowat has considerable experience of dealing with farming estates and manages to calmly tread what can often be a difficult line between the commercial and legal realities of a case and the individual client’s needs and aspirations.‘
‘A very competent team with depth and strength in all departments – commercial, farming and estate planning. They are always contactable and approachable. In the world of economics, many law firms are more interested in the fee than actually delivering the service. Tees do deliver what they say. I have used Tees for 47 years, and always found them to give a fantastic service. In a recent transaction, another regional firm acted on the other side and the client was continually told they were too busy to deal with the transaction, and if they wanted the matter to be expedited, they were told it would cost an additional £700 plus VAT! They were very unhappy and have now moved part of their business to Tees as they have seen the service Tees are giving.‘
‘Alex Waples is excited about working for Tees. He wants to go from a newly qualified solicitor to partner and wants to take on the responsibility and to deliver the very best service.‘
‘Tees is a regional firm but with the expertise to undertake high-quality work. The firm has a long history of acting for farming clients which means that they understand the needs of the rural community. Also, it is clear from their activity and influence within the local agricultural community that they really care about this sector, supporting rural initiatives and charitable events. As Tees is not London-based, they are able to offer excellent client service combined with value for money. There is no other firm like it for expertise, breadth of service and a dedicated, forward looking and problem-solving, rural team.‘
‘I have worked with a number of the team at Tees – each with individual strengths and qualities. Most recently, Alex Waples acted for me in the purchase of a farm. Alex’s attention to detail was notable, he clearly has an outstanding knowledge of his field and was attentive and punctilious in all communications with me and other parties. Alex was assiduous in building a rapport with me as a new client and, as a result, I will be sure to work with him again and recommend him to others. Alex’s keen and thorough understanding of the law was apparent throughout, leading to a smooth and successful purchase, and a large financial saving in part.‘
- Diverse advice and service to a farming client across several practice areas in connection with its landholding of in excess of 1,200 acres and their diverse property portfolio, worth in excess of £15m.
- Estate review and sale of strategic parts of a farm for a farming business.
- Numerous on-going matters for a developer client with rural landholdings.