Commercial property: Cambridge in East Anglia

Birketts LLP

Clients of Birketts LLP praise its '‘London quality experience, speed and technical knowhow'. The firm is involved in high-value transactions and development projects both in East Anglia and across the UK. Katherine Herbert leads a five-partner commercial practice, bringing more that 30 years' experience to bear on strategic land development matters. Gavin Acheson has unrivalled experience in investment property work for institutional and high-net-worth investors, while Jeremy Stanton focuses predominantly on clean energy projects. Uo-and-coming partners Dwight Patten and Claudia Haisman-Green, and senior associate Gemma Goddard also play pivotal roles in the practice.

Practice head(s):

Katherine Herbert

Other key lawyers:

Gavin Acheson; Jeremy Stanton; Dwight Patten; Claudia Haisman-Green; Gemma Goddard; Andrew Shepherdson

Testimonials

‘Birketts have a great commercial property team with a variety of levels of experience so the right lawyer is selected for the job to achieve commercial value. Birketts is run efficiently – they are flexible with their clients and have embraced technology, which has been particularly important with the pandemic.’

‘Dwight Patten is an exceptional lawyer both in terms of the wealth of knowledge he has regarding commercial property, but also that he is able to think out of the box and deliver timely practical solutions for his in-house clients. Dwight is very reliable and has successfully assisted us with a number of large and complex leasehold transactions.’

‘London-quality experience, speed and technical knowhow. On a par with any large firm I have dealt with. Work hand in glove with clients real estate advisors to provide complete joined up service.’

‘Gavin Acheson – vast experience, strong commercial approach, provides practical advice, and knows which issues to focus on.

‘Andrew Shepherdson – a great team member and one for the future.’

‘The team is highly professional, always efficient and with excellent client contact skills. The documents are laid out clearly, are thorough, and always well edited.

‘Helen Stewart and her team provided excellent advice and support, and were available at all times to my family. The team led by Helen provided clear documentation and at all times met with our deadlines. Helen explained all details accurately and we felt extremely well supported and guided throughout the exchange of contract period.’

Key clients

Jesus College Oxford

Alchemie Technology Ltd

Cambridgeshire County Council

Work highlights

  • Advised Alchemie Technology Limited on the acquisition of premises at Heathfield House, Duxford.
  • Advising Jesus College, University of Oxford on an agreement for lease and lease with GP practices at Northgate House.
  • Advising Cambridgeshire County Council on the acquisition of Evolution Business Park, Cambridge.

Mills & Reeve LLP

Mills & Reeve LLP has 'a solid dependable property practice offering an attractive supporting breadth of services'. The firm has an 18-partner real estate practice across its office network, in which the Cambridge office plays a key role in national and cross-border transactions. The practice also handles high-profile regional matters, including the £96m purchase of Cambridge Retail Park for RPMI Railpen. Charles Staveley, who is head of the real estate investment group, is the lead partner in Cambridge. Michelle Cookson handles complex investment and development projects, Christine De Ferrars Green on strategic development projects, and Nick Finlayson-Brown on property investment and development projects. Newly promoted partner Joanna Davies and a strong team of associates, among them Laura Ludlow, Christopher Pike and Tom Nash, are key practitioners.

Practice head(s):

Charles Staveley

Other key lawyers:

Michelle Cookson; Christine de Ferrars Green; Nick Finlayson-BrownJoanna Davies; Laura Ludlow; Christopher Pike; Tom Nash

Testimonials

‘A solid dependable property practice offering an attractive supporting breadth of service in the debt, tax and corporate disciplines.’

‘Our lead relationship partner, Joanna Davies, has good transactional experience and is well versed in conducting a wider deal/project team.’

Key clients

Trinity College, Cambridge

RPMI Railpen (Railways Pension Fund)

Marshall Group Properties

Urban&Civic Group

St John’s College, Cambridge

Floreat Real Estate

Jesus College, Cambridge

Peterhouse College, Cambridge

University of Cambridge

Brookgate

The Howard Group of Companies

Kadans Science Partner

Pandox AB

Homes England

South Kensington Estates

Fidelity

La Salle Investment Management

Hines

Hillview Group

Lendlease

Autolus Limited

Achilles Therapeutics UK Limited

Hill Residential

O&H Properties

The Land Trust

Pigeon Group

Peabody Trust

Trinity Hall, Cambridge

Axis Land Partnerships Limited

Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Keepmoat Homes

The University of Northampton

Ipswich Borough Council

Cambridgeshire Constabulary

Cambridgeshire County Council

Work highlights

  • Acting for RPMI Railpen on acquisition of Cambridge Retail Park, Cambridge from Aberdeen Standard Investments in the largest Cambridge investment transaction of 2020.
  • Acting on behalf of Trinity College, Cambridge in relation to the disposal (by the grant of two 150 year leases) of Units 418 and 436 at Cambridge Science Park to a wholly owned subsidiary of Brockton Everlast.
  • Acting for Urban&Civic Group, the UK’s leading master developer, on the negotiation of a pioneering joint venture development agreement with Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council and Hampshire County Council and with the Wellcome Trust (as co-funder) for the development of the urban extension to Basingstoke (known as Manydown Project) for c.3,500 new homes (40% of which will be affordable) and a full range of community facilities including a 250-acre country park; two primary schools with land reserved for a potential new secondary school; two local centres; businesses; shops and community facilities, as a sustainable garden community.

Taylor Vinters

Taylor Vinters has a ‘diverse and dynamic team with professionalism, efficiency and pragmatism‘. The Cambridge and London offices support domestic and international clients, predominantly innovative and entrepreneurial businesses, on the full range of lease, sale and purchase transactions. The firm recently advised Melbourn Science Park Limited on its £46m sale to a major life science developer. ‘Her drive to deliver timely, effective outcomes for us is very clear‘, say clients of Helen Mutucumarana, who leads the practice along with the ‘exceptional‘ James Slinger. Senior associate Elliot Wilson and associates Becky Woodcock and Keven Fehmi are heavily involved in large-scale transactions.

Practice head(s):

Helen Mutucumarana; James Slinger

Other key lawyers:

Elliot Wilson; Becky Woddcock; Keven Fehmi

Testimonials

‘The real estate team is led by partners with a strong customer focus and attention to detail. Partners are closely involved in all work and transactions. They take time understand how our business needs to operate. Unlike some larger firms, we don’t get multiple departments and people dealing with each aspect of the work. We have one point of contact and we never have to start over with explaining what we need from them. The real estate team understands what our business needs, they just get it. ’

‘Helen Mutucumarana has been our key point of contact for six years. Her drive to deliver timely, effective outcomes for us is very clear. She is an excellent communicator, and we particularly value her willingness to consistently deliver to tight timescales, which has enabled us to move forwards swiftly and successfully with various projects.’

‘They are commercially focused and take time to understand underlying business needs. They have been able to break down complex lease negotiations into clear list of rights and obligations – this has been of great value in explaining to stakeholders the transactions. Very patient with a counter party who have not been as efficient!’

‘Helen Mutucumarana – approachable, friendly, professional. Delivered even under the stresses and strains of lockdown.’

‘They are a niche firm but with a fantastic range of clients. They are very hands on with their clients, and transactions are partner-led, which clients like. Fees are not an issue. TV work well and manage the whole process with their clients so we never feel like our position is compromised.’

‘They make you feel like you are an extension to their team – often when dealing with corporate support deals elsewhere, there can be a disconnect and you can feel like you are working independently.’

‘James Slinger is exceptional. His focus is always on his client’s needs and experience and how best to get the job done for them.’

‘From an outsider looking in they appear to be a diverse and dynamic team. I have worked with them across a number of varied transactions, from high-profile investments to very small industrial acquisitions. They cover it all with professionalism, efficiency and pragmatism.’

Key clients

Jockey Club Estates

Melbourn Science Park Limited

Babraham Research Campus

Elgin Energy Limited

Clearstone Energy Limited

Freeline Therapeutics Limited

GCR CamProp

Microbiotica Limited

Featurespace Limited

Gyroscope Therapeutics Limited

Rxcelerate Limited

Work highlights

  • Advising Clearstone Energy Ltd on numerous solar, gas and battery energy infrastructure projects with each up to 50MW capacity.
  • Advising Melbourn Science Park Limited on its £46m sale to a major life science developer.
  • Advising leading biotechnology company Freeline Therapeutics Limited on the lease of a new HQ building.

Ashtons Legal

Ashtons Legal handles a broad array of high-value real estate projects, from commercial property sales to major development projects. It has a niche in matters involving care homes and also provides what amounts to an in-house legal services for Savills. Practice head Magnus McManus predominantly acts for Cambridge colleges and private investors. Partner Sheila Small, who joined in late 2020 from an in-house role and leads on development projects, is 'very efficient, exceptionally reachable and extremely thorough'. Senior associate Charlotte Vallins 'exudes positivity and energy'.

Practice head(s):

Magnus McManus

Other key lawyers:

Sheila Small; Charlotte Vallins; Rhian Brook

Testimonials

‘They are unique in that they are so approachable and reachable. The fees are also very reasonable for the level of expertise and service that is provided.’

‘Sheila Small is very efficient, exceptionally reachable and extremely thorough in their work. This has been complemented by a practicality and pragmatism that is often harder to come by, and is of great value to our business in getting through the volume of work we have at the moment.’

‘Magnus McManus steered us towards simple pragmatic solutions wherever possible. This was especially important as there were a lot of unknowns. We were kept informed and involved throughout.’

‘Having met a lot of lawyers in my time, I would say that Magnus McManus is one of the smartest I’d met. I also found him very personable and never remote. We were very pleased with the result and the important part that Magnus and his team played in it.’

‘A practice which makes its clients feel important. Always responsive and available with advice. The team works flexibly and colleagues can provide updates on each others matters if necessary. Ashtons Legal has become an integral part of our team. ’

‘Charlotte Vallins exudes positivity and energy, always seeking the most effective outcome with her focus on the keys issues. Rhian Brook consistently delivered swift results whilst we were reacting to events in 2020.’

Key clients

Emmanuel College

Savills (UK) Limited

NIAB

Christ’s College

Stretham & Wilburton Community Land Trust Limited

Team Consulting Limited

Cambridge Satchel Limited

Michael McCalmont

House Group Developments Limited

Work highlights

  • Advising Team Consulting Limited  on the renewal of four leases and the construction of new buildings and the subsequent new lease of the same for this expanding engineering consultancy business.
  • Advising the National Institute of Agricultural Botany in connection with the construction and letting of industrial scale glasshouses to the University of Cambridge.
  • Advising Stretham & Wilburton Community Land Trust Limited (S&WCLT) on the development and subsequent ownership of affordable housing units (both shared ownership and affordable rent) and the future management of this pioneering Land Community Trust scheme.

BDB Pitmans

BDB Pitmans is praised for its 'valued and informative support, and great eye for commerciality'. Though the practice in Cambridge is small, it has established a strong presence since its launch in 2017, particularly in landlord and tenant matters for corporate occupiers, commercial and residential developments for both landowners and developers, and advice on property portfolios. The firm is also an industry leader in matters relating to Transport Works Act Orders. Simon Burson leads the practice, in which legal directors Katy Klingopulos and Emma Roche are key practitioners.

Practice head(s):

Simon Burson

Other key lawyers:

Katy Klingopulos

Testimonials

‘Our solicitor has been compassionate, understanding and will challenge any information to ensure our best interest. She has a vast knowledge of information relating to the process and transaction required to ensure a purchase.’

‘BDB Pitmans has a great eye for commerciality – they are able to not only work on the legal side but help on that side of things as well.’

‘Simon Burson has huge knowledge and experience and makes you feel comfortable that the job will get done. Katy Klingopulos is very efficient and knowledgeable and assisted me greatly last year in getting a deal across the line by the end of year deadline.’

Key clients

Cambridge Molecular Diagnostics Ltd

Chassis-Cab Limited

Inotec AMD Limited

East Suffolk Council

Fore Hill Ely LLP (Laragh Homes)

The Britten-Pears Foundation

Dulcedo Patisserie Limited

Multiple Sclerosis Society Nominees Limited

nChain

Hamelin Trust

Grafton Studios Limited and I.P.M Personal Pension Trustees Limited

Foundation for Language and Educational Centres

Harrods Limited

Work highlights

  • Acted for Inotec AMD Limited on the lease of additional office space at Cambridge Research Park.
  • Acting for East Suffolk Council on the Lowestoft Flood Risk Management Project, which is constructing flood walls and a major tidal barrier around the Port of Lowestoft and the surrounding areas.
  • Acted on the merger of three charities – The Britten-Pears Foundation, Snape Maltings, Aldeburgh Music Endowment Fund – and consequent transfer of assets, liabilities and undertakings, into one larger recipient charity, Britten Pears Arts Limited.

HCR Hewitsons

HCR Hewitsons was formed by the merger of Harrison Clark Rickerbys and Hewitsons in mid-2020. James Simpson and Ceri Riddell had already moved between the two firms prior to the merger; Simpson, who was Cambridge head of real estate at Hewitsons, now heads up the practice at the combined firm. The team, which also includes Graeme Sampson and Susanne Hinde, acts for developers, landowners, promoters, investors, landlords and tenants. Its work spans commercial property transactions and residential development projects, as well as the management of property portfolios.

Practice head(s):

James Simpson

Other key lawyers:

Ceri Riddell; Graeme Sampson; Susanne Hinde

Testimonials

‘Ceri Riddell is a very experienced commercial property lawyer.’

‘Ceri Riddell is a lawyer with a very personal approach. I have always been impressed with how she is prepared to understand the clients needs in tailoring her advice.’

Howes Percival LLP

Howes Percival LLP provides 'personal, friendly service and professional, pragmatic advice'. The firm has a broad practice that encompasses major residential development projects, commercial developments, property investment portfolio management, property finance, and leases and acquisitions in key sectors such as energy, leisure and tourism. Michaela Henson and Jonathan Greenhalgh lead the Cambridge property team, supported by experienced partner Steven Beach. Legal director Elizabeth Thomas is praised for her 'enthusiasm, tenacity and professionalism' in landlord and tenant matters.

Practice head(s):

Michaela Henson; Jonathan Greenhalgh

Other key lawyers:

Steven Beach; Elizabeth Thomas; Scott Smith

Testimonials

‘Personal, friendly service and professional, pragmatic advice from Jon Greenhalgh, Michaela Henson and Scott Smith.’

‘Attention to detail, efficiency and a willingness to embrace the support of others.’

‘This practice is unique where they have a wide a range of legal services within real estate; from construction advice, property acquisition, corporate services all the way to litigation with delinquent tenants. Their cross-pollination of a client’s goal/strategy from the outset and throughout the project is strong. The legal team are professional, knowledgeable and experienced. They are commercially reasonable in their pricing which is appreciated. ’

‘Elizabeth Thomas is by far, my stand out lawyer at Howes. She is hardworking, very responsive and has excellent follow through when asked to carry out a task. I value Beth’s enthusiasm, tenacity, professionalism and judgement calls as an experienced lawyer.’

‘Michaela Henson has always been a very helpful and commercial partner at Howes, she has used her position of strength to help me agree commercial reasonable legal rates so that I can proceed with a transaction with a view to carry over the gaps in their costs in the next bigger acquisitions. She believes in investing in long term relationships and partnerships with clients.’

‘Having had five years of dealing with Howes Percival LLP during the sale of our land, I can only say that I hold this practice in high esteem in which they handled and resolved several difficulties which resulted in a successful outcome! After such a lengthy time we were grateful for the respect always shown to us.’

‘Michaela Henson has always been extremely pleasant, helpful and understanding. We were extremely fortunate to have encountered such an outstanding person. I have learned a lot and appreciated the whole team at this practice.’

Key clients

University of Cambridge

Greene King PLC

Loughborough Town Properties Limited

Turnstone Estates Limited

East Cambs Trading Company Limited (trading as Palace Green Homes)

Welch’s Group Holdings Limited

Newcore Capital Management LLP

Ely Cathedral

Laragh House Developments Ltd

Luton Hoo Estate

Abcam PLC

Girton College, Cambridge

Enterprise Residential Development Limited

Raspberry Pi Foundation

Work highlights

  • Advised Loughborough Town Properties Limited on the purchase of a site of former RNIB accommodation in Loughborough.
  • Acted for landowners on the £4m sale of land by Promotion Agreement and following receipt of planning permission by conditional contract to Balfour Beatty.
  • Acted for the University of Cambridge granting a ten year lease of a prominent central Cambridge site (annual rent circa £930,000) to a serviced office provider. The transaction included a complex facilities management arrangement and banking aspects.

Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP

Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP is 'a forward-thinking firm focused on solutions rather than problems'. The firm-wide practice acts for global banks, developers, housing associations, science parks, colleges and high-net-worth individuals on complex transactions and property finance matters. Sarah Coates , who is known for her 'great clarity and proactivity', leads the practice and is supported by London-based social housing partner Mark Sellers, who frequently works from the Cambridge office. 'Courteous, responsive' senior associate Giorgia Clements frequently advises investors on the sale and purchase of property assets.

Practice head(s):

Sarah Coates

Other key lawyers:

Giorgia Clements

Testimonials

‘We were particularly impressed with how team members were willing to work alongside each other throughout a process. At no point did we feel that there could be a hiatus in progressing matters. Progress and the ability to react and problem-solve were consistently achieved and partner oversight was ongoing throughout, rather than merely in the form of a final review. ’

‘Sarah Coates operates with great clarity and proactivity. Sarah is open, accessible and calm, as well as being technically and commercially astute.’

‘Giorgia Clements operates with an attention to detail that is both thorough and accompanied by a strong instinct towards problem-solving, where options are carefully considered and clearly laid out.’

‘Giorgia Clements. Good to have in your side. Careful attention to detail. Tenacious and accurate.’

‘This is a forward-thinking firm focused on solutions rather than problems. They are a pleasure to work with and we feel we are in safe hands working with them.’

‘The individuals we work with are professional and efficient. They have made the effort to understand our business and what we need as a company to get our jobs done.’

‘I have been extremely impressed with the Penningtons commercial property team in Cambridge. All of my work has been during lockdown and the speed and accuracy of the work hints at a very well resourced team of highly competent people.’

Key clients

Molecular Dimensions Limited

Wren Therapeutics Limited

Max Barney

Blues Property Limited

Rezatec Limited

HSBC UK Bank PLC

Samsung Cambridge Solution Centre Ltd

Greenwoods GRM

Greenwoods GRM continues to build its presence in the Cambridge market, and clients praise the 'excellent service' the firm offers. It frequently handles real estate transactions for clients in the education, technology and hospitality sectors, as well as working on strategic land matters and development projects. Kelly Peck moved to Barr Ellison LLP, but the firm hired partner Lisa Mantle from Howes Percival LLP to lead the Cambridge team, which works closely with the larger real estate team in Peterborough.

Other key lawyers:

Lisa Mantle

Testimonials

‘Excellent service – they always stick to their quotes with no hassle.’

Key clients

Robertson Sands Eco Developments Ltd

A & L Kirby Property Ltd

Escape Fitness Limited

Work highlights

  • Representing Robertson Sands Eco Developments Ltd in the development and finance of a development site and resultant sales of residential units.
  • Representing A & L Kirby Property Limited in the commercial letting of a number of units on a key development site.
  • Representing Escape Fitness Limited to assist with their property portfolio.

Tees Law

Tees Law is known for its recent work in strategic promotion and hybrid agreements, both in Cambridgeshire and also surrounding counties, though its broad practice also handles the acquisition of residential development sites, agricultural land. It also advises on landlord and tenant work. Its recent highlights include assisting a local charity with the disposal of a strategic parcel of agricultural land for more than £18m. James Dowson provides 'prompt and efficient service with a high level of expertise'. The firm hired associate Piers Woods from Brachers to bolster the team.

Practice head(s):

James Dowson

Other key lawyers:

Piers Woods; Catherine Wilson

Testimonials

‘They offer a wide range of in-house services – the partners are well experienced.’

‘James Dowson provides prompt and efficient service with a high level of expertise.’

‘I’m very pleased with the continued quality and depth of service received from the property conveyancing team, both with purchases and sales.’

‘I have worked with James Dowson for many years now and he continues to deliver good, balanced advice in a timely manner. I have and still would recommend him to business colleagues.’

‘Catherine Wilson has been dealing with property sales for us on our last two sites and has proved to be very thorough, whilst actively pursuing the conveyance process and keeping things moving when other firms aren’t quite so active.’

Work highlights

  • Advising a local charity in connection with the disposal of a strategic parcel of agricultural land for over £18m to a Cambridge College for commercial development.
  • Advising a property investor in connection with the refinance of a portfolio of in excess of 40 city centre Cambridge properties and the subsequent transfer of the entire portfolio to a limited company.
  • Advising a confidential client on their large and varied portfolio worth £20m.