'For a regional practice, the depth, breadth and quality of expertise is excellent', says a client of Birketts LLP in Ipswich. The firm has a deep bench of talent handling strategic land transactions, property investment and portfolio management, property finance, pension fund real estate investment and much more. Practice head Chris Schwer calls upon many partners including the 'responsive, approachable and highly knowledgeable' Stuart Raven, who routinely deals with the sale and purchase of large investment properties and with high-value leases; Oliver Crichton, who has niche expertise in the area of pension funds investing in commercial property; 'top-tier legal mind' Paul Squire; and utilities specialist Vicki Chilton.
Commercial property: elsewhere in East Anglia in East Anglia
‘Paul Squire, a partner in the commercial property team, is an unbelievable recruitment for the firm. He is a top-tier legal mind at regional pricing! Thoughtful, determined, very hands on and commercially astute.‘
‘Paul Squire is personable and calm in negotiations, yet incredibly effective.‘
‘For a regional practice, the depth, breadth and quality of expertise is excellent, with specialists in most areas of law. However, this is applied with commerciality and pragmatism and with the client’s aims and goals at heart. I can think of no other East Anglian practices that can provide all of that.‘
‘Stuart Raven is an excellent real estate partner, responsive, approachable, hands on, and highly knowledgeable. Despite giving him a substantial workload, he remains fully focused and on top of all matters.‘
‘Birketts has dealt with my property legals for a number of years and is unfailingly dependable. They ensure deadlines are hit and sound pragmatic advice is given.‘
‘Senior associate Mark Elgar has been fantastic for us. His approach is efficient, pragmatic and is a pleasure to work with. He is always willing to pick up the phone at anytime and is a great soundboard for us as a business.‘
‘Since its appointment by Medigold Health in the midst of a business critical property dispute, Birketts LLP has proven to be responsive, commercially aware and dependable within sometimes fraught circumstances.‘
‘Senior associate Amanda Timcke in particular has been tenacious in driving negotiations towards a satisfactory conclusion and has demonstrated a proactive desire to protect our interests.‘
‘In commercial property, the firm has a unified and cohesive team. They work together to provide a really clear, professional and streamlined legal service. They are contactable and readily available, ensuring matters continue to be dealt with efficiently and on time, consistently providing a smooth transition to completion even when unexpected interruptions arise.‘
‘Amanda Timcke, senior associate, is commercially aware, highly knowledgeable and extremely personable. Proactive and supportive, Amanda always takes the time to understand every aspect to ensure it is the best arrangement for a business with a complex structure. Amanda is friendly, competent and committed. A pleasure to work with, would not hesitate to recommend.‘
‘They have an excellent, detailed knowledge and understanding of our business which means that they interpret our instructions and procedures very well. This is very beneficial for both existing and new projects.‘
‘We have worked with several of the team for many years on a variety of transactions and therefore there is a strong level of background knowledge on all of our sites which means we never feel like we are having to start afresh.‘
‘As well as their intelligence and legal acumen, the Birketts team generally tends to be staffed by intelligent, self-motivated and efficient individuals who all strive to establish and maintain high standards. Not all law firms offer the same level of service on a consistent basis.‘
‘Chris Schwer is ultimately responsible for our account and is our “go to” point of contact for all legal matters.‘
IWG Group Services (UK) Limited
The Electricity Network Company Limited
GTC Pipelines Limited
Open Fibre Networks Limited
Independent Water Networks Limited
Independent Pipelines Limited
Independent Power Networks Limited
Independent Heating Networks Limited
M7 Real Estate Ltd
Hopkins Homes Ltd
The Churchmanor Estates Company Plc
- The firm has a dedicated team working on property transactions for the utilities industry. The team deals with approximately 1,000 transactions per annum of freehold and leasehold acquisitions of operational land for network operators of electricity gas fibre and water networks. The client installed over 1.4 million new gas, electricity, water and fibre connections for national house builders and regional builders last year.
- Exclusively retained on all acquisition, disposal, plot sale and strategic land work for leading regional housebuilder Hopkins Homes Ltd.
- The firm has a dedicated team working on transactions in the SIPP/SSAS sector (approx. 750 completed transactions per annum). The transactions include dealing with freehold and leasehold acquisitions and disposals, refinancing and asset management work to include new and renewal leases, lease assignments, underlettings and lease surrenders.
At Ashtons Legal, 'the team is always very friendly and there seems to be good communication between colleagues', according to a client. The practice is led from Cambridge by Magnus McManus but the firm has significant expertise in its other offices across East Anglia. Ron Clare and 'incredibly thorough and conscientious' associate Katie Noble in Bury St Edmunds and, in Ipswich, senior associates Simon Burnip and Alexandra Chater are the key contacts. Clare has specialised in commercial property and secured lending law for more than 25 years, acting for corporate, private and institutional clients in East Anglia and beyond.
‘The team is always very friendly. The main standout point is that there seems to be good communication between colleagues. At previous firms, it has been a struggle to push a job forward if someone is out of the office as no one else knows what is going on. I haven’t had this problem with Ashtons.‘
‘Katie Noble works extremely hard and is always dedicated to the project she’s working on. She is incredibly thorough and conscientious which is exactly what I need with my business.‘
‘Simon Burnip is my key contact. He understands the pressures of my business and readily adapts his dairy to help manage my business. However, he will not let these pressures sway his view or reduce the quality of his advice. This calm characteristic is very reassuring as I never doubt that his advice will be clear and correct and so can let me take a view on any risk that I may be taking. If, during an instructed piece of work, Simon needs specialist advice he will either ask me if I wish him to glean this advice or, as we enjoy several years of a strong relationship, will get the advice and forward it to me as he knows I will need it. I feel very confident that my business is getting the best protection and advice that it can.‘
‘Ron Clare has been excellent and led me quietly and politely and had no problems answering oft-needed repeating of difficult issues.‘
Savills (UK) Limited
Flip Out Limited
Stretham and Wilburton Community Land Trust
- Represented Abel Homes Ltd is connection with disposals of affordable housing and shared equity plots as part of its development of two sites at Watton (Site 1) and Swaffham (Site 2), both in Norfolk. This involved the completion of development agreements and phased land completions as plots reached golden brick stage.
- Represented Kevin Mayhew Limited in the disposal of its premises near Stowmarket, Suffolk, for a business park development and the completion of a leaseback of part of the site to enable it to continue running its publishing business.
- Acted for Drummonds Bathrooms Limited in connection with the extension (by way of a reversionary lease) of the lease of its flagship showroom premises at King’s Road, Chelsea.
'They have complete depth of skills to cope with all property and construction issues - a one-stop shop', remarks a client of Buckles Solicitors LLP in Peterborough. From development work and the administration of property portfolios to mineral extraction, landfill development and all aspects of landlord and tenant law, the firm has a broad-ranging practice. Michael Rabbett leads the commercial property group and deals with high-value residential development matters. The 'efficient, knowledgeable and helpful' Colleen Gostick and up-and-coming partner Chris Mundell also play key roles.
Other key lawyers:
‘They have complete depth of skills to cope with all property and construction issues – a one-stop shop.‘
‘I deal with Colleen Gostick, who is outstanding. She is very efficient, responds very quickly to any communication, is knowledgeable, helpful and pleasant with it. Michael Blank, Michael Rabbett and solicitor James Munn share the same qualities. Competitors l have had experience of acting for the other side do not share these qualities, in some cases they should be reported for crass incompetency.‘
'The team is large enough to provide a continuity of service but small enough to make the customer experience very personal and attentive,' says a client of Butcher Andrews. Residential development specialist Chris Hoxley and the 'attentive, knowledgeable and pragmatic' Helen Hemingray, who work in both in Fakenham and Holt, are the key contacts. Hoxley advises both housebuilders and a large landed estate on development work. Hemingray handles property refinancings, landlord and tenant matters, development projects and agricultural matters.
Other key lawyers:
‘The team is large enough to provide a continuity of service but small enough to make the customer experience very personal and attentive.‘
‘Helen Hemingray is a very attentive, knowledgeable and pragmatic source of advice.‘
‘It is a small rural practice but gives unbelievably good service and punches well above its weight.‘
‘Chris Hoxley is extremely professional and makes us, as the client, feel incredibly important and he will always work to our timeframe. He is very sharp and his advice always spot on. Nothing is too much of an issue for him.‘
‘We have recently changed to this firm and have found it to be efficient and reliable.‘
‘Our contact is very pleasant and helpful, and gets thing done as soon as asked to do so.‘
‘The team is friendly, knowledgeable and efficient.‘
‘The team has attention to detail and enthusiasm to ensure the best outcome for the client, even in challenging situations.‘
‘Helen Hemingray and Chris Hoxley can’t do enough to help. Nothing is ever too much or too far away. They provide solutions to issues as they arise. They are down to earth and turn law into an understandable process. Helen is always available and goes over and above. She has a common-sense approach. I can’t put into worlds the support she has given our business over the last few years.‘
‘Butcher Andrews is an excellent rural firm of lawyers.‘
‘Chris Hoxley has gone above and beyond for many mutual clients.‘
East Anglian Property Limited
The Holkham Estate
Astris Homes East Anglia Limited
Derek Foreman House Builders Ltd
Grocott & Murfit Ltd
Fakenham Properties Limited
- Advising East Anglian Property Limited on various lettings of retail, office and industrial premises throughout East Anglia and in London.
- Advising Vello Ltd on various options and purchases, and ongoing developments, including the sale of a block of seven new affordable homes to Cotman Housing Association Ltd for more than £1m.
- Advising Constitution Motors Ltd on the sale of former showroom premises with residential planning consent in Norwich.
'The team is very efficient and great advice is delivered with no fuss and at a very reasonable cost,' says a client of Greene & Greene in Bury St Edmunds. The firm draws on its experience in engineering and manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, pension fund transactions, healthcare, portfolio investment, warehousing and distribution to generate high-value property transactions. 'Very responsive and organised' partner Neil Grigg leads the commercial property practice, in which Tim Mendes da Costa stands out for his work on large-scale development projects. At associate level, Julia Cardy and Julia Routledge are among the names to note.
‘The team is very efficient and great advice is delivered with no fuss and at a very reasonable cost.‘
‘Neil Grigg is excellent – very responsive and organised. He spots the issues very quickly and is highly experienced.‘
MSD (Merck, Sharp & Dohme Ltd)
AFT Fluorotec Limited
Hartog Hutton Developments
The Vitec Group plc
Masterlord Estates Ltd
HPB Management Ltd (part of Holiday Property Bond)
Brightwell Estates Ltd
Astex Therapeutics Limited
- Advised global pharmaceuticals giant MSD (Merck, Sharp & Dohme Ltd) on the acquisition of significant additional London office space.
- Acted for private landowners in the promotion of a significant strategic development site in Cambridgeshire to a national housebuilder.
- Numerous development sites acquired, set up, developed and sold on for busy and prominent regional residential developer Hartog Hutton.
'For a regional firm, they can compare themselves favourably with similar-sized London practices,' says a client of Greenwoods GRM in Peterborough. 'Their pragmatic approach to difficulties is refreshing,' remarks another. The firm handles a broad range of high-value work for clients in key sectors such as education, food and wholesale, charities and investment. Samantha East and Karin Horsley, who acts for both domestic and international clients, are the lead partners. Senior associates Ann-Marie Clow and May Ozga are also central to the practice.
‘The legal team is helpful and informative with a broad range of expertise. They host regular breakfast seminars to provide their clients and those in the relevant sectors with updates on key changes to legislation and legal precedents.‘
‘I find the individual team members I have worked with to be very easy to work with. They are supportive and their knowledge base enables them to offer a pragmatic approach to the matters at hand.‘
‘The Barclays corporate team has an extremely strong relationship with the Greenwoods GRM corporate team and this close working relationship has been instrumental in providing excellent service for our mutual clients. I have also been impressed with the professionalism and tenacity in working to getting a transaction over the line.‘
‘I was extremely impressed with May Ozga the senior associate in the real estate team in Peterborough, May worked tirelessly in ensuring a time critical and complex transaction was completed within strict deadlines, always proving regular updates for the client and the bank.‘
‘The staff show well-rounded experience in commercial property law and good knowledge of charity requirements. For a regional firm, they can compare themselves favourably with similar-sized London practices.‘
‘From our 18 months’ association the staff we have dealt with have helped to ease our transfer to the firm. The knowledge and experience in the commercial field has assisted in ensuring the continued success of our charity. In particular, Emily Pumfrey and Stephen Illingworth have helped the transition. Reda Paul has shown her worth on our residential portfolio.‘
‘My GP practice has historically used Greenwoods for many years and many generations of GPs. The reason is that the partners, associates and staff we have worked with over that time have always been personable, contactable and knowledgeable with an ability to understand our requirements and show patience with our ignorance of legal workings and an innate ability to make unfathomable legal technicalities and jargon understandable by the lay person. Their pragmatic approach to difficulties is refreshing and their common sense approach in the face of obstinacy from third parties’ legal teams is refreshing.‘
‘In recent years our main contact has been primarily with Kelly Peck in Cambridge but also Ann-Marie Clow in Peterborough. They have both been involved in the selling onwards of our main practice premises a couple of years ago and more recently over the last year, renegotiating a new lease with the incumbent practice and NHS England. Both involved, to us, complex legal difficulties and difficult lengthy procrastinations on the part of the third parties involved but they they guided us skillfully through the process with patience and clarity as to the various legal difficulties we faced and pragmatic resolutions in as timely a manner as was possible.‘
- Overseeing the strategic acquisitions and disposals of surplus property in the East of England for St John Ambulance, privately and via auction. Acting on the acquisition of strategic new offices for the client.
- Acting for Peterborough City Council on the letting of part of its flagship offices at Sandmartin House, Peterborough, to Construction Industry Training Board.
- Sale of land at Wardentree Lane Spalding subject to planning. Site had failed to sell in eight years. Buyer found in 2016 and contract conditional on planning was exchanged but buyer failed to complete.
Kerseys Solicitors LLP
Clients appreciate the 'personal but professional approach' of the commercial property practice at Kerseys Solicitors LLP in Ipswich, noting that it is 'always happy to provide easy to understand, sensible and friendly advice'. 'Approachable, welcoming and highly knowledgeable' practice head Kimat Singh is frequently involved in multimillion-pound transactions, including those involving major residential development sites and major property portfolio restructurings. The firm has particular strength in property development work and in transactions in the retail sector.
‘I have used Kerseys for ten years and have always received excellent service from the real estate team there. They have acted for me on more than £19m of property transactions in this period without any issues at all. The personal but professional approach that I have always received is the primary reason I have remained with them throughout the period. In addition, the ease of access to a partner has proved incredibly beneficial throughout some of the more complex property transactions they have acted for me on.‘
‘Kimat Singh has been the standout member of the Kerseys team in my opinion. He has always gone above and beyond what I expected in order to facilitate the work required. From answering emails late into the evening to joining conference calls when we were on family holidays, there has been no point in my dealings with him that I haven’t been completely satisfied.‘
‘Kerseys is a small local firm of solicitors who treat their clients more as family rather than as a number. The commercial property team has extensive experience and are always happy to provide easy to understand, sensible and friendly advice without the need to over complicate matters or to draw matters out unnecessarily.’
‘Kimat Singh has always approached each matter with professionalism and has gone above and beyond to meet difficult timescales, by working evenings and weekends where necessary. Kimat has the ability to translate the most complicated legal jargon into easy to understand advice and has always tackled the most difficult of matters with positivity and good humour. He is a pleasure to deal with and I wish there were more solicitors with this relaxed but serious approach.‘
‘The team has always been very responsive. When my appointed solicitor was unavailable, I was attended to by other members of the team.‘
‘I have valued the advice above all else. This is the company’s first commercial lease, and we required a lot of hand holding. My fear was that every call, email and casual conversation would be billed and would prevent us from making the right decisions. This couldn’t have been further from the truth. Kimat Singh was approachable, welcoming and highly knowledgeable. When we had problems or concerns, he was quick to allay our fears and provide sound solutions. We will continue to work with Kimat on all future leasing contracts, because of this fantastic service.‘
Barker Gotelee has continued to expand its commercial property team, which is highly regarded for development work including promotion and option agreements, site assembly and plot sales. The firm is also involved in matters arising from the transmission of electricity generated offshore to the National Grid, secured lending, landlord and tenant work, and the property aspects of corporate transactions and insolvency. Partners Andrew Nicholson and Christopher Green, and associates Oliver Ray and Luke Cain are the names to note.
GMA Warehousing & Transport Limited
Stour View Developments Ltd
- Handled the sale of a development site with planning consent for circa 114 dwellings on behalf of Stour View Developments Limited.
- Advised on a new lease of existing and additional premises for GMA Warehousing & Transport Limited.
Ellisons Solicitors joins the ranking this year having built up a substantial practice in its Ipswich office. The firm now has three experienced partners in Toby Kramers, Tim Bacon and Catherine Abbott. All have broad-ranging practices with niche areas of specialism. Kramers deals with leasehold enfranchisement, wind farm developments and matters for gas transportation operators; Bacon is adept in landlord and tenant matters; and Abbott stands out for the acquisition and set up of development sites.
'They are reliable, thorough and totally approachable,' says a client of Gotelee Solicitors in Ipswich. Clients also appreciate the 'attention to detail and straightforward manner' of partner Martin Whitworth. The firm is well known for property work in the transport and logistics sector, though it is also active in residential development projects in London and the South East. In 2019, it saw a growing volume of work in the mobile home park sector with the acquisition and development of new parks.
‘They are reliable and thorough, totally approachable and work to a sensible budget.‘
‘All those individuals we have dealt with have been efficient and the advice given sound.‘
‘Martin Whitworth has advised me on all my property investments, some of which have been quite complex. I value Martin’s advice above all others and appreciate his attention to detail and straightforward manner.‘
- For FDS, negotiation of an agreement for lease and satisfactory lease of a building to be constructed once planning obtained 143,000 sq ft.
'The firm has a broad knowledge of law relating to agriculture, development, sales and especially ecclesiastical law,' says a client of Hunt & Coombs LLP, which has property lawyers in its Peterborough and Oundle offices. Lead partner Anna Spriggs in Peterborough stands out for property development work, landlord and tenant matters and, in particular, ecclesiastical work such as reverter rights to the acquisition and disposal of parsonages, glebe, trust properties, churches and churchyards.
‘The firm has a broad knowledge of law relating to agriculture, development, sales and especially ecclesiastical law.‘
‘Anna Spriggs provides a sensible approach to dealing with client matters. Anna excels with patience at dealing with contentious issues.‘
The Peterborough Diocesan Board of Finance
- Assisted The Peterborough Diocesan Board of Finance with 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.
- Advised The Peterborough Diocesan Board of Finance on the sale of glebe land for development (Kettering) with complex s106 and title issues.
Nicholsons Solicitors LLP
The Lowestoft office of Nicholsons Solicitors LLP houses 'a small, friendly practice' that provides 'an exceptional service', according to one client. Handling development work for housing associations, acquisitions and disposals for housebuilders, and general commercial property transactions, the firm is the only commercially-focused law firm on the Norfolk/Suffolk coast. Mark Rymarz, who also works from the Norwich office, and solicitors Ben Blower and Jennifer Lee are the key practitioners.
‘This is a small friendly practice located in the heart of Lowestoft. They offer car parking for their clients which is very useful when visiting them for either short or long periods.The solicitors I have dealt with within the practice all seem extremely knowledgeable on their subjects and have been keen to advise on all options open to us. They also try to adhere to deadlines as opposed to other practices that I have dealt with in the past.‘
‘Mark Rymarz is the solicitor I deal with mostly. He is very approachable and easy to deal with and as a result I have instructed him to structure several deals in recent years. Jennifer Lee is assistant to Mark and, like Mark, is very approachable. She recently went the extra mile to ensure that a tight deadline imposed by a lender for some refinancing on a property deal was met.‘
‘Nicholsons provides an exceptional service and I cannot fault them. I have used larger practices but have never felt as valued a customer, but Nicholsons makes you feel valued and the service and knowledge is exactly what is required. I would have absolutely no hesitation in recommending them.‘
Taylor Rose MW
'The service from start to completion was very professional and carried out in a timely manner,' notes a client of Taylor Rose MW in Peterborough. Though relatively small, the commercial property practice has grown its client base over the last ten years and the value of its transactional work has increased substantially. It advises on investors, private or corporate developers, occupiers and pension or other trust schemes on property matters. Partner Nick Scutt and 'outstanding' associate Navead Yousaf are the main contacts.
Other key lawyers:
‘The service from start to completion was very professional and carried out in a timely manner. Good advice throughout.‘
‘Navead Yousaf, is an outstanding solicitor. This was my first commercial business matter that Navead had dealt with. Throughout the process he has always maintained confidentiality, been the utmost professional and given me good advice throughout. The business acquisition was completed in a timely manner as agreed. I have since given Navead another conveyancing deal and there is potentially another acquisition in the pipeline, which will be coming to Navead.‘
‘Five stars from me.‘
Moda Invest Ltd
PropertyLine Lettings Ltd
Towngate Greenes Limited
Bradfield Developments (Cambs)
Secure Land Developments
Peterborough United Football Club
- Advised the purchaser on the acquisition of PropertyLine Lettings Ltd for £450,000 including a transfer of property portfolio of 500 properties.
- Advised Cambridge Realty Ltd on the sale of Evolution Business Park to Cambridgeshire County Council for £28m.
- Advising developer Towngate Greenes Limited on the sale of new-build apartments.
Fraser Dawbarns is experienced in dealing with all types of leases of commercial property, ranging from agricultural land to office blocks, hotels to shooting rights, factory units to forestry and also green energy facilities. Partner Daniel Ball and senior associate Carla Goodyear in King's Lynn, along with solicitor Jenny Rushmer in Wisbech, are the key contacts.
Spire Solicitors LLP is best known for its social housing work and the practice is led from Norwich but Carl Heywood and senior associate Howard Bailey in Attleborough handle a diverse range of commercial property matters. Heywood deals with the sale of land for development, while Bailey works on commercial landlord and tenant matters, land and property acquisitions and sales, and secured lending. Clients remark on the 'excellent service - very professional and diligent'.
‘Excellent service – very professional and diligent. Always available and very clear and speedy with any response.’
‘The practice has been very competent and helpful in dealing with complex negotiations spanning a number of years.‘
‘Howard Bailey has gone the extra mile to help us reach solutions and to enable a land deal involving multiple landowners over a number of years to be successfully completed. He has shown dedication and care and attention and been very helpful in doing his best to ensure a successful outcome even at times when there have been complications and difficulties. He has been there to help smooth the path and ensure a good outcome.‘
‘We have not used any other firm simply for the reason that Carl Heywood at Spire has given all we needed. He has done this in a friendly and efficient manner so we have had no reason to look elsewhere. Carl has helped us with a difficult decision and has allayed any worries we might have had.‘
‘Carl Heywood is a friendly amenable individual who has always been there and answered our many concerns and worries.‘
‘They take care in detailing documentation and contracts for sales and purchases. They are good listeners and take care in fulfilling the specification of our requirements. They show promptness, giving regular updates, while other firms seem to look at ways of building fees for work done, which Spire did not.‘
‘Howard Bailey is an outstanding solicitor.‘
- Dealing with the sale of land for the development of circa 380 dwellings.
- Acting for an international business acquiring a lease of a new production facility at an annual rent of £80,000.
- Acting for a PR company acquiring a lease of a new office in London at an annual rent of £30,000 per annum.