Agriculture and estates in London

Boodle Hatfield LLP

Through its offices in London and Oxford, Boodle Hatfield LLP acts for some of the biggest estates in the country and is adept at advising on the sale and purchases of valuable residential property, farms and agricultural land. Under the leadership of Saskia Arthur and Andrea Zavos it continues to act for over 80 landed estates including four of the UK’s top ten estates. Other skills lie in advising on disputes concerning the ‘modern family’ as well as excelling at working with intermediaries on complex issues surrounding diversification and the development of estates with particular expertise in advising on enterpreneurs’ relief. It is known too for its advice on the management of valuable art collections. Fiona Graham has retired and Sue Laing is well-regarded for her work with wealthy UK and international clients advising on the long-term protection and devolution of their assets.

Practice head(s):

Saskia Arthur; Andrea Zavos

Other key lawyers:

Sue Laing; Hayden Bailey; Natasha Hassall

Testimonials

Boodle Hatfield’s service is refreshingly professional‘.

Hayden Bailey is not only very thorough but is an exceptional communicator: a facet of crucial importance to a three-generation family‘.

‘Extremely effective in choreographing client meetings. Good team players, making good points clearly and concisely‘.

Boodle Hatfield has an excellent awareness and links into the wider market and central bodies that allows it to advise positively on potential changes. The real strength of the firm is its attention to detail and responsiveness. It makes a huge difference to completely trust the advice that is being received‘.

Hayden Bailey is very responsive, has excellent attention to detail and is good at communicating more challenging areas in simple terms‘.

Very good client base. Good practical advice. Team has depth and strength. Hayden Bailey, Natasha Hassall –  integrity, good client skills‘.

Burges Salmon LLP

Burges Salmon LLP acts for many of the largest and most important institutional landowners, estates and agri-businesses nationally on substantial and complex matters. The impressive team advises on the full range of matters including the sale and purchases of agricultural property and substantial landed estates. It also receives a steady flow of sizeable instructions including in the past year appearing in the Court of Appeal, High Court and advising on an arbitration concerning a large-scale development on agricultural land. Tom Hewitt heads the department that includes Sian Edmunds who advises landowners, agri-businesses and producers on a range of contentious and regulatory issues. Jim Aveline is skilled at advising on various tax, estate and succession matters. Kevin Kennedy and Ross Simpson  are also key members of the team. Other areas of expertise include advising on subsidies and tenancy issues as well as renewable energy schemes, planning and environment issues.

Practice head(s):

Tom Hewitt

Other key lawyers:

Sian Edmunds; Jim Aveline; Kevin Kennedy; Alastair Morrison; Ross Simpson; Maddie Dunn; Tim Williams

Testimonials

‘A very proactive team.  The lawyers get to the nub of the issue quickly and come up with practical and helpful solutions.  They are top drawer when it comes to Agricultural And Estates practice. Tom Hewitt has an excellent understanding of the issues and the practicalities surrounding them, giving clear and concise advice.  Great team to work with more generally‘.

‘The team has acted in an incredibly calm and professional manner. I have been very impressed with how the team has guided the whole process through very turbulent waters. The advice is easy to understand unlike many of its competitors. Jim Aveline approaches his work in an incredibly calm and non confrontational manner when dealing with really difficult problems‘.

The team is really, really impressive and has an extremely detailed knowledge of this area. Kevin Kennedy is an extremely impressive partner, having a detailed knowledge of this area of the law. He has a thorough  knowledge of this area of law, demonstrates great experience and he serves his clients with great care and attention. Maddie Dunn, a Senior Associate, is also highly impressive. She is incredibly well organised and efficient. From what I have seen, she seems to be completely on top of her cases‘.

‘The team is incredibly efficient and well prepared – I really value how organised and collaborative the lawyers are in their approach‘.

‘It is simply the top firm in this area – not only do the lawyers know the law backwards, they are intimately familiar with the day to day practical issues faced by their clients. Sian Edmunds (partner) and Maddie Dunn (associate) have a mass of real world experience in dealing with agricultural and estates issues‘.

‘Professional and technically excellent but very personable. Large quality team, ensures full resourcing of jobs – usually a senior partner supported by a very capable associate. Provides continuity and availability. Alastair Morrison is one of the most experienced and respected lawyers in the farms and estates market, yet admirably modest and collegiate in his approach to working with other professionals’.

Very diligent, Ross Simpson is very capable and a good communicator‘.

‘The agricultural and estates team at BS has a wealth of experience in an area where an understanding of the complexities and technicalities is paramount to good advice. The lawyers present their advice in an understandable way for the layman and provide timely guidance. Tom Hewitt and Tim Williams are experts in their field and understand the complexities of advising on agriculture and estates‘.

 

Key clients

The Crown Estate

National Trust

The Leckford Estate (owned by John Lewis Partnership/Waitrose)

HSBC – on secured agricultural lending

Environment Agency

Earl of Plymouth

South Yorkshire Pensions Authority

The Woodland Trust

Yeo Valley – including family farming business

Watson’s Dairy

Work highlights

  • Advised the successful trustees of a landed estate in the Court of Appeal in Rees v Earl of Plymouth [2020] EWCA Civ 816, and in the High Court in [2019] EWHC 1008 (Ch) and [2020] EWHC 2986 (Ch), in relation to the trustees’ development of a part of their estate outside Cardiff.
  • Watson’s Dairy is engaged in a multimillion pound dispute with a large number of milk producers concerning the service by them of notices of early termination of their milk supply contracts as a result of changes made by the client to the milk price which arose out of the impact of Covid-19 on food services business (a significant part of the client’s customer base)

Farrer & Co

Farrer & Co fields a first-class team that advises an array of landowning institutions, larger estates and individual landowners. It advises on the full spectrum of specialist areas including the sale and purchase of agricultural estates and substantial country houses in addition to other areas such as the exploitation of sporting and mineral interests, all aspects of rural development in addition to village green applications, manorial rights and tax and succession planning. It also has an established reputation for its advice on the delivery of high-quality residential schemes. Simon Pring heads the large team that includes Edmund Fetherston-Dilke who advises a number of major estates on a large variety of complex issues including agri-environmental schemes and riparian issues.  Paul Krafft is skilled at advising private, charity and institutional clients on all aspects of agricultural and rural matters. James Maxwell is a recognised name for his expertise in mineral rights.

Practice head(s):

Simon Pring

Other key lawyers:

Edmund Fetherston-Dilke; Paul Krafft; James Maxwell; Patrick Hammond; Rose Gurney

Testimonials

‘Good collaborative approach to working with us as agents to mutual clients.  One of the few legal firms claiming to be experienced specialists in minerals that actually is! James Maxwell and Patrick Hammond have been attentive and responsive in our dealings and are able to take a pragmatic approach to issues that require addressing on a practical as well as legal basis‘.

Exceptional attention to detail; specialists in the sector; great to work alongside.  James Maxwell, Rose Gurney‘.

‘I principally work with the Agricultural Estates team led by James Maxwell. The team works incredibly well together and delivers a comprehensive service. The team draws on other individuals within the business where required. When the team does, there is a seamless transition and specialist advice is delivered as if it were from our principal contact. The ability to build strong relationships with all members of the team is invaluable‘.

Comprehensive team of specialists in the field of rural estates, farms and country houses. Excellent reputation for the highest standards of legal advice. Edmund Fetherstone-Dilke – represents technical excellence with hard work and a sense of humour!‘.

Practical, innovative, intelligent and entertaining which I have found to be skills usually lacking in the legal profession. Edmund Fetherston-Dilke is in my view incomparable in terms of breadth of experience, intelligence and approach to dealing with legal matters‘.

‘I know that Farrer & Co will be able to deliver sound advice with prompt delivery. Rose Gurney has proven incredibly adept at handling large sales for one of our clients over the past two years. A real common sense approach with an excellent eye for detail’.

‘The team is diverse, true to specialism and has breadth and depth. No challenge is too great. Can do attitude , breadth of knowledge and speed of service delivery‘.

Key clients

Duchy of Lancaster

Duchy of Cornwall

Church Commissioners for England

Burghley House Preservation Trust Limited

The Crown Estate

Work highlights

  • Advised on the purchase in a tight deadline of an Estate in southern England for over £40m comprising arable land, woodland, residential properties and commercial buildings.
  • Acted in the negotiation of an option for the grant of a lease of rights for the extraction of a rare metal for use in cutting edge technology in the manufacture of cars.
  • Advised on the promotion of land in South West England for development as 2,500 houses, to include advising on ownership structures and negotiating with various tenants.

Forsters LLP

Henry Cecil leads a large and specialist team at Forsters LLP that is recommended for its vast experience of handling both transactional and strategic matters including complex tax and estate structuring advice and disputes. It has real strength in depth with key practitioners such as Penny Elliott; Christopher Findley and Andrew Lane. Catherine Hill and Rupert Mead also garner praise for their expertise on tax and trusts matters. Clients include sizeable landed estates, families and trusts with significant property and chattels as well as domestic and international private and commercial investors, wealthy individuals and landowner groups. Other strengths include advising on the establishment of holding structures for family wealth through companies, partnerships and trusts in addition to acting for landowners in relation to development work. It is also rated for its work on capital tax planning matters and on all aspects of the acquisition and disposal of estates, farms and country houses. It is a team of 'problem solvers'.

Practice head(s):

Henry Cecil

Other key lawyers:

Penny Elliott; Christopher Findley; Andrew Lane; Catherine Hill; Rupert Mead

Testimonials

The breadth of knowledge and expertise within the team, the willingness to take on technically challenging instructions and complex property matters combined with client care. Unlike other firms there is a willingness to be proactive from day one and to talk to clients as well as communicating by email. During the pandemic Zoom/Teams meetings have been held often at short notice for the benefit of all concerned. There is an underlying desire to bring matters to a conclusion whilst acting in the best interests of their clients rather than allowing things to ‘drift’ which is becoming all too common elsewhere‘.

‘Christopher Findley – outstanding knowledge of all matters associated with agricultural tenancy legislation, partnerships and other business structures. Definitely one of the County’s leading experts. Henry Cecil – excellent professional advice, knowledge and practical support when it comes to all rural property transactions. He seeks to ensure that “deals” are completed whether acting for vendors or purchasers‘.

‘Excellent team that understands the market and has the experience and skill to work alongside its clients and wider team members to get the best result. I have enormous trust in the individuals and know that when they commit to something it will get done. I also believe that they provide best in class advice‘.

‘The team is very experienced in this field and offers a service beyond all others. The lawyers are prompt, communicative and pragmatic in their advice to clients. They work very closely as a team and support each other enormously. Henry Cecil is my main point of contact and is always available, I have known him to step out of a family wedding to take my call! He goes above and beyond for my clients and this clearly filters down amongst his team‘.

First choice firm in the rural and landed estate sector. Efficient, focused and client orientated. Henry Cecil‘.

A responsive and extremely knowledgeable team more than able to assist on all property law coupled with a desire to do its best for the client and an excellent approach to strategic planning for rural property owners of all shapes and sizes. Very strong on focusing on the individual needs of the client whilst maintaining the ability to consider issues at the micro and macro levels at all times‘.

‘Henry Cecil – combines an incredibly keen legal mind with a wealth of experience in rural property and the ability to drill down to the key issues without fuss’.

Excellent experience in all fields required for a complex estate purchase. Andrew Lane and Henry Cecil are extremely knowledgeable on their specialist subjects, also very practical, always available, and able to explain difficult matters in a way all can understand‘.

Withers LLP

With Bertie Hoskyns-Abrahall and Matthew Woods at the helm at Withers LLP, the group acts for 130 landed estates across England and Wales. Clients include historic landowners and successful individuals from around the world. The first-rate team receives regular instructions from clients entering the rural UK property market for the first time and is well-equipped to provide tax, structuring, succession and transactional advice. It is also renowned for its work with intermediaries. Hoskyns-Abrahall advises on a broad variety of management and succession issues such as sporting , agricultural and commercial issues and frequently advises forestry investors. Woods is an important member of the private client and tax team and has a particular focus on farms and landed estates. Edward Jarron is another name to note for his work on a range of property matters. 

Practice head(s):

Bertie Hoskyns-Abrahall; Matthew Woods

Other key lawyers:

Edward Jarron; Christopher Groves

Testimonials

Strength and depth is particularly evident at Withers. A range of specialists in a wide range of fields and when issues arise that are particularly challenging, there is always a professional of equal standing on hand‘.

‘Bertie Hoskyns-Abrahall and Edward Jarron -both are particularly efficient and experienced in their areas of expertise. Can be relied upon all hours of the day‘.

Bertie Hoskyns-Abrahall and his team seem to have unequalled experience in this field. Confidence, responsiveness, approachability’.

In my opinion Withers provides a very personalised service certainly in relation to both the sale and purchase of a property. The lawyers’ knowledge and approach to understanding both the client and the property results in a very effective and supportive process from initial offer through to completion. Their experience in negotiating various aspects on behalf of their client is particularly helpful when arranging complex sales contracts and dealing with a wide variety of potential issues that arise‘.

Bertie Hoskyns-Abrahall is a pleasure to work with. I found him to be readily available, supportive and highly effective. In my experience he takes the time to understand the client and their objectives, which produced an excellent result. In many ways he felt part of the team rather than an external legal adviser and so made the whole process much less stressful than it might have been‘.

Exceptional team – knowledgeable and responsive. Edward Jarron an exceptional partner providing a full and responsive service’.

Charles Russell Speechlys LLP

Bart Peerless and Henry Fea co-head the department at Charles Russell Speechlys LLP that primarily focuses on estate strategy, specialist tax and trust matters and is adept at handling intergenerational succession issues in addition to land sales and trasnfers. Through its offices in London, Cheltenham and Guildford the department is well-equipped to deal extensively with UNHW families and their businesses. The group advises on a myriad of issues from the protection of intellectual property matters through to issues surrounding art collections and heritage property as well as supporting clients when there are legal disputes. The team is well-regarded too for its work with international investors when they acquire estates and on their ongoing management. Robert Blower is recognised for his work with many well-known estate owning families  and routinely advises on estate, tax and succession issues. 

Practice head(s):

Bart Peerless; Henry Fea

Other key lawyers:

Robert Blower; James Bradford

Testimonials

James Bradford and Bart Peerless are a formidable combination. They show great technical knowledge, empathy towards the client and are very collegiate with other advisors. They operate in exactly the way you’d hope for from another advisor‘.

‘Excellent service and knowledge

Work highlights

  • Advised a trust owned estate in relation to a sizeable (£50m plus) housing development (including complex financing and onshore and offshore tax issues)
  • Advised the trustees of a family trust on a comprehensive and extremely complex trust restructuring to protect the estate for the long term and reduce / mitigate estate exposure to inheritance tax.
  • Advised a trust owned estate on the implementation of new Biodiversity offsetting arrangements.

Mills & Reeve LLP

Mills & Reeve LLP has a large team that advises on a broad array of high-value and complex issues relating to rural land nationally. It acts for many traditional farming clients as well as several of the landowning Cambridge and Oxford colleges, various pension funds, some prestigious landed estates as well as many substantial national farming businesses. Under the direction of Michael Aubrey, Tim Ryan and Amanda Tagg the group advises on the tax, trusts and contentious aspects of agricultural law as well as food law.   Other strengths lie in advising institutional and corporate landowners on structuring transactions and advising on major infrastructure and development projects as well as large scale renewable energy projects. The agile team also advises on woodland plantation carbon scheme options in addition to the acquisition and disposal of land.

Practice head(s):

Michael Aubrey; Tim Ryan; Amanda Tagg

Other key lawyers:

Louisa Butcher; Matthew Hesketh; Sarah Pateman; Gabrielle Wortley

Testimonials

Michael Aubrey has the benefit of significant experience in the sector meaning he is able to give broad and reassuring advice to clients on some of the most challenging matters.  He is able to give clear and concise advice often without the need to refer to others; this can be invaluable if the matter is complex and time is of the essence‘.

Depth of knowledge across the rural industries. webinars are useful addition. Tim Ryan, a real detail man! Louisa Butcher, a great ability to get the job done‘.

‘The team is a dedicated group that will provide exceptional advice on a range of matters – no matter how complex. The lawyers are always keen to help and available to talk through complex issues in understandable terms.  Louisa Butcher amongst many others‘.

The people. Understanding of the asset class and variety of issues that can arise on a modern or traditional rural estate. Responsiveness. Collaboration/working across teams. Adding value by providing real advice (e.g. by setting out options so as to help decision making, rather than mere reporting). Matthew Hesketh is a very efficient and capable solicitor, able to quickly and confidently unpack complex legal matters before providing concise and clear advice. He also knows his limitations and so this instils confidence in the advice he gives‘.

Sarah Pateman brings a human touch to the team with an empathetic and considerate approach to her work. Her understanding of rural property is considerable due to her personal background in farming and past training as a chartered rural surveyor.  Sarah is a great team player’.

‘An approachable and hugely knowledgeable team who are eminently capable of dealing with whatever is thrown at them. Michael Aubrey draws on unparalleled experience in providing eminently pragmatic advice. Gabriella Wortley’s capacity to turn around complex instructions is second to none . Matthew Hesketh is expert, approachable and great to work with‘.

Large office in Norwich with strength and breadth in estate/agricultural departments. Michael Aubrey (Cambridge) strong on agriculture and well respected‘.

‘A strong core of legal experts who combine well to deliver cohesive advice for complex situations. Michael Aubrey – a strong legal advocate who always provides a legal solution‘.

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 on the £7,750,000 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”. The transaction also involved complex overage arrangements.

Payne Hicks Beach LLP

With Simon Blackburn at the helm at Payne Hicks Beach LLP, the nimble team works with the owners of over 50 landed estates varying in size from 750 acres to over 30,000 acres and many of these estates have houses and grounds that are open to the public. Work includes advising on the sale and purchase of significant country houses and farmland as well as assisting with the diversification and development schemes for these properties. It is also adept at advising on the protection of mineral rights in addition to the first registration of large tracts of land. The team has particular strength too in advising on tax matters (especially inheritance tax) and on the administration of trusts that hold landed estates. Robert Brodrick is another key figure who frequently acts for trustees and the owners of landed estates primarily advising on tax and estate planning matters.

Practice head(s):

Simon Blackburn

Other key lawyers:

Robert Brodrick; Basil Dixon; James Bacon; Bethany Milchem

Testimonials

‘The level of understanding of what was required for a fairly unusual conveyancing transaction to be completed was superb. We were hugely impressed at every stage. Robert Brodrick, Simon Blackburn and Bethany Milchem showed care, adaptability, insight and were entirely sympathetic to our needs and also our sporadic lack of understanding of protocols and requirements as well. In addition, in the face of a series of unexpected problems caused by the seller, they enabled the transaction to go through with the minimum of difficulty. Their creative and sympathetic approach enabled us to successfully negotiate the purchase of this property‘.

‘First-class team work and strength in depth. Simon Blackburn – Great understanding of the issues of landed estates and not one to be fobbed of by pleasantries! Gets to the heart of the matter in the nicest possible way. First class individual, very user friendly!

Strength in depth and a detailed, comprehensive knowledge across the disciplines surrounding the Landed Estate sector including Tax, Estate and succession planning, agricultural and property law and the interconnections between them all. Where a number of firms have the individual skills, PHB possesses the ability to cut across the areas of knowledge and to think and work in 3D. Basil Dixon‘.

‘I know Simon Blackburn well and have great respect for his ability and work ethic‘.

‘Rolls-Royce, gold-standard, all the cliches fit exactly. No estate is too problematic, no tax issue too complex. A wealth of ability and expertise combined with a – now – old-fashioned dedication to client service.  James Bacon is a master of all the light and dark arts of the agriculture and estate sector. He leavens his deep knowledge and expertise with a delightful gentle humour, so necessary when wrestling with the complexities. An unbelievably strong team‘.

‘I have worked with Simon Blackburn on a number of occasions and often recommend him to my clients who need a solicitor who is prepared to go the extra yard. Simon is diligent, proactive and a problem solver. Above all he is a deal maker‘.

Moore Barlow

Sarah Jordan  and Philip Whitcomb lead a large and experienced national team at Moore Barlow that advises its client base of landed estates, farmers, private landowners and equestrian businesses. The firm's core strengths lie in advising on the sale and purchase of agricultural property as well as land development, renewable energy projects, diversification schemes as well as succession planning and other matters including advising on agricultural act tenancies. Anita Symington is another known name for her advice to farms and landed estates on a range of issues.

Practice head(s):

Sarah Jordan; Philip Whitcomb

Other key lawyers:

Anita Symington; Charlotte Brackley

Testimonials

‘A highly experienced and professional team who are accessible and responsive. The lawyers are committed to really understanding our businesses and challenges so as to provide tailored advice and solutions‘.

Whilst a large regional firm they are considered very much part of our local team. Professional with wide ranging knowledge and experience of its area of expertise. It has created a strong working relationship with our team and can always be relied upon to provide sensible and relevant advice‘.

Very good all round – technical knowledge, commercial prowess, pragmatism to gain end result. Anita Symington – LA Law in London – brilliant to work with, totally focused on outcome and interest of client‘.

Charlotte was able to fulfil our requirements in the fast time frame that we required. Despite all the current restrictions she was very personable, helpful and efficient. Charlotte Brackley has a great knowledge base of conveyancing country houses and estates. She always makes herself available and is great in corralling  all the parties to the transaction to make it happen. You always get the comfort that she’s got your back covered‘.