Commercial property: Newcastle in North

Muckle LLP

In 2020, Muckle LLP experienced an uptick in real estate-related joint venture transactions; in this regard, it routinely pairs up with the firm’s corporate finance practice. Will McKay and Gail Bennett are noted for their recent property investment work. Department head Jonathan Combe leads the firm’s strong long-term relationships with multiple key clients, traditionally in property development mandates, but also in the retail sector. The group is equally experienced in portfolio management realm, where it counts companies such as Hays Travel among its clients; recently promoted partner Deborah Lazenby is adept at assisting owners and occupiers. Property development specialist James Armstrong  is recommended for being an ‘exceptional lawyer’.

Practice head(s):

Jonathan Combe

Other key lawyers:

Will McKay; Gail Bennett; James Armstrong; Libbie Henderson; Richard Nixon


‘Broad team with relevant skills. Always keen to assist. Can deal with all aspects of property. They always respond quickly and we feel like a priority; this is important as our work is important to us but it also shows they feel as much about it as we do. Not afraid to give honest advice.’

‘We have used the services of Richard Nixon and his team for the last five years. Muckle provide a full range of services when dealing with land issues. Despite a complex case involving easements and drainage, the team managed the situation from start to finish with a result that kept our reputation in tact yet achieved a fair outcome for all.’

‘Richard Nixon does not rely on Google; he will visit each of the sites where we request detailed work and ensures he fully understands our needs in great detail. We have found this to be vital for us with academy conversions. We have also used Richard for complex easement issues where a common-sense approach is vital in order to protect reputation. Richard is able to communicate in an efficient and understanding manner which leads to swift and efficient conclusions.’

‘James Armstrong stands out to me personally. He is honest, on the ball, clued up, always has the answers to hand. Exceptional lawyer. I can’t recommend him enough.’

‘I think what makes Muckle stand out is their client care and communication. They have all of the competencies required and a broad base of expertise to work from but in comparison to others they are more client-focused and easier to engage with.’

‘Jonathan Combe and Richard Nixon are both professionals who are very knowledgeable on property matters and are easy to access  and contact.’

‘Our main contact is Gail Bennett whom we have worked with for a number of years. The advice we get from Gail is practical, with a focus on solutions to help us get the deal done as efficiently as possible.’

‘We have begun working with Deborah Lazenby who has an excellent knowledge of the education sector. She is very approachable and can explain issues in a way which is easily understood by our lay colleagues, which minimises the support required from our internal legal team where resources are stretched. The result is that we all work as if we were part of one team as the internal/external barriers are reduced to a minimum. We have been very happy to deal with Deborah as our one point of contact.’

Key clients

McAleer & Rushe

Hays Travel

Home Group

Persimmon plc

Mandale Group

NG Bailey

Gentoo Group


Port of Blyth

Newcastle College Group

Connection Flooring

Advance Northumberland

Luxury Leisure

Dysart Group

Amethyst Homes


Believe Housing

Livin Housing

Work highlights

  • Advised Hays Travel on its acquisition of 555 properties from the Thomas Cook portfolio following its liquidation.
  • Advised MRP Land on its development forward funding of Cannon Park to Vita of its purpose-built 808 bed student accommodation campus.
  • Advised Home Group on the development of its new 80,000 sq. ft. headquarter building.

Ward Hadaway LLP

Ward Hadaway is recognised for its strengths across a wide range of industries, including mining and minerals, housing, logistics, leisure, energy, and the public sector, to name just a few. The team is active in high-value investment and corporate finance transactions where property is involved. In addition, the past year resulted in an increase of instructions from the department’s enviable housebuilder clientbase. Commercial property development work is also a forte for the group; property development specialist Lesley Fairclough often takes the lead on mandates in this space. Fairclough shares leadership of the department with planning specialist Robin Atkin. Clients laud Heather Markham as ‘balanced, commercial and hugely knowledgeable’.

Practice head(s):

Robin Atkin; Lesley Fairclough

Other key lawyers:

Alex Cox; Alex Wright; Simon Errington; Heather Markham; Sophie Bohill; Saji Bratch; Nick Gholkar; Neil Smith; Nick Winney


‘Understanding of a client’s requirements, including following client brief, general communication and reporting to the client.

‘Heather Markham is balanced, commercial and hugely knowledgeable. Heather has an excellent understanding of our business.’

‘Neil Smith – detailed and precise. Neil is able to present complex information in a clear and concise format.’

‘WH’s team is part of our team and acts as such. Our success is their success and vica versa. Both teams are aware of each others’ strengths and weaknesses and accommodate them.’

‘Simon Errington and his team have worked virtually non-stop on transactions on our behalf over the past 12 months. The effort which they have taken to understand not only our requirements but also those of our funders has meant that they have been able to provide accurate and timely advice throughout. Without this early effort to know the team, undoubtedly, the chosen approach may have been different.’

‘Ward Hadaway truly provide a one to one service, attention to detail and ensuring everything is clear and concise. Nothing ever feels difficult, always willing to go the extra mile and certainly obtainable at all hours. They are always accessible, make more of an effort keeping clients updated rather than being chased and the documentation provided in relation to transactions is vital for referencing after the event.’

‘The individuals I work with at this practice are engaging, professional and attentive, they are always available to discuss matters at great length and conscientious in everything they produce. I have far more confidence in the advice provided than have encountered with other practices; they also make themselves available for a simply discussion, matters outside of the scope for general advice. Irrespective of knowing they have multiple clients and dealings, you always feel that the right time is allocated to your particular matter, something again which is not obtained elsewhere. Sophie Bohill and Julia Thomson are my main contacts at this practice; the above comments specifically relate to my sometimes daily interactions with these ladies who are genuinely amazing and work well outside the normal 9-5.’

‘A good attention to detail, with risks and solutions clearly articulated. Very tenacious in protecting their clients position with clear well, reasoned advice.’

Key clients

Keepmoat Homes Limited

BDW Trading Limited

Newcastle International Airport Limited

Bannatyne Group

Inn Collection Group

Aldi Stores

The Northumberland Estates

Story Homes Limited

Gleeson Homes

Port of Tyne Authority

Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP

Clients praise Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP’s ‘excellent service’ and ‘commercial view’, which its multi-disciplinary real estate group often demonstrates when acting on high-value property transactions. The team has established itself as a go-to destination for property managers and residential landlords; it continues to attract new clients in this space while also counting names such as Grainger among its high-profile longstanding clients. Further, the practice is also known for its work on urban regeneration and property development projects for both public and private sector clients. John Ralph and Nigel Emmerson jointly sit at the helm of the department, which is prominent across a wide range of sectors, such as energy, education, retail, chemicals and manufacturing, among others. Michael Brown is a key contact for energy infrastructure mandates. Tom Willows is noted for his experience of advising on development and joint venture agreements. Managing associate Emma Garfitt is also recommended. Barbara Painter retired in mid-2020.

Practice head(s):

John Ralph; Nigel Emmerson

Other key lawyers:

Tom Willows; Michael Brown; Emma Garfitt


‘WBD has a deserved reputation for excellence in a range of sectors. I am impressed how WBD can deliver on its targets for work completion. They have never let me down. I am also confident in the standard of the work undertaken by the more junior staff at WBD. They seem to have a strong mentoring programme and are clearly able to attract some of the best talent in the region.’

‘John Ralph is one of the best lawyers I have ever worked with. His position at WBD provides me with great assurance. John has unparalleled real knowledge but most importantly an ability to cut through the noise and provide the pragmatic and clear advice I need to make business decisions.’

‘Excellent service and take a commercial view.’

‘Liz Evans is excellent. Efficient, knowledgeable, commercial, understands our objectives and is a pleasure to work with.’

‘They make our lives easier by providing comments in an easy-to-follow manner. It feels as if they are part of our team.’

‘Tom Willows is our main contact. He is on top of things, replies promptly and is always available. Nothing is any trouble for him.’

Key clients

Grainger plc

Bellway Homes plc

South Tees Development Corporation

The Vista PRS Fund


Aberdeen Standard

Duchy Homes

Southern Railways

Hansteen Holdings plc

Vertu Motors plc

Work highlights

  • Acting for South Tees Development Corporation on the delivery of several key projects being advanced in conjunction with the Development Corporation’s joint venture partners.
  • Acted for Northern Powergrid (Northeast) Plc and Northern Powergrid (Yorkshire) Plc on approximately 100 instructions, including property acquisitions, leases, deeds and disposals.
  • Acted for Home Group, one of the UK’s largest providers of affordable housing, on eight estates preparing shared ownership sales packs involving both apartments and houses on Home Group own developments and pepper-potted units bought from other developers.


DWF is distinguished by its prowess in investment and portfolio transactions, as well as real estate finance work; an area where practice head Richard Lomax has a wealth of experience. Other areas of specialism include development and regeneration projects, for which managing partner Adam Heather is a key contact. Lee Pickett also regularly takes the lead on investment and regeneration matters in the housing sector. The department’s client portfolio is wide-ranging, spanning regional and national property and investment companies, asset management companies, corporate occupiers, registered housing providers and councils, among others.

Practice head(s):

Richard Lomax

Other key lawyers:

Adam Heather; Lee Pickett; Kelly Pearson

Key clients

Advance Northumberland

Cable Properties & Investments

Hanro Group

Home Group

LXi Reit

Northumberland Estates

Places for People


Thirteen Housing Group

Work highlights

  • Assisted Hanro Group with the purchase, development, pre-letting and forward sale of a new office development in the centre of Durham City.
  • Advised Prudhoe Estates LLP on the acquisition, development and letting of a retail park at Prudhoe, Northumberland.
  • Acting for Places for People Living+ on a rolling programme of acquisitions of dwellings for supported housing use.

Sintons LLP

Sintons LLP benefits from its client relationships and panel appointments in the healthcare sector, where it acts for NHS trusts and specialist care providers on site acquisitions and disposals as well as development projects. An additional strength of the team lies in the field of real estate finance; David Ferguson specialises in this space. Rural property work is also a bedrock of the practice, particularly in relation to high-value transactions involving agricultural assets and land; Tom Wills regularly takes the lead on rural land mandates. Practice head Mark Dobbin and Paul Liddle are highly experienced in development projects and portfolio management work for large investors.

Practice head(s):

Mark Dobbin

Other key lawyers:

David Ferguson; Tom Wills; Paul Liddle; Alok Loomba; Louise Kelly; Catherine Davies; Chris Jackson


‘The team that I have the pleasure of dealing with is first-class. The strengths of the team are its very high-level and detailed knowledge of property transactions. This is inclusive of excellent liaison with other legal teams when buying property, understanding of region specific issues such as Tyneside leases and, more importantly, the ability to explain this quickly and accurately to legal teams in other parts of the UK. The team have also been exceptional in renewing leases at a low cost and to both parties’ satisfaction. This has allowed us as a business to purchase excellent value properties safe in the knowledge that we can get leases extended and force appreciate the property along with its refurbishment.’

‘Tom Wills is an outstanding practitioner. He brings outstanding knowledge, a pragmatic and well-reasoned approach and gets excellent outcomes for us on a regular basis.’

‘Excellent lawyers; dedicated, creative, problem solvers. 100% reliable.’

Key clients

Northumberland Estates Developments Limited / Tynemouth Developments Limited

Sansec Developments Ltd

Cambridge Education Group

Jackson Family

Carins Family

Atom Bank Plc

Ladhar Group

Rosen Group BV

The Banks Group

Cussins (North East) Limited

Work highlights

  • Advised The Ladhar Group on the entirety of a deal in which the client acquired a share acquisition of a prominent chain of leisure venues of Sir John Fitzgerald.
  • Acted for Cambridge Education Group Limited, a new significant education sector client, on a complex long rack rental lease of its new head office premises in Cambridge.
  • Acted for Northumberland Estates on development site projects at various locations, including plot sales.

Hay & Kilner

Hay & Kilner focuses on transactions involving freehold and leasehold property, representation of both landlords and tenants in lease matters, and property-related contractual arrangements, among other issues. The group has a growing number of instructions from housebuilders and commercial and residential property developers. It also benefits extensively in terms of referral work from regional accountants, surveyors and other professionals. Nicola Tiffen leads the practice, where Chris Anderson is also a key figure.

Practice head(s):

Nicola Tiffen

Other key lawyers:

Chris Anderson; Ricky Handa


‘They are an excellent firm because they are prompt and accurate, and they can provide an answer to any legal question I have. They provide outstanding services.’

‘Chris Anderson and Sara Malik are outstanding.’

‘The commercial property team is very responsive, organised, efficient and commercial in its approach.’

‘A real understanding of our business and our needs from a legal perspective.’

‘A team of highly experienced solicitors covering all important sectors. They are accessible, approachable and a pleasure to work with.’

‘Chris Anderson is excellent to deal with. He is meticulous in his work and his advice is always carefully considered. Chris manages expectations and timescales well ensuring an excellent service is delivered.’

‘Nicola Tiffen is highly effective.’

‘Chris Anderson has a very good knowledge of the law and works quickly and efficiently.’

‘I have dealt with Nicola Tiffen for approx 20 years, having a portfolio of 30 properties in three different businesses. I can safely say Nicola is the best commercial property lawyer I have dealt with.’

Key clients

Park Lane Healthcare

Persimmon Homes

Westway Vets

Hellens Group

National Westminster Bank

Anvil Homes

Northern Gas and Power Utilities Limited

Cornish Bakehouse UK Limited

Chartres Investment Limited

Lambert Smith Hampton Group

Work highlights

  • Acting for Hellens Residential, a registered provider, on various instructions including the refinancing aspects of its portfolio, as well as the negotiation of an agreement with a national housebuilder for the construction and purchase on a phased basis of further units within a residential development in Stockton on Tees.
  • Acting for Anvil Homes, a family-run development business, on various property transactions throughout 2020.
  • Advised Cornish Bakehouse UK on multiple lettings, including the surrender up or termination of existing leases and grant of replacement leases as part of a re-gearing exercise.


Weightmans is renowned for its expertise in the energy, utilities and education sectors. The practice focuses on property finance and development work, on which it often collaborates with colleagues based in Manchester. The department is acting on multiple instructions resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic, including high-value property disposal transactions in the leisure sector. Former practice head Naren Deen departed to in-house position in September 2020 – a move followed by the transfer to Newcastle of newly appointed department leader David Tabinor from the Liverpool office.

Practice head(s):

David Tabinor

Other key lawyers:

Helen Stenton; Helen Warren


‘Large so the team have all the knowledge required. Friendly, with attention to detail.’

Key clients

Morton Group / Lok Developments

Northern Powergrid

Engie Regeneration / Power

Camerons Brewery Limited

Gentoo Housing Group

Unity Trust Bank

Quattro Property Group

Bellway Homes

Work highlights

  • Acting for Quattro (Southfield) Limited on the refinancing of a £5m residential development site in Harrogate.
  • Assisting an education sector client with the relocation of a tenant to strategic campus location for £1.75m due to Covid-19.

DAC Beachcroft LLP

The ‘supportive, flexible and highly knowledgeable’ practice at DAC Beachcroft LLP is a destination preferred by both public and private sector clients for development projects and strategic property transactions. The team is growing its logistics sector clientbase, alongside its existing strength in sectors such as health, insurance and education. The department is spearheaded by the ‘simply fantasticNicola Fairbairn and legal director Andrea Proudlock. Duncan Fisher departed to accept an in-house position in September 2020.

Practice head(s):

Nicola Fairbairn; Andrea Proudlock

Other key lawyers:

Richard Hartis


‘The coherence of the team is outstanding. They work well together to provide a holistic client service.’

‘The lawyers are professional, yet friendly and approachable and are fully invested in providing an excellent service.’

‘The team at DAC Newcastle are an absolute pleasure to work with. They are supportive, flexible and highly knowledgeable. Nothing is ever too much and they are able to deliver on business as usual matters as well as the most complex and high-value transactions. They have a highly organised set up so that aspects of the transaction run side by side with a number of lawyers in their team working in collaboration. They are fantastic at managing their clients, keeping them informed and pitching advice at the right level. One of the strengths is picking up and unpicking complex matters very quickly and providing solution-focused advice.’

‘Nicola Fairbairn is simply fantastic. A highly valued adviser on our major projects. She always goes above and beyond and takes on the most complex of matters with a smile on her face. She is a problem solver and just gets the work done. She leads the team fantastically and its a strong project manager. Her personality and style of advising/running matters puts clients at ease. Always approachable and willing to listen.’

Key clients

Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust

Surrey County Council

Sunderland City Council

Persimmon Homes Limited

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

Newcastle Building Society

Newcastle City Council

Newcastle University

Bryant Homes

Cygnet Health Care Limited

Work highlights

  • Acted for Northumbria Healthcare Facilities Management on multiple transactions relating to the manufacture of Personal Protective Equipment as part of the NHS response to the ongoing Covid-19 emergency.
  • Advised Newcastle upon Tyne City Council on the completion of the multi-million pound Bank House development project.
  • Acted for Surrey County Council on the acquisition of their new civic hub facilities, the former Canon Campus in Reigate.

Mincoffs Solicitors LLP

Mincoffs Solicitors LLP’s ‘extremely knowledgeable and thorough’ department principally maintains a focus on commercial property work, but also regularly acts alongside the firm’s residential team on residential development matters. Portfolio management and refinancing work is also a mainstay of the practice. Department head Ryan Bannon has extensive experience of assisting developers, commercial occupiers and retailers, and property investors.

Practice head(s):

Ryan Bannon


‘Extremely knowledgeable and thorough staff. Always available, and highly responsive. I have dealt with the firm across residential conveyancing, commercial property, inter-company transfers, commercial sales and litigation, for the last 15 years. I will continue to use Mincoffs and recommend them to everyone.’

‘They go out of their way to be available even through unsociable hours. They understand my attitude to risk and act as trusted advisors in all our transactional business. John Nicholson and Ryan Bannon are legends.’

‘Having worked with Ryan Bannon for the last 10 years on both the purchase and sale of properties across England, he has always made the process as straightforward as possible. Keeping me informed throughout proceedings, he even visited a number of the properties himself to give him the first-hand knowledge when we we making the purchases.’

‘ Excellent knowledge and understanding of our property portfolio and its history, as well as our strategy for the business.’

‘They stand out because of their knowledge of planning law/Environmental law. The individuals are highly experienced and proactive and very amenable to deal with.’

Key clients

High Street Group

Derwent Manor Ventures

Work highlights

  • Acted for longstanding client High Street Group on a variety of matters, including the high-profile development of Hadrian’s Tower, a luxury residential and leisure development in Newcastle.
  • Acting for Derwent Valley Ventures Limited on forward-buying C-stores from developers.