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Who Represents Who

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A&L Goodbody’s property team’s expertise includes assisting investment firms, property developers and banks with hotel developments, loan portfolio sales, and high-value acquisitions. Highlights in 2017 included Tracey Schofield leading advice to the Jurys Inn Group in the acquisition of an adjoining site to extend the city centre hotel by adding 80 bedrooms; Schofield then assisted private equity investor Lone Star with the Northern Irish aspects of the sale of the Jurys Inn Group to Swedish hotel investor Pandox. This complex transaction involved securing the site acquisition and new hotel licence before the disposal took place, and the disposal involved negotiating certificates of title and deeds of release. Mark Blair  heads the practice.

Carson McDowell’s key strength lies in acting for developers and retailers in high-value acquisitions, development projects and high-value lettings and disposals. Emma Cooper is advising key client The Belfast Harbour Commissioners on the leasing of the multimillion-pound City Quays development within Belfast Harbour to a range of tenants, including ITV plc. Other highlights included advising construction company Tarmac on leasing and licensing arrangements pertaining to HBO’s use of Magheramorne Quarry as a filming location for the Game of Thrones television series and the subsequent sale of the quarry as a tourist attraction. The group also acted for the J T Ross Group in its £27m acquisition of a Tesco Superstore in Newry. Rosemary Carson leads the practice.

Cleaver Fulton Rankin’s property practice has ‘good strength in depth’ and provides ‘a professional service’. The group continues to act for investment funds, developers, and retail owners in high-value acquisitions, lease matters and refinancing issues. In a standout mandate in 2017, practice head Joe Marley , who garners praise for his ‘sound commercial acumen’, advised Hewlett Packard on renewing a multimillion-pound lease for premises based in Newtownabbey; this location was strategically important as it was used to host back-up systems for blue chip clients. The matter was heard before the Lands Tribunal due to a dispute with the landlord of the premises, before an agreement favourable to the client was reached. The ‘knowledgeableKathryn Collie is ‘very experienced and looks at the bigger picture’. The ‘thorough and commercially mindedAlan McAlister is noted for his experience in city centre development matters. Associate Nemonie Fulton attracts praise for her 'extensive conveyancing knowledge'.

Pinsent Masons Belfast LLP’s ‘excellent’ property team is best known for representing developers and property funds in sales and disposals across Northern Ireland. Retail mandates are a core area of expertise for the firm, with healthcare, student accommodation and housing other main areas of instruction. Practice head and retail expert Andrea McIlroy-Rose led the team assisting Asda with its acquisition of a new site in Newtownabbey and the redevelopment of superstores in Belfast and Downpatrick. In another matter, the group advised investment trust company AEW UK REIT on its £11m acquisition and subsequent redevelopment of Valley Retail Park in Newtownabbey. Other key clients include Queen’s University Belfast, MedicX Fund and Aurora Prime Retail Fund. Newly promoted partner Joanna Robinson is another key name.

Recent work for Arthur Cox Belfast’s property team includes advising developers and investors in the retail, residential and student housing sectors on a range of matters, as well as handling insolvency-related property sales and disposals. In a highlight for the team, practice head Alastair Todd advised Coca-Cola HBC NI on disposing part of its holding in Tullynacross to investment company Unicorn Asset Management; Todd also led the advice to the St Francis Group on the acquisition of a 24-acre site formerly occupied by the Hilden Mill complex. Other clients include Neptune Group, Four Seasons Healthcare, Marathon Asset Management and Tullett Prebon. Rowan White is another name to note. Gareth Planck moved to Eversheds Sutherland  in June 2017.

‘First and foremost a safe pair of hands’, Millar McCall Wylie LLP’s ‘very practical’ and ‘solution-driven’ property team provides ‘a superb service for clients’. Recent work for the group includes advising property developers and investors on high-value acquisitions, lease negotiations and refinancing matters. Highlights in 2017 included acting for Signature Living in the acquisition via a share sale of Belfast-based Scottish Mutual Building, which the client intends to turn into a hotel. Other clients include Fairfield Real Estate Finance and Moffet Property Holding. Practice head Peter McCall is ‘a highly pragmatic lawyer with an ability and desire to get the deal done’; Simon Fleming is ‘a technically excellent lawyer with a meticulous eye for detail’; and Andrew Kerr attracts praise for his ‘thorough, prompt and thoughtful advice’. Solicitor Neil McCreadie  is also recommended.

Tughans’ ‘accurate, detailed and business-focused’ team has a solid track record advising on high-profile and high-value property sales within the hotel, retail, energy and insolvency sectors, with student accommodation a growing area of activity. Highlights included acting for Randox Laboratories in the acquisition of a farm business on a 300-acre site via a share purchase, which involved a simultaneous hive up of property, a group restructure and letting and funding arrangements. David Jones leads the team, which includes Joe Moore, James Pringle and Rebecca Moffett. Consultant Phyllis Agnew is highly regarded for her expertise in development-related property mandates.

Mark Tinman is the key name at DWF, which has cornerstone expertise in retail-related mandates. Past instructions include advising household retailers and property developers with acquisitions and landlord and tenant matters. Clients have included Lidl, Poundland, Santander, Bank of Ireland, Phase 8 and Karen Millen.

Elliott Duffy Garrett’s team attracts praise for its ‘excellent knowledge’ of commercial property matters, including acquisitions, leases and insolvency-related property sales. Recent highlights include land acquisitions for multimillion-pound residential, retail and leisure developments. Stewart Nash leads the team, which includes Pierre Boitel-Gill and Leo Brown .

The property practice at Eversheds Sutherland attracts praise for its ‘excellent level of service’ and ‘very detailed and reliable advice’. The team has been advising clients from the energy, retail and finance sectors on high-value acquisitions, landlord and tenant matters and insolvency-related instructions. Highlights included advising retail company Oliver Bonas on its initial entry into the Northern Ireland market. Other clients include Ernst & Young and H2 Equity Partners. The ‘very responsive and accurate’ Gareth Planck, who joined the firm from Arthur Cox Belfast in June 2017, leads the team.

Mills Selig's ‘responsive, very experienced and knowledgeable’ property team has been busy with high-value acquisitions for development purposes across the residential, retail, office and media sectors in 2017. Highlights included Anna-Marie McAlinden advising new client IMC Cinema Group on the acquisition of all cinemas located in Northern Ireland, and assisting ITV plc with a development and lease agreement for new premises at City Quays. Practice head Anne Skeggs   (‘commercially very astute and a strong negotiator’) led advice to Tullymore House on the property aspects of the multimillion-pound sale of the Belfast-based Scottish Mutual Building via a share sale to the Signature Living Group; the property will be redeveloped into a hotel.

Housing ‘a strong team with in-depth industry knowledge’, TLT’s property practice provides a ‘first-class service’ for clients from across the energy, residential, finance, hotels and retail sectors. In a standout mandate in 2017, practice head Judith Allen led advice to Belfast-based property development company Andras House on the development and letting of premises in Belfast pertaining to the establishment of a Polish Consulate in Northern Ireland. Other key highlights in 2017 included acting for construction company Moorefield Contracts in the property aspects of a grant of a 99-year head lease to Belfast International Airport for land development for a high-profile retail scheme. Andrew Ryan is the key name for energy-related property mandates, while Kevin Murphy is noted for his experience in acquisition and disposal matters for retailers and business occupier clients. Legal director Sarah Ewing is ‘diligent, hard working and commercially aware’; she is well versed in landlord and tenant matters and residential development mandates.

Worthingtons’ ‘excellent’ property practice is best known for assisting prominent clients from the retail and telecoms sectors with contentious and non-contentious matters, including leases, acquisitions, disposals, landlord and tenant matters, and property disputes. Dixons Carphone is a key client, which the team has been advising on lease renewals and property disposal matters. Highlights in 2017 included assisting Hotel Chocolat with opening its first in-store café in Northern Ireland and advising cosmetics company Lush on leasing negotiations to open a flagship store in Belfast; the lease has been completed. Other key clients include Vodafone, O2 and The Works Stores. David Wilson heads the practice (‘his advice is pragmatic and commercially relevant’); Graham Pierce is another name to note.

Davidson McDonnell Solicitors is well known for its expertise in commercial real estate matters and has been handling office, hotel, student accommodation and retail transactions. Highlights in 2017 included acting for HMRC on leasing 100,000 sq ft of land for the development of its regional hub in Belfast and advising Ireland-based residential developer Lacuna Developments on the £4m acquisition of a site in Belfast for the purposes of a new student accommodation development. Other clients include Wirefox and Poundstretcher. Ross Davidson and David McDonnell  jointly head the team.

Past instructions for John McKee Solicitors’ commercial property team include acting for banks, developers and retailers in office, residential, transport and retail property transactions. Key clients include Nationwide Building Society, Translink, Lakeland Dairies and travel company The Lotus Group. Gerard Small leads the team, which also includes Andrea McCann, who has expertise in assisting pension trustees with the acquisition, disposal and letting of commercial properties.

Keystone Law’s property team has ‘a practical, commercial approach to resolving legal issues’ and provides ‘advice that is tailored to the matter in hand’. The group advises companies and individuals on leases and acquisitions for hotel, retail and residential developments, as well as handling landlord and tenant matters. In a standout mandate, the firm advised Belfast-based property group Kilmona on its £90m refinancing of its group banking facilities with Fairfield Real Estate Finance. Jim Houston jointly heads the practice with Danny McKay . John McMahon is another key name.

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Legal Developments in Northern Ireland for Commercial property

  • Parking rights: here to stay? Consent might be the surprising answer 


    In the field of the acquisition of easements by prescription, little has caused more consternation over the last decade or so than the question of whether a right to park cars can be acquired by twenty years user as of right. The types of property capable of being adversely affected range from individual residential units all the way up to major development sites. The establishment of such a right can have a devastating impact on the value of the burdened land.

    - Falcon Chambers

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