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  1. Commercial property: Beds, Bucks, Herts, Middx
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The commercial property practice at Dentons is praised for its 'very high level of service; the team is attentive, responsive, solution minded, and works to reduce red tape and delays by picking up the phone to talk through and resolve issues.' Led by Roland Gray, the practice has wide-ranging expertise covering work for developers and housebuilders including Taylor Wimpey; infrastructure and regeneration projects for clients such as Network Rail; assisting retail clients such as Sainsbury's and John Lewis Partnership with portfolio management matters. Recent highlights include acting for a consortium of local authorities in the northern Home Counties on the proposed development of a number of new garden communities. In an illustration of the practice's real estate finance expertise, Robert Wyatt acted for Standard Chartered Bank on the £41m financing of a super-prime residential property in London. Other key figures include Greg Rigby, who acts for retailers and property investors, as well as handling railway property matters. Chris Denny retired from private practice in 2017.

EMW Law LLP has wide-ranging expertise covering property finance, investment, development, and occupier mandates in sectors including healthcare, telecommunications and education. On the development front, David Danskin advised Claymore Phoenix on the pre-letting and forward funding of a retail park in Leighton Buzzard, which involved handling the planning and construction aspects, as well as the development funding agreement. In other highlights, Danskin acted for a landowner on the sale of a 240-unit residential development site, and Joe Soul acted for Milton Keynes YMCA on the redevelopment of an existing YMCA supported living accommodation in central Milton Keynes. Stephen Kay heads the real estate team and has an extensive track record advising corporate occupiers on their acquisitions and disposals. Social housing expert Caroline Hayward is also recommended.

IBB (Iliffes Booth Bennett) attracts praise for its 'excellent resources, flexible mindset and good value for money'. Headed by Bill Bidder, the sizeable team handles the full range of commercial property matters, with a particularly strong reputation for residential development and regeneration work, where it acts for major developers and housebuilders including Barratt Homes, Persimmon and Bellway. It also has a growing hotel-sector workload. Recent highlights include advising Lands improvement on the disposal of three development parcels, acting for Thrive Homes on the acquisition and development of a former industrial site in Hemel Hempstead, and acting for Optima on the sale and development of a new industrial/warehouse scheme on a town centre brownfield site. Juliusz Wodzianski and Susan Mawson are also recommended, as is Christian Le Gouais, whose 'tenacity, attention to detail and commerciality sets him out from other lawyers'.

Shoosmiths LLP fields a team of 'very commercially minded' real estate experts headed in Milton Keynes by Steve Wiltshire, who is 'a very experienced practitioner able to hone in on relevant issues to conclude a transaction in a timely manner'. The practice's expertise spans the full range of commercial property matters, including handling acquisitions and disposals on behalf of investors; advising on corporate occupancy matters such as HQ relocations for clients including Hewlett Packard Enterprises; advising housebuilders and developers such as Wilson Bowden at every step of the commercial development lifecycle; and handling property finance matters for borrowers and lenders. It is also noted for its strong retail and leisure credentials, as well as its work on residential development matters. Recent highlights include acting for Frontier Estates on the acquisition of care home sites in Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, the subsequent pre-letting arrangements for the lease of the homes, and the sale of the sites to Aviva. Wiltshire led on that deal alongside Catherine Williams, who also acted for easyHotel UK on the expansion of its portfolio through the acquisition of leasehold interests in newly developed sites. Lisa Williams stands out for her track record advising on the acquisition and development of mobile home parks, holiday parks and inland marinas.

B P Collins LLP's commercial property practice is noted for providing 'city-quality advice' and for 'adding value to every part of a transaction'. The firm has a particular focus on retail and leisure work, as well as residential development, mining and environmental matters. The practice's workload is predominantly focused around the Thames Valley, although it also handles mandates nationwide for clients such as Lacoste. Other clients include Biffa Group and developer City and Provincial Properties. Alison Taylor heads the practice and has an extensive track record in portfolio management, acquisitions and disposals, and commercial lease transactions. The 'efficient and knowledgeable' Maria Mowberry is also recommended.

Clients of Blaser Mills rate the commercial property practice for its 'prompt, knowledgeable advice and reasonable fee structure'. Clients include investors, developers, banks and hoteliers, for which the practice handles the full range of contentious and non-contentious property matters. Development work has been a particular growth area for the team; recent highlights include advising construction company Ardmore on a £7m commercial development in Coventry, which involved acquiring the development site, the development of the site into 14 separate commercial units and subsequent sale of the units, and finalising and completing the compulsory purchase order over part of the site. The team also has niche expertise in property issues related to professional dentist practices. The 'very knowledgeable' David Kemp heads the commercial property practice and stands out for his ability to 'deal with matters not only with his "legal hat on" but also with a commercial perspective in mind'. Louise Benning heads the real estate development team and is also recommended.

Debenhams Ottaway acts for local, national and multinational clients (including Fujitsu, AXA UK and Svenska Handelsbanken) on a wide variety of commercial property matters, from landlord and tenant issues to secured lending, property development and sales and purchases of owner occupied and investment property. The real estate practice has a strong focus on secured lending matters, where it acts for a number of banks on commercial property financings. It also has a strong reputation in the hospitality, charities and ecclesiastical sectors. Recent highlights include advising Cosmic Securities on the purchase of a portfolio of five properties, which involved the parallel completion of subsales agreed between exchange and completion; acting for Fujitsu General on the renewal of the lease of its UK headquarters; and acting for Cupcake Clothing on its purchase of new headquarters in St Albans. Ruth Boulton heads the practice, which includes Jonathan Foy, senior associate Neil Mercer, and associate Sandra Moore, who joined the firm in 2017.

Clients remain 'very pleased with the speed and efficiency of the service received' by the practice at Freeths LLP, which particularly stands out for its track record in the drinks, hospitality and leisure sectors. Clients in these arenas include the Casual Dining Group, which owns brands such as Café Rouge and Las Iguanas, and Burger King UK, which the firm recently assisted with a due diligence exercise on its existing portfolio of sites related to private equity firm Bridgepoint becoming the UK master franchisee for the fast food chain and its acquisition of one of the UK's largest Burger King franchisees. It is also highly active in the logistics space, with the team acting for new client FedEx on its real estate requirements following its acquisition of TNT in the UK. Other recent highlights include acting for London Luton Airport Operations on retail and concession agreements related to the airport's £110m expansion plans, and advising Advanced Computer Software Group on its lease of new office space in Birmingham. Valerie Warman heads the practice and has extensive experience acting for corporate occupiers and landlords. Hospitality group head Leo skinner and Shashi Chambers, who is noted for his expertise in matters related to airports and logistics businesses, are also recommended.

SA Law LLP attracts praise for its 'very professional service and good depth of knowledge' of commercial property matters. The practice's expertise runs the gamut of real estate work, from residential and commercial development to real estate finance and lease enfranchisement matters. Clients include lenders such as Royal Bank of Scotland and HSBC, as well as retail and healthcare sector companies. On the real estate finance front, Gary Dunger advised Portman Finance on the £1.1m funding provided to a special purpose vehicle of a developer for the purposes of purposes of purchasing a brownfield former factor site in Hastings intended for regeneration. Other recent highlights include advising Tulsesense on the acquisition of a property portfolio and a number of other acquisitions from various vendors, and advising Eurochange on its portfolio expansion. The team is jointly headed by Steve Kenneford, who has more than 30 years' experience handling residential property matters, and Terence Ritchie, who has particular expertise in real estate finance.

Sherrards Solicitors LLP fields a 'well-organised, efficient and knowledgeable' commercial property practice that provides 'sensible, down-to-earth advice that takes into account the technicalities and practicalities alike'. It is particularly noted for its expertise in the retail and food outlet, franchising, leisure and healthcare sectors, and handles the full range of development work, from acquisition, planning and construction to sales, lettings and ongoing management. Retail clients include Gift Universe, for which the practice handled approximately 30 temporary lettings for the client's "pop-up" shops. In an illustration of its growing property finance workload, practice head Terry Fendt advised Handelsbanken on a £1.1m refinancing of a mixed-use premises in London. Fendt and recently promoted partner Stephanie Kierans are singled out for their 'commercial and proactive approach'. The practice was strengthened by the recruitment of Caroline Vernon from CMS and Victoria Mundy from McGuireWoods London LLP.

At Taylor Walton LLP, Angela Thomas heads a sizeable commercial property team with wide-ranging expertise encompassing development work, property finance, and real estate acquisition and disposal mandates. The retail sector is a growth area for the practice, which acts for clients including independent toy retailer The Entertainer (Amersham) and recruitment agency Brook Street. It also has a strong focus on the charity sector, with clients including Barnardo's. In a recent highlight, the practice acted for Capita on the real estate aspects of the sale of its fund administration business. Thomas has more than 30 years' experience in investment acquisitions and disposals, portfolio management, financing and commercial development matters.Dermot Carey and Michael Kelly are also recommended.

VWV (Veale Wasbrough Vizards)'s commercial property practice acts for property developers on residential, commercial and mixed-use developments, as well as advising landowners, investors, corporate occupiers and lenders on a range of real estate mandates. Recent highlights include advising e-commerce solutions provider, Salmon, on a pre-let of new office premises in Watford; acting for Imagination Technologies on a sale and leaseback transaction of the client's headquarters in King's Langley; and acting for Laxton Properties on a proposed development involving 36 dwellings and social housing. David Marsden handles property development matters for clients such as Nationcrest. Also recommended are finance specialist Joe Kwok and David Power, who jointly heads the property development team with Marsden.

Woodfines LLP fields a 'highly professional outfit' that provides 'an excellent service' to its real estate clients, which include lenders, property developers and investors. The firm continued to add to its commercial property team through lateral recruitments, most recently bringing on board senior associate Suzanne Folbigg from Shoosmiths LLP, who has a strong track record handling landlord and tenant work in the retail and leisure sectors. She joins a team with wide-ranging expertise encompassing property finance, acquisitions and disposals, and development work. Practice head Sylvia Goulding acted for Parrott Development on the proposed acquisition of a development site where construction had begun but the contractor had gone bust. On the landlord and tenant front, Suzanna Stephenson acted for recruitment agency G Force Logistics on a new lease of its premises. Other key figures include Brian Bennett, Charlotte Benjamin, and senior associates Michael Roche and Veena Sharma.

Crane & Staples attracts praise for its 'extremely meticulous and knowledgeable approach - cases are dealt with in a timely and adept manner and the team provides peace of mind that a case is in the best hands'. Bonnie Twiggs is singled out for her 'breadth of experience, excellent knowledge of her field, and professional, pragmatic approach'. The practice handles a range of commercial and residential property matters for developers, investors, landlords and tenants. Recent highlights include acting for the developer on the sale of land for development; handling the acquisition of a mixed-use property which involved two residential properties, two commercial units on 10-year leases; and advising on the sale of a former ambulance station. Christopher Brewis is also recommended.

Geoffrey Leaver Solicitors LLP's commercial property practice handles the full range of real estate transactions, form acquisitions and disposals to financing real estate transactions and handling landlord and tenant matters. Working closely with its construction team, the practice also handles all aspects of commercial property development. Darren Millis heads the practice, which includes Richard Willis, who regularly advises on real estate acquisitions, disposals and commercial occupier mandates.

The 'professional and helpful' team at Hewitsons is praised for its 'quick and efficient responses, pragmatic advice' and for its willingness to 'keep clients regularly appraised of progress'. The practice acts for a range of clients, including SMEs, property funds, institutional investors and private trusts on a variety of real estate transactions, including property financing. It also has a strong reputation for public sector regeneration work, covering town centre regeneration and brownfield site development work. Recent highlights include advising Bedford College on the transfer of all the assets (including a portfolio of 12 properties) from Tresham College to the client following Tresham College's dissolution; acting for Homes England on the sale of a brownfield site in central Milton Keynes' business district; and handled the transfer of a portfolio of seven investment properties from a partnership to a new company, as well as the refinancing of the portfolio by Svenska Handelsbanken. Clients single out practice head David Wells, for his 'technical knowledge of property law'. Also recommended are Yvette Morgan, who regularly acts for developers and public sector entities on housing and mixed-use developments, and Tim Richards, whose track record covers contentious and non-contentious construction and procurement issues.

Clients are 'very happy' with the service received by the commercial property team at Howes Percival LLP, which established its commercial property team in Milton Keynes with the recruitment of Lisa Mantle in 2017 from Brecher LLP. Mantle brings an extensive track record in property finance, development work, and commercial property acquisitions and disposals. The practice has quickly established itself as a go-to firm for portfolio secured lending and refinancing, and for landlord and tenant work. Clients include Oakmayne Properties and Dukelease Properties.

Rachael Spalton heads the commercial property practice at Longmores Solicitors LLP, which acts for public and private sector clients, including landowners, developers, investors and corporate occupiers, on a range of real estate matters, from acquisitions and disposals to leasehold mandates. Recent highlights include advising on the £5m sale and refinancing of a freehold property with an existing sublease to an energy company, which involved a complex deed of variation and complimentary deeds of easement; and acting for a construction company on the sale of a subsidiary self storage company, including five storage sites.Stephen Stewart is also recommended.

Machins Solicitors LLP's commercial property team provides advice that is 'always to the point and commercially focused', with a level of service that is 'superior to many Magic Circle and City firms'. Nick Ginger ('one of the most commercially aware and pragmatic lawyers you can work with') heads the practice and has extensive experience handling freehold and leasehold acquisitions and disposals, sales of development land and leasehold work.

Nockolds Solicitors attracts praise for its 'very good level of service, expertise and value for money; it compares very well to other firms practising in this area'. The real estate practice acts for local and regional developers, as well as retailers, restaurant owners and property investors, with an emphasis on handling acquisitions and disposals of sites for commercial and residential development. Michael Talbot heads the practice and focuses on high-value residential development mandates. Other key figures include Michael Shapiro, Andrew Fernandes, Elena Nicolaou, whose expertise covers regeneration and development projects, and Lucy Riley, who handles lease enfranchisement matters on behalf of landlords and tenants.

Tees Law is praised for its 'very high level of service' and for fielding a commercial property team that 'knows and understand the client's business'. Clients include institutional investors, corporate occupiers, private individuals and developers, for which the practice provides a comprehensive service covering site acquisitions, commercial property sales and purchases, real estate financing, and landlord and tenant work. On the development front, practice head David Miller led a team acting for a consortium of developers and private landowners on the sale of land with the benefit of planning permission for a large number of residential housing units as well as schooling and commercial property. Other key figures include Govan Bramley, who has an extensive track record in housing developments, and associate Bilyana Munic, who is singled out for her 'good knowledge and understanding of the client's business'.

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Legal Developments in South East for Commercial property: Beds, Bucks, Herts, Middx

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    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.‚Ä©
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