Devonshires Solicitors have specialised in providing practical and cutting edge legal advice to our developer and regeneration clients since the early 1970s. We regularly work with well in excess of 200 developer clients. We see our role as being to work alongside and in partnership with our client teams to deliver successful projects, on time and in budget, with the minimum of fuss and no unexpected surprises.
A Focus on Development and Regeneration
Our focus on regeneration and long track record of delivering developments enable us to understand the context in which complex and multi-stakeholder projects operate. Whilst we know from our experience that each of our developer clients has its own personality, its own risk profile and its own appetite for risk our experience also tells us that there are usually common features in the work that they do and the way that they work; the most important being their desire for quick, practical and accessible advice and their dislike of surprises late into a transaction. We have a particular strength in acting for Registered Provider developers and we understand inside out the regulatory framework within which they operate. In fact, our work for the Homes and Communities Agency has helped shape that framework.
That focus and track record benefits each of our developer clients. It means that issues will be taken into account by us throughout transactions and, critically, at the very beginning of a project when its structure is being formulated, not at the end when it can lead to unwanted delays, cost overruns or both. Our lawyers come to each instruction with built in experience in drafting and negotiating the documents that tend to crop up on regeneration projects – be that nominations agreements, overage deeds or s106 (planning) Agreements. We are adept at making sure such documents are kept as simple as possible and we know how to avoid the pitfalls (such as the ‘hidden’ reference to s16 of the Greater London Council (General Powers) Act 1974 making positive obligation bind the land seriously impacting mortgageability and marketability).
A Broad Client Base
We have acted on thousands of property, development and regeneration projects over the last 4 decades for Registered Providers (such as Hyde, Estuary, Gateway, Metropolitan, Southern, Peabody), private developers, (such as Bouygues, Morgan Sindall and Mulalley) and Local Authorities (such as Woking Borough Council, City of Westminster and London Borough of Camden).
Our range of client experience benefits all our clients. We understand the importance of looking at transactions from the perspective of all of the different stakeholders. We understand how the different players in the sector think and what drives them. We can help create solutions that will be acceptable to all participants in a transaction, thereby saving time and earning goodwill.
We “Do” Regeneration
Regeneration is one of our core strengths. We have over 40 lawyers who work on acquisition, development and disposal transactions day in, day out. That’s one of the largest such resources in the country. They collectively have experience on all aspects of the regeneration process – be that grant agreements (European and UK), site assembly (by way of CPO or voluntary), planning (s106 agreements and Community Infrastructure Levy), Rights to Light (ensuring that those purporting to issue a release have full power to do so), environmental issues (ensuring there is an understanding of what risks are being acquired), restrictive covenants (taking a pragmatic view and advising on insurance where appropriate) and community engagement agreements (describing the services with certainty and flexibility).
Whilst no one can say they’ve seen it all before, we’ve certainly seen a lot: from a planning agreement governing the relocation of a population of slow worms, to a confidentiality agreement protecting the contents of an Odour Report.
This breadth and depth of experience benefits our clients. It means that not only do we understand the complexities of all of these issues individually, we understand how they can conspire together to slow a regeneration project down or make it unviable. We understand the important role that your lawyers (hopefully us) can play in making sure that doesn’t happen – pushing transactions through to successful conclusion. Our team bring experience built in. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel each time an issue crops up. We are often able to bring solutions to the table that we have successfully adopted in previous transactions. We can avoid ones that have proved less successful.
But We Do More
We have a dedicated securitisation team that charges thousands of properties each year. We have one of the largest property management teams in the UK. Our banking team have advised on over half of all capital market transactions in the social housing sector from 2012 to 2014.
Although these services are provided outside our core development and regeneration teams, the expertise of our colleagues is a real help. We are all based in the same building so if an unusual issue arises, our development lawyers can nip down the corridor to get the view of an expert on how a lender might react or what long term impact there will be on management.
Whilst it would be fair to say that one of our greatest strengths is in housing led projects, it is far from our only strength. Our experience includes acting for commercial occupiers, utility companies, residential tenants and even a major world religion.
This benefits our developer and regeneration clients on mixed use projects. We are adept at tailoring commercial leases to ensure that they maximise the viability of the occupying business whilst minimising the impact on residents. We understand the importance of making sure the jigsaw of the resulting scheme fits and works together.
Whilst we take pride in the ability of our development lawyers to act as ‘all rounders’, we also see the benefit of specialisms.
At the top end we have lawyers who specialise in both contentious and non-contentious construction advice, whether that be drafting forms of architect appointments or litigating over a JCT-based contract because of delay.
But we also have specialists at the other end of the spectrum. In order to keep costs down we have Paralegals who specialise in Section Agreements and utility/wayleave agreements. Whilst rarely seen as the most exciting aspect of a transaction, the timing of these mean that processing them swiftly is often critical to ensuring that developments can be handed over on time.