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Chris Holwell - Construction Lawyer

Chris Holwell

Partner & National Head of Construction

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According to one source Chris is "exceptional technically," "proactive" and "will always find a solution." "He is very methodical, thoughtful and grasps the situation very quickly and comes up with the right answers," states another interviewee.
(Chambers & Partners, 2020)


Chris specialises in construction and engineering procurement work, acting for employers (in both public and private sectors), contractors, consultants, funders and sub-contractors.

His work includes advising on and negotiating procurement strategies and structures, building, engineering remediation and process plant contracts, framework agreements and call-off contracts, PFI/PPP projects, consultants’ appointments, bonds, guarantees, collateral warranties and associated issues.

Chris is ranked as a Leading Individual in both Chambers (2020 edition) and the Legal 500 (2020 edition).

Legal Services

Construction

Building

Chris advises developers and other employers, contractors, consultants, sub-contractors and funders on a range of building projects including hotels, student accommodation, warehousing and distribution, airports and many others. He works all of the time with a wide range of JCT contracts, particularly Design and Build, as well as bespoke contracts, consultant appointments and sub-contracts. He also advises in relation to framework contracts, with experience of advising framework procuring bodies, public sector users of frameworks and the contractors and consultants engaged under them.

Engineering

Chris has extensive experience of advising in relation to engineering projects in various sectors, including both civil and structural engineering and (see separate section) process plant. He is familiar with NEC3 and NEC4, FIDIC, MF/1, IChemE and other forms of contract used in the engineering industries, and also with the issues which differentiate engineering projects from standard construction. He has particular expertise in relation to highways and aviation sector work but has also advised on water industry and tram/light rail projects.

Process Plant

Chris has experience of process plant contracts in a variety of sectors including the pharmaceutical, water, manufacturing and warehousing/distribution industries. He is entirely familiar with the IChemE, MF/1 and other contracts used in the industry and advises on and negotiates them on a regular basis.

PFI/PPP

Chris has advised in relation to PFI/PPP schemes from their inception in the 1990s (e.g. the Sir John Colfox Schools PFI Pathfinder Project), and on the offspring of these main forms of procurement such as LIFT and BSF. Although the market for new projects is nowhere near what it was, he still advises on changes to PFI/PPP structures and the other work flowing from them.

Recent Work

  • Advising project managers and quantity surveyors Gleeds in relation to their appointments for a wide range of projects in the UK and overseas.
  • Acting for London Luton Airport in relation to construction and engineering contracts for their expansion project (published value £150 million). The project included a major expansion to the terminal building; including a significant extension with fit-out and refurbishment of the existing building with work both airside and landside, building a new aircraft access pier to accommodate additional aircraft arrival and departure gates, and new roads, car parks (including multi-storey) and accessways to increase the airport’s capacity from 12 million passengers a year to 18 million.
  • Acting for the developer of a luxury hotel, involving the complex refurbishment and extension of a Georgian building dating from the 1740s. The work included the incorporation of adjoining buildings of the same age into the expanded hotel. Chris acted in relation to the building contracts, professional consultant appointments and all other construction aspects of the project.
  • Advising contractors on AMP framework contracts with water companies and on the joint venture agreements needed in order to deliver the framework contract requirements.
  • Acting for a multinational pharmaceutical company on the MF/1 contracts for the purchase. This involved the installation and commissioning of a new fill/finish line and the associated isolator for its main UK production facility.
  • Acting for a hotel developer in relation to the creation of a new luxury hotel in an historic town, with the project including: refurbishment of an existing Tudor Inn; refurbishment and fitting out of an adjoining 1960s building and the construction of an additional penthouse floor on top of it; the new build of additional rooms on an adjoining site; the conversion of an adjoining Georgian house into further rooms.
  • Acting for Wadham College, Oxford in relation to the construction within the historic College grounds of two new, linked buildings – the William Doo Undergraduate Centre and the Dr Lee Shau Kee Building which is Oxford’s first dedicated Access Centre.  Any construction project within the precincts of a historic College in Oxford is a significant project, with the new buildings intended to be part of the fabric of the College for hundreds of years into the future.
  • Also advising Wadham College, Oxford in relation to the construction on a site elsewhere in Oxford (on the Iffley Road) of the Dorothy Wadham Building, containing 135 student bedrooms, an internal courtyard and ancillary rooms and facilities.
  • Advising another Oxford College on the construction of a very large new building within the historic College precincts, to include an auditorium, purpose built teaching rooms, a community space and a new function room, as well as enhanced wheelchair access to the existing College library, new study space, 46 new student bedrooms and a central administrative hub.  All within the historic precincts of the College and tying into its historic fabric.
  • Advising on the construction of major student accommodation projects in Reading, Durham, London and Nottingham, including some multi-phase developments, accommodating several thousand students.
  • Drafting and negotiating for Blueprint (a public/private joint venture between the Igloo fund and Nottingham City Council), the significantly amended NEC3-based contract for civil engineering works at its Waterside site. This included ground remediation, alteration of levels, installation of infrastructure and substantial repairs to the largely submerged cofferdam constructed walls, which line the banks of the Trent running along one side of the site and the canal basin, which projects within it. He also advised on all contracts for the building out of the site as a new residential district, including contracts for PV and ground source heat pumps.
  • Advising a Highways Authority in relation to the drafting, tendering and negotiation of a 14 year Highways term maintenance contract, with the value of £150 – £900 million. The contract was based on the HMEP-amended version of the NEC3 Term Service Contract and the framework was drafted so as to be useable by a number of other authorities in the region.
  • Advising two Highways Authorities on a series of joint framework contracts for highways works within the two cities. The work included initial strategic advice, resulting in the production of a paper setting out the best options for the Authorities, based on an analysis of their previous experience of highways frameworks. Also, the drafting of NEC3 based call-off contracts to implement the agreed strategy, using a variety of different NEC3 contracts rather than the Term Service Contract on which their previous framework had been based.
  • Advising the developer of Jaguar Land Rover’s new national distribution centre on the contracts for the construction of parking for hundreds of cars with ancillary lighting and other infrastructure and buildings.

Infrastructure & Project Finance

Chris advises on infrastructure contracts and projects in a variety of sectors, particularly highways, the water industry and aviation.

His work covers not only the contracts, but also Joint Venture agreements on the supply-side of the infrastructure industry, which are becoming ever more common.

Recent Work

  • Advising a Highways Authority in relation to the drafting, tendering and negotiation of a 14 year Highways term maintenance contract, with the value of £150 – £900 million. The contract was based on the HMEP-amended version of the NEC3 Term Service Contract and the framework was drafted so as to be useable by a number of other authorities in the region.
  • Acting for London Luton Airport in relation to construction and engineering contracts for their expansion project (published value £150 million). The project included a major expansion to the terminal building; including a significant extension with fit-out and refurbishment of the existing building with work both airside and landside, building a new aircraft access pier to accommodate additional aircraft arrival and departure gates, and new roads, car parks (including multi-storey) and accessways to increase the airport’s capacity from 12 million passengers a year to 18 million.
  • Acting for the Midlands Highway Alliance (a grouping of around 20 Highways Authorities) in drafting the Medium Schemes Framework Contract for use by all MHA member Authorities.
  • Advising two major mechanical and electrical engineering contractors on a construction joint venture agreement to tender for projects in the nuclear power sector.
  • Advising two Highways Authorities on a series of joint framework contracts for highways works within the two cities. The work included initial strategic advice, resulting in the production of a paper setting out the best options for the Authorities, based on an analysis of their previous experience of highways frameworks. Also, the drafting of NEC3 based call-off contracts to implement the agreed strategy, using a variety of different NEC3 contracts rather than the Term Service Contract on which their previous framework had been based.
  • Advising international project managers on their contracts relating to nuclear decommissioning work in Canada.
  • Advising the developer of Jaguar Land Rover’s new national distribution centre on the contracts for the construction of parking for hundreds of cars with ancillary lighting and other infrastructure and buildings.
  • Advising an engineering contractor undertaking a contract to lay gas pipelines, including drafting a sub-contract with a specialist drilling sub-contractor who was to drill under a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a watercourse and then pull a pipeline through.  This had to be done without allowing the pressurised mud to seep through cracks and enter the watercourse or SSSI during drilling and without damaging the protective coating on the pipe whilst pulling it through the heavily curved borehole.
  • Acting for project managers in relation to a number of rail industry contracts, relating to both track maintenance and improvement and works on stations. Work has involved both rail-based and major developments at stations such as Kings Cross, London St Pancras.

 

Latest

To contact Chris or for more information…

Call: 0845 050 3667
Or email: Send an email

 

Testimonials

“Chris has a great understanding of our market and the expectations of our clients and delivers succinct and clear advice, allowing us to easily make decisions. He clearly recognises the commercial realities of the industry and this allows him to focus on what is important, saving much time and money.”

(Ken Reid, Gleeds)

“Chris Holwell is a non-contentious construction procurement specialist. He advises developers, contractors and employers from both the private and public sectors on the procurement of highly significant projects. Clients say: ‘Chris is exceptionally well organised and his advice is always very well considered and pragmatic’.”

(Chambers & Partners, 2018)

“Chris Holwell is very highly regarded by clients and peers alike, who describe him as ‘an excellent transactional lawyer’ who is ‘exceptional on contracts.’ ‘He is very knowledgeable, very impressive and gives good clear advice,’ sources say. He recently advised on the documentation for the construction of a student accommodation, retail and offices project on Caledonian Road.”


“Chris Holwell is a respected figure in the market, winning praise for his understanding of the industry and ability to get straight to the core of a matter.”


“It is always a pleasure to work with Chris and his team. When you engage Chris you are assured of a very professional, competent and expert service – irrespective of the short notice and limited timescale generally given. The support and advice is always delivered clearly and succinctly – all issues are identified but more importantly solutions are also provided in a proactive and positive manner. Having worked on numerous projects with Chris it is very apparent that he is held in the highest regard by his peers.”

(Tim Spencer, Investment & Development Director, Mansell)

“Chris Holwell is recognised for his provision of front-end procurement advice. He regularly advises on sophisticated projects in the UK and internationally, and is described by interviewees as ‘a standout lawyer’.”

(Chambers & Partners, 2016)

He is praised as “very good technically” and “straightforward to work with” by market sources. One interviewee reports that “Chris’s knowledge of construction matters is extremely impressive.”

(Chambers & Partners, 2019)

“Chris Holwell has an ability to address contentious issues within a negotiation in a straightforward and conciliatory manner. This is a key strength and has a big impact on the opposing party in a negotiation situation.”

(The Legal 500, 2020)

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‘Doing the right thing’ is at the heart of Freeths. Find out more about our excellent client service and the strong set of values that guide the way we work.

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