Regional Lead for Real Estate in the Midlands – Partner in the Housebuilding & Strategic Land Team
"I have worked with James for nearly 20 years on numerous land purchases, contracts and disputes. The service I have received has always been of the highest standard and I look forward to working with him for many years to come."
(Regional Managing Director of a National Housebuilder)
James has over 20 years’ experience in Real Estate and is a noted specialist in Residential Development and Public Sector property matters. He is Regional Lead for Freeths’ Real Estate teams in the Midlands as well as having a prominent role in the national Housebuilding & Strategic Land Team. He has for many years managed the relationship with Bellway Homes and counts many other major housebuilders, local authorities and significant landowners amongst his clients. He has a established a reputation for bringing a commercial approach to complex land transactions, where his collaborative approach and keen eye for detail are appreciated by clients who need to achieve demanding outcomes in short timescales.
James’ extensive experience includes the full range of developments from long-term joint venture partnerships and public sector building leases, to options, pre-emptions, planning promotion and hybrid option/promotion agreements and traditional conditional and unconditional purchases. James acts for a wide variety of clients in the sector, supported by Freeths’ large specialist Housebuilding & Strategic Land Sector team.
James is ranked as a Leading Individual in Chambers & Partners (2024 edition).
Housebuilding & Strategic Land
James is a leading specialist lawyer to the housebuilding industry. His extensive experience includes the full range of developments from long-term joint venture partnerships and public sector building leases, to options, pre-emptions, planning promotion and hybrid option/promotion agreements and traditional conditional and unconditional purchases. James acts for a wide variety of clients in the sector, supported by Freeths’ large specialist Housebuilding & Strategic Land Sector team. He has particular skills in dealing with complex transactions quickly and effectively, as well as in successfully structuring large-scale urban extension sites for multi-phase development. He has been involved in a number of significant housebuilding projects in recent years including the North Solihull regeneration joint venture between Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council, Bellway Homes and West Mercia Homes and a number of the largest Sustainable Urban Extension schemes in England.
- Advising various housebuilder clients on the acquisition of development parcels within larger developments, and all associated issues including delivery of shared infrastructure, planning conditions, section 106 obligations, CIL, affordable housing, on-site works and site-wide maintenance and adoption of the public realm.
- Acting for Bellway Homes in the acquisition of a 400-unit development site in Ripley, Derbyshire which included a complex mines and minerals position involving the simultaneous acquisition of a separate subterranean title. The site was also crossed by a major freshwater aqueduct which had to be crossed to complete the full development which required careful advice to ensure that the exact extent of the development constraint was taken into account.
- Acting for a housebuilder client in complex negotiations with the Department for Transport over the infill of a disused railway tunnel and cutting and construction of an estate spine road above the fill.
- Acting for Bellway Homes’ South Midlands Division in the acquisition within 18 working days of instruction of the former Bluebird toffee factory near Bromsgrove. The site excluded the listed former headquarters buildings which were retained for separate development and the acquisition involved complex servicing obligations and cross-rights as well as title and probate issues which were all resolved within the seller’s fixed contractual deadline.
- Acting for a housebuilder client in the purchase of a 200-unit site in Warwickshire where access had to be taken from the highway across unadopted, unregistered land in unknown ownership, requiring use of Section 228 of the Highways Act 1980 backed up by bespoke title indemnity insurance.
- Acting for Bellway Homes’ West Midlands Division in its involvement in the Langley Sustainable Urban Extension near Sutton Coldfield, including conditional and unconditional freehold acquisitions and negotiations with the landowner, housebuilder and public sector consortium partners.
- Acting for Bellway Homes in the purchase of the major part of the former Lucas Industries/ZF headquarters and industrial site in Solihull on a sale and leaseback facilitating ZF’s relocation to Blythe Valley; the occupational, title and infrastructure issues arising on the phase required complex solutions to ensure that both the current and future phases could be successfully developed.
- Acting for a housebuilder in the purchase of a 525-unit development site on the edge of Nuneaton which included the successful resolution of difficult Agricultural Holdings Act tenancy issues.
- Acting for a private housebuilder in the acquisition by way of subsale of a site in rural Leicestershire after resolving complex issues around relocation of overhead powerlines.
- Acting for an Estate in Warwickshire in connection with a proposed Sustainable Urban Extension including legal and taxation structuring advice, landowner collaborations and disposals.
- Advising William Davis Homes on a Promotion and Collaboration Agreement near Nottingham, enabling a joint planning strategy with the other strategic landowner to be taken forward.
Public Sector Property
James leads the Freeths team specialising in public sector property and advises local authorities throughout the country on property projects. The team covers the full range of public sector property advice, while James himself specialises in development projects, joint ventures and large-scale acquisitions and disposals.
- Acting for Nottinghamshire County Council in connection with its high-profile development site at Top Wighay Farm, Hucknall.
- Acting for Rushcliffe Borough Council in the sale of its Civic Offices at Trent Bridge, Nottingham for residential conversion.
- Advising High Peak Borough Council on its Fairfield Regeneration project in Buxton, including in connection with Housing Infrastructure Fund grant funding, negotiated acquisition of third party interests, compulsory purchase strategy, infrastructure delivery and landowner collaborations.
- Advising Milton Keynes Development Partnership on a large number of significant development schemes by way of Building Lease. Schemes included education and health sites, residential developments, industrial schemes and town-centre mixed use developments.
- Acting for Milton Keynes Council in the acquisition of the Brunel Shopping Centre in Bletchley to facilitate large-scale town-centre regeneration.
- Advising Bellway Homes Limited in relation to the ground-breaking partnering arrangement with Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council, InPartnership Limited and Whitefriars Housing Group for carrying out the major 15 year, £1.8 billion regeneration of Council estates in North Solihull.
- Acting for Milton Keynes Development Partnership in a wide range of residential and commercial development schemes. These were secured by way of development agreement and building lease within the borough of Milton Keynes. Schemes included education and health sites, residential developments, industrial schemes and town-centre mixed use developments.
- Advising Telford & Wrekin Council in connection with the disposal of land to a subsidiary of Magna International. This involved the construction of a new 225,000 sq ft plant for manufacture of components for Jaguar Land Rover. James co-ordinated Freeths’ team which advised upon the land disposal structure, property matters, State aid, and creation of land options – either for future expansion by the occupier or speculative development by the local authority.
- Advising Halton Borough Council on development of Council-owned land as a major new rail-connected train manufacturing and maintenance plant for Alstom Transport UK Limited. This will be the UK’s third train production plant when fully completed. The development incorporates multi-million pound infrastructure provision for use by the new plant and the Council’s retained estate, within a complex State aid framework. The development faced difficult technical and environmental constraints, in addition to the requirement for creation of a new connection to the rail network.
- Freeths advises top 10 UK housebuilder on historic Boots site acquisition
- Real Estate Blog: The Extent of the Adopted Highway
- Freeths continues its Real Estate growth with further strategic roles announced
- Freeths bolsters its Real Estate offering with strategic promotions
- Freeths responds to continued high demand for new housing
- Local Government Real Estate Workshop – Nottingham – 1 July
To contact James or for more information…
“I have worked with James for nearly 20 years on numerous land purchases, contracts and disputes. The service I have received has always been of the highest standard and I look forward to working with him for many years to come.”(Regional Managing Director)
“I have found James to be highly professional and responsive in our work with him. He and his team have been timely in protecting the interests of the organisation, whilst assisting in maximising outcomes for local taxpayers.”(Local Authority Chief Executive)
“James’ team of lawyers worked seamlessly with the Council’s in-house staff and their other external advisers, including myself, engaged fully in the detail of the transaction, and took the time to understand what the Council aimed to achieve out of the disposal.”(Property Adviser, Midlands District Council)
“The firm is able to provide a high quality and comprehensive service with the capacity to call in professionals from other internal departments (tax, construction, procurement etc.) as necessary.”(Senior Solicitor at a Greater Nottingham Borough Council)
“James consistently delivers an excellent legal service across a diverse portfolio of land acquisition agreements associated with residential developments. His knowledgeable and thorough approach is recognised and valued by all our team members.”(Regional Development Director)
“I have been working with James now for a number of years and we have completed on the purchase of six development sites. James has been able to gain a quick understanding of our requirements and his thorough manner and good communication skills have meant that the deals, whilst quite complex, have moved forward to a successful conclusion.”(Regional Land Director of a National Housebuilder)
James is known for his “hard work, enthusiasm, endless patience, drive to go the extra mile and preparedness to do all the heavy lifting”(Development Director of a national housebuilder))
“His involvement unpicked a deadlocked situation… he has been a great ally.”(Landowner client, in connection with a land sale for residential development)
“James is incredibly knowledgeable, has strong communication and negotiation skills, and is commercially astute.”(Chambers & Partner, 2024)
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