Gowling WLG has advised property developer Thakeham Homes on their land assembly project for a new zero carbon community in South Cambridgeshire.
The development will include 25,000 new housing units, including affordable housing, as well as significant infrastructure and a wide range of community amenities, all of which require expert advice.
The transaction was led by real estate duo Richard Bate, who heads the Gowling real estate group and specializes in residential development, and senior senior partner Jennifer Tully.
Tully trained at Wragge Lawrence Graham, joined the Birmingham office in September 2014 and then qualified in London. As an intern, she worked with Nisha Jassal and Robert Caddick. One of the pillars of his role within the Jassal team was to support the team advising Castlepoint LP on all aspects of the Castlepoint Business Park in Bournemouth, a major development on a 41 acre site with 30 sales units by retail.
Tully spent six months on secondment to Transport for London (TfL) in the property and planning team, a highlight being an on-site visit to Shoreditch with the former mayor and our current Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. She then worked with Giles Clifford, TfL’s client partner, when they selected 13 real estate partners to help deliver thousands of additional homes in London.
Since qualifying, she has well and truly settled into Bate’s homebuilding team, learning from him and now leading her own strategic and instant land deals.
“The majority of my job is to assemble and dispose of strategic land for major home builders and real estate developers PLC. I also do a lot of instant land acquisitions for our homebuilder clients on the basis of town planning agreements, and often with elements of overrun, ”she says.
“I like to be involved in a client’s project from its inception and help them gain land and implement the planning permission for future towns and villages that are so badly needed. The altruist in me likes to think that I also play a role (albeit a very minor one) in helping to provide much needed new housing. My inner nerd especially enjoys drafting and negotiating the intricacies of overtaking acts, but I think I’m in the minority there. For me, at the end of the day, it’s all about the customer relationship. I really enjoy working with a lot of brilliant people, which is a real privilege.
Tully says the Thakeham deal particularly stands out for two reasons. “First, the fact that this is a genuinely new and innovative transaction structure, something quite rare these days. Second, the scale of what we and the customer aspire to offer “This deal is the foundation for literally a new city. Which is expected to initially lead to 25,000 zero-carbon homes, but will encompass a range of mixed-uses, including the UK’s Silicon Valley. The job is to” such a magnitude that it even entered Rishi Sunak’s 2021 budget, ”she said.
“There was obviously a huge amount of technical knowledge that I got out of it. But what really stood out to me was how important it is for everyone (clients, lawyers and agents, landowners and developers) to work collaboratively and effectively in partnership, to achieve complex goals but in their common collective interest. To achieve what we and Thakeham set out to do, it took technical legal ingenuity, the courage of the commercial developers, and a lot of hard work over a long period of time. It doesn’t end on the day of the trade. On the contrary, the interests of the parties will be aligned for at least the next decade, and probably much longer. We all had to work well together to get something out of the deal. It was therefore much more than a legal innovation – there were important personal aspects / challenges and long-term relationships to deal with in the heat of a complex negotiation. “
Technically, Tully argues that the business, financial and fiscal implications of providing infrastructure and the equitable distribution of values among owners with very different land uses were particularly difficult.
For example, there was a need to perform market testing (to generate optimal but site-specific values for landowners) while creating mixed balanced assessments to get all parties to act in the best interests of the regime (rather than in their own). “Our solution of combining options with land promotion through a developer arbitration mechanism is – in our opinion – unique and has been blessed by one of the UK’s leading tax QCs,” she says.
Next, it was necessary to prevent owners from unintentionally becoming land traders and incurring income rather than capital tax consequences, resolved by the infrastructure provision schedule and complex tailor-made security forecast. . “It was really a revolutionary thing,” she says. “It is of national significance because of its scale and focus on sustainability in a context of acute housing shortage. I am really proud to have been part of the team that worked on the case. This is without a doubt a defining deal for the career to date. I think the structure may well become a model for future large-scale strategic land deals. “
As part of the fall 2020 budget, the government pledged to develop a spatial framework for the Oxford-Cambridge arc to support economic growth and make the region a great place to live. The region is home to a unique business, science and technology ecosystem and is considered the perfect place to create the British version of Silicon Valley.
With the UK aiming to become a global leader in sustainability and net zero, housing has quickly become one of the targeted areas for improvement. Thakeham’s goal is to create the UK’s first net zero carbon community on this scale, creating a new town and series of connected villages in South Cambridgeshire using their cutting edge principles for creating places to zero carbon.
The developer aims to provide up to 10,000 affordable housing, new sports, health, school and educational facilities while ensuring a net gain in biodiversity of at least 20%. The community would create a healthy, high-quality sustainable environment with a strong economic focus and ultimately provide a comprehensive plan for future life.
As part of the South Cambridgeshire site assembly, Gowling WLG created a framework for how the different parts work together to bring this development to life. This secured the land while maximizing development potential and representing the best value for the land to ensure there was equalization throughout the project so that no landowner wasted costs. and in profits.
The new structural agreement combined the best parts of a typical promotion / option agreement to ensure that no part was lost in development. Not only was this an innovative approach from a residential construction point of view, but it also required new thinking to put in place the legal framework for on-site assembly. The framework is expected to shape future agreements where separately owned land is “sawn” together and will shape future housing developments across the country.
Since then, Tully has worked on several more strategic land deals. “A recent deal was a £ 17million purchase for a PLC homebuilder in Buckinghamshire, with four different types of overruns, which is expected to obtain planning consent for more than 700 homes and ancillary infrastructure,” she says .
Of course, as was the case with all of this year’s nominees, the Thakeham deal unfolded under cloud covid-19. Tully and the rest of the team worked from home and everything was done over the Internet. “I really missed human interaction. Zoom is all well and good, but being able to discuss something in person is unbeatable, ”she admits. “That said, I find that I do more at home, especially without travel. So, I was probably more productive, but rather more discouraged! I also saved a lot of paper compared to working in an office, which can only be a good thing ”.
Going forward, she has no illusions that many of the working practices related to the pandemic will remain to some extent. “I think now it’s about finding a balance that works for everyone,” she says. “I don’t think Zoom or Teams is going anywhere fast, so I expect this will always replace face-to-face meetings to some extent.”
Additionally, she says the pandemic has heightened her awareness of the value of being part of a strong team. “We all experienced the pandemic differently, and it was really difficult for a lot of people. We all bring something different to the table, so one day when I might not have shot all the cylinders (we all have these days!), I knew I had a brilliant group of people out there to. talk, and who to lean on, and vice versa. The pandemic has truly shown that as a team we are stronger than the sum of our parts. “
Who is who: the Gowling WLG team
Main partner: Richard bate
Discover other real estate teams in The Lawyer Awards Festival of Talent