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Property Development

Higher Education Property Development, Acquisitions and Disposals

Property projects for our higher education clients are a core area of our business. Our team advises on all aspects of higher education property, including freehold and leasehold acquisitions and disposals, development and funding, incorporations, complex first registration of university sites, permanent endowment and other charity related issues, asset management, and property litigation.

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How can we help?

Our recent experience has included:

University Student Accommodation

  • Acting on the acquisition and development of 4,230 student accommodation bedspaces in London (two schemes), Birmingham, Bristol, Kingston-upon-Thames, Leeds, Preston, Salford, Sheffield (two schemes) and Edinburgh (two schemes)
  • Working with London solicitors Nabarro on the transfer of all these schemes into a joint venture involving some £200 million equity subscription, and joint bank funding of approximately £250 million
  • Negotiating leases of bedspaces to the Universities of Sheffield, Central Lancashire and Kingston

Funding and Project Finance

  • Advising on the development of premises under the NHS LIFT scheme (a Public Private Partnership arrangement involving Partnerships for Health, a Private Sector partner and the Local Health Authority). The university was interested as landowner and (via the university student health practice) as end users and occupiers. This involved a thorough review and negotiation of Lease Plus and the LIFT scheme contracts.

Campus Development

  • Advising on strategic planning and land assembly issues for a proposed new 150-acre, 8,000 student campus involving collaboration with two national house-builders on the joint promotion of the development site for a range of uses including residential, business park, and a science park alongside the campus
  • Advising a university on the terms of its leases, in the context of a proposed major redevelopment of academic and student accommodation, and regulated procurement advice in the context of appointment of its professional design team

Exploiting Residential and other Development Opportunities

  • Disposing of a university's former research station to a national house-builder with the benefit of planning permission for 350 houses at a value of £30+ million, including deferred instalments of price, with security and parent company guarantees
  • Overage dependent on density of development and future renegotiation of the planning gain package
  • An agreed scheme of remediation with price adjustment
  • Reservation of rights to a dozen or so parcels of retained land
  • Use of ransom strips and requirements for the developer to open up land for future development 

Sports Facilities

  • Acting for the joint sponsors of the redevelopment of sports facilities for shared use. This involved recommending an appropriate legal structure for the joint venture, establishing a new charitable company to operate the facilities and constitutional and liability issues affecting the charity trustees.

Science Park Developments

  • Acting for a joint venture spin out of three south-west universities in connection with a proposed academic innovation centre, to form the catalyst for the development of a science park on the northern fringes of Bristol.

The project has a long history, and has involved collaboration between the three universities over a number of years, the local authority, the original landowners and developers, and more recently with the RDA, who have acquired a major interest in the site. Our involvement has included:

  • Establishing the joint venture company
  • Negotiating the Section 106 planning agreement to deliver the centre building to an agreed specification, and regulate the nature of uses on the site - thus supporting its use both as an 'incubator' for embryonic businesses, and as an interface for knowledge transfer between academic research and commercial investment and development
  • Negotiating a development agreement with the landowners, providing for the phasing of infrastructure works and the construction of the centre building, and an option to purchase further land from the developers to allow for future expansion

Property Dispute Resolution

We focus on pragmatic legal solutions and are ever mindful of the fact that universities would be scrutinised and criticised if they litigate rather than consider alternative dispute resolution (ADR) and work to resolve issues. We have represented universities on a range of advice on property disputes, including:

  • Sub-tenancies, dilapidations and service charge claims, encompassing the service charge code, mediation and part 36 offers
  • Analysis of proprietary estoppel and whether the university claims a beneficial interest in various parts of the building by virtue of its capital contributions to various build programmes
  • Securing possession of elements of a site to facilitate its sale and redevelopment. The occupants varied in status from Rent Act tenants to ASTs and service occupants
  • Remedies available for a developer's breach of obligations, including specific performance and damages
  • Rights in relation to development works on an adjoining site
  • L&TA 54 proceedings to terminate leases in order for space to be included in precinct redevelopment, and contested L&TA 54 lease renewals
  • Party wall disputes
  • Advice on the eviction of disruptive students
  • Advice on 'passing-off' in respect of a marketing campaign for student accommodation

 Property Management

Advising on a range of property management issues, including:

  • Acquisition by lease for space sharing as part of a media hub
  • Lettings to incubator businesses
  • Renewal of university leases to accommodate research bodies
  • Negotiation of telecoms leases
  • Preparation of a template assured shorthold tenancy agreement for privately operated student accommodation, including support to the university's management team in procedures to be adopted when accepting students as tenants, website information, taking reservations, tenancy deposits, and handling damage and arrears claims
  • Advice on the rights of students in private sector housing where landlords are repossessed, a review of the university's position and providing practical advice to the accommodation office on its relationship with the landlords and the advice to be provided to its students.

Planning and Environmental

Our higher education property team's experience includes:

  • Drafting complex s106 agreements
  • Advice on certificates of lawful use and planning control issues
  • Acting in respect of planning appeals and other challenges including judicial review
  • Advising on policy documents, responses to government consultations and local development framework process
  • Drafting and negotiating highway agreements and traffic regulation orders
  • Acting in respect of rights of way inquiries, implementing stopping up/diversion orders, providing advocacy in relation to highways diversions
  • Advising on issues of contaminated land and other areas of environmental law from nature conservation designations to advising on regulatory compliance

To discuss your higher education property requirements, please contact Michelle Bendall on 0117 314 5326.

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The team at VWV was professional, responsive and supportive in providing advice in a fast moving and cutting edge area of law. The level of resource made available was exceptional (while competitively priced) and the focus of all the team was unstintingly to support the University and protect its reputation.

  • A University Secretary

Meet the Team

Our Education team is ranked in the top tier of Chambers & Partners UK wide category and Legal 500.

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Bettina Rigg - Partner at VWV
Jane Byford - Partner at VWV
Clive Read - Partner at VWV

Commercial Property

Higher Education

Public Sector

News & Events

Growth in VWV's Higher Education Team
Claire Turner, the former Director of Legal and Insurance Services at the University of Exeter, has joined VWV as a Consultant Solicitor.
17 Jun 2019