Category Archive: Real Estate

New paralegal provides support for real estate clients

A new paralegal has joined Sintons, providing support to the firm’s real estate clients.

Rhiain Breeze brings with her six years’ experience in housing and real estate, having previously worked as a legal secretary.

Mark Dobbin, who heads up Sintons’ real estate department, welcomed Rhiain to the team, saying: “Rhiain’s previous experience means she’s perfectly placed to work as part of our specialist real estate team.

“We support clients regionally and nationally with every aspect of commercial property law and Rhiain will play a key role in making sure every client receives the highest standards of legal support.”

Rhiain has previously completed a Legal Secretary course with CILEX and has worked in housing, real estate and social housing.

Outside of work she’s active in supporting a range of charities including Smart Works and The People’s Kitchen.

Rhiain said: “I started my legal career as an admin assistant before becoming a legal secretary and now a paralegal.

“Joining Sintons means I can take my next step in a firm which is recognised for its excellence and I can further my experience in a wide range of areas.”

Sintons’ real estate team includes lawyers who specialise in rural and agricultural property, leisure venues, healthcare and more. Find out more.

Six months with Sintons: first year trainees share their experiences

Corina Dias and Will Chapman are both first year trainee solicitors at Sintons, currently working in the employment and real estate teams. Six months into their training contract, they share what their experience has been like so far.

Tell me a bit about what you did before you started at Sintons and what the first six months of your training contract have been like.

Corina: Previously, I was an HR Manager for a local authority and a lot of my work was underpinned by legal concepts which I enjoyed learning about so, when COVID hit, I thought why not go ahead and try to switch careers? I did my conversion degree while working full time and last year I did my LPC in London on a fast-track basis. It was intense but a great experience and I don’t regret a thing.

I’m just coming to the end of my first training seat in the employment team. I’ve loved every minute of it and I feel like I’ve been able to bring some of my previous knowledge to the team. Employment is a seat I’d recommend to other trainees as it’s quite fast-paced and you get to learn a lot very quickly.

Will: I’d been a paralegal for two years so I knew what to expect from working in a law firm and had a good idea of what I’d be doing as a trainee. During my time in the real estate department I’ve worked on things like drafting leases and contracts and I also support on a lot of work for faith-based institutions, which is an area Sintons specialises in.

Being given responsibility and opportunities to be hands-on has been really good, and I’ve enjoyed learning how to tailor your advice for the different people you deal with; it’s varied and means you’re always learning.

Which other departments would you like to work in during your training contract?

Corina: I enjoyed all parts of my studies so I have an open mind about the areas of law I want to learn about. My next seat is in the neurotrauma team; it will be very different from employment law and I’m looking forward to experiencing it.

Will: My preference is commercial law so I’m interested in working in the employment law team, where Corina is now.

Why did you choose to apply to Sintons?

Corina: In my previous career, I used to come to the seminars which the employment team delivers and I liked that they were very straight talking and shared so much useful information.

I thought I’d apply just to see how the process works. I didn’t think I’d be successful and I was planning to apply again the following year – but I got a job!

Will: I moved to Leeds after university and I wanted to return to the North East. I applied to a few firms here and when I spent time at Sintons as part of the recruitment process, everyone here seemed a lot more approachable than in other places. It was also clear what the plans for the growth of the firm are, how we as trainees play a part in that and how we fit in once we’ve qualified.

What was the application process like?

Corina: The application process includes a three day assessment in the firm. You get to know a lot of people in that time, including the current trainees and apprentices – we had lunch together and they talked to us about their experience in the firm, and we’ll be doing that this year for the new applicants.

It wasn’t anything like what I’d expected. Everyone worked well together and there was a feeling of community and collaboration. And that feeling hasn’t changed now I work here, it’s a very supportive place to be.

Will: When you spend time in the office you get to try a bit of everything – there were some negotiation exercises, a group presentation and you complete work in different departments which you’re given feedback on.

What advice would you give to someone who’s considering applying for a training contract?

Corina: Research the firms you’re applying to because they can be very different in terms of their values, who they work with and what they do outside of their core work. Do they match with your own ethics and preferences?

I also think it’s a good idea to apply to a full service firm as that will give you the opportunity to try different things as you train. You might think you want to do corporate law but end up being suited to something like family law, so keep an open mind.

Will: Look on LinkedIn at the firm’s profile and the people who work there. Look at the recent work they’ve done and reference it in your application.

Is there a social aspect of working at Sintons as a trainee?

Will: There’s a trainee social budget and in our first week we all went out with the second years to an escape room and we had food and a few drinks to break the ice.

I feel like I am not just part of the department I am working in, but part of the wider Sintons team. Everyone has been so welcoming and there is a real sense of everyone being treated equally regardless of our background.

Corina: I really enjoy being part of the trainee cohort and I really treasure the relationships we have. Everyone has different experience and something to contribute. Everyone wants to do their best and has a career plan but it doesn’t feel competitive, it’s very team-orientated.

Can you sum up your experience so far in three words?

Corina: Interesting, supportive and superb.

Will: Challenging, approachable and inclusive.

The deadline to apply for Sintons’ graduate trainee programme is 31 March 2024. Find out more and apply here.

Sintons spurs on key event in rural calendar

Sintons has once again supported a key event in Northumberland’s rural calendar by sponsoring the men’s open race in the annual Northern region point to point series of events – an amateur horse racing event which brings together rural communities.

Tom Wills, partner and head of Sintons’ rural services team, explained: “Rural businesses and communities are such an important part of our region and that’s why we have a team of lawyers who are dedicated to specialist areas of law which particularly affect people living and working in rural areas.

“We work closely with our clients, often over many generations, and really value being involved in events like the annual point to point, which is a highlight of our year.”

The racing took place at Ratcheugh Farm, Alnwick, which has hosted the races since 1949 and members of Sintons’ rural services team attended. The event was also well attended by clients and other professional contacts of the firm. The race takes place over a three mile course with jumps, attracting spectators from across the region.

The Percy Hunt Point to Point men’s open race was won by Deise Aba, ridden by Z Baker and trained by Francesca Poste for the executors of the late Trevor Hemmings.

Tom Wills, who presented the trophy to the winning jockey, added: “It’s always a pleasure to lend our support to events that really matter to our clients. We build relationships with our clients for the long term and being involved in things like the Alnwick Races is important to us.”

Sintons’ agriculture and estates team supports clients with legal issues relating to areas including rural land ownership, farming and agribusiness. Find out more about the team here.

Supporting healthcare clients through stalling construction projects

A report in the Health Service Journal has highlighted challenges that GP practices are facing due to rising construction costs combined with low rent valuations, leading to difficulties with carrying out improvements to premises.

Richard Hartis, who recently joined Sintons’ real estate team as partner, explains more about the problem and the impact it’s having on the healthcare organisations he works with.

Can you explain what the issues are that GP practices are facing and what’s caused them?

In the last few years, we’ve all been aware of increasing construction costs. These rising costs have caused critical issues for the healthcare sector, due to the way organisations have previously worked with developers to fund improvement works to buildings like GP practices.

Previously, developers have carried out improvement works with the expectation they can recoup their costs through rent payments. And the level of rent is decided via Current Market Rent assessments, carried out by the District Valuer on behalf of the government.

The current issues have arisen because these rent assessments are at a level which does not make it worthwhile for developers, when they take into account the increased costs of construction and materials. So more GP practices are finding that they’re unable to carry out improvement and capital works, at a time when they are trying to update and upgrade ageing estates.

Why has the issue reached a critical stage now?

Issues with rent reimbursement levels have been long-running but now, combined with rising construction costs, especially since the pandemic, developers have less reason to go ahead with projects which they don’t see as financially viable.

What impact are you seeing this issue have on the healthcare organisations you work with?

I’ve got 18 years of experience in the healthcare sector and I’ve worked with numerous GP partnership and practices and NHS organisations on estate management, capital projects, acquisitions and disposals.

In that time, I’ve seen that building projects are not progressing as quickly or as easily as they have in the past. Some projects fail to get off the ground and some stall midway as developers pull out. It’s causing huge problems and preventing the upgrade of practices across the country.

How can you help healthcare organisations that are caught in this difficult situation?

We can support our clients in their conversations with developers and give them all the legal and commercial advice they need to put themselves in the best possible position to negotiate terms for building projects.

Within Sintons we have teams of specialists in construction and engineering, real estate and healthcare so are in a position to pull together the wide ranging expertise healthcare organisations need to broker those conversations, and we work with our clients on a long term basis to help them through challenging times like this.

We hope to see changes enacted around the rent reimbursement rules, but this won’t be an immediate fix, so we will do everything we can to support GP practices in the meantime.

Find out more about Richard and his work with healthcare organisations here.

Property Acquisitions Top Tips

When purchasing any healthcare related property, it is important to go into the acquisition process with a good understanding of the steps required from a real estate perspective and the possible issues that might be identified.  Time pressures are always prevalent, with lawyers often instructed to complete “as soon as possible”, so a real understanding of the process is a must for a smooth transaction.  Here are some of our top tips, for a smooth acquisition process:

  1. Know the Property: it is essential that you undertake a survey at the outset of the transaction. Post purchase, you will be responsible for the upkeep of the property and that will include remedying any defects which could (and should) have been identified as part of the acquisition process. You will also assume responsibility for compliance with laws and regulations relating to the property (like those relating to asbestos and fire safety). Instructing a surveyor at an early stage, means that any potential structural (and potentially health & safety) issues can be identified from the outset, and enquiries raised of the Seller. The issues identified will feed into negotiations and allow price deductions, warranties, and indemnities to be discussed if a resolution cannot be achieved prior to completion.In addition to instructing a surveyor, there is sometimes no substitute for a detailed site inspection or walk around – familiarity with the property and the area, will help you to visualise and put issues identified into context and also spot anything that might warrant further investigation, such as any third parties who appear to be using the property with or without permission.
  2. Understand the process: One of the most time-consuming elements of any acquisition, is the detailed due diligence which is required to identify not just any ‘red flags’ which might put a halt to the transaction, but also the information which you as future owner will need to be aware of. This involves a review of the title information available for the Property, replies to standard and bespoke enquiries; property search results; and any additional information disclosed by the Seller as part of the transaction. This due diligence process can be time consuming and clear communication from your legal team is essential, to manage expectations and timescales. Receipt of clear instructions from the outset and throughout the transaction, will allow your legal team to narrow the issues to those of critical importance to the you.
  3. Know your deal breakers: It is always important to know what will be a ‘deal breaker’ for you going into a transaction. Are you looking to redevelop, and therefore will a restriction prohibiting development mean that the property isn’t the one for you? With an increased emphasis on sustainability and energy performance, will a property which cannot be updated to improve its energy efficiency mean that the acquisition is not in line with your values? If these things are known at the outset, they can be investigated as a priority allowing solutions to be swiftly identified and unnecessary time and costs avoided.

In summary, communication with your lawyer is key. Going into an acquisition with clear instructions will ensure that the process is as smooth, quick and cost effective as possible.

Richard Hartis is a Partner in the real estate team specialising in the healthcare sector. To speak to Richard about anything raised in this article, you can contact him on 0191 226 7881 or richard.hartis@sintons.co.uk.

Negotiating Heads of Terms

When looking to enter into a lease of new premises, healthcare organisations should look to agree detailed commercial heads of terms with the proposed landlord before solicitors are instructed to prepare the lease documents. Having a detailed set of heads of terms will ensure that the transaction is completed quicker and in a more cost effective way.  Here are some of our top tips for points that should be considered and negotiated into heads of terms:

  1. Break and termination provisions – tenants often give a lot of focus on the length of the proposed lease, but do not give enough attention to the inclusion of break/termination provisions allowing the lease to be broken early. This is important for flexibility and future proofing for changing plans particularly in the ever changing healthcare sector.

    Is your occupation of the property linked to a service contract for the providing of health services from the property perhaps?  If so, and appropriate break provisions are not included in the lease (and negotiated at the heads of terms stage), should that service contract expire or be terminated early the lease will remain in place and you will remain liable for its terms (and the payment of rent) despite having no service to provide from the property.

    Consideration should also be given to the inclusion of general rights to break at regular intervals during the term, to allow for the most flexibility and changing plans.  If this can be agreed at the Heads of Terms stage, landlords are often willing to provide further concessions (such as additional rent free periods) should the right to break not ultimately be exercised.

    An important point which is often overlooked at the heads of terms stage are the conditions which the landlord will attach to a tenant’s right to break the lease.  Landlord’s will attempt to include conditions which are as wide ranging as possible, often leading to a tenant being unable to effectively exercise the right to break.  If these conditions can be limited and appropriate wording included in the heads of terms to document what these are to be, the lease can be drafted accordingly by the landlord’s solicitor.  If not, the landlord’s solicitor will draft the lease with onerous break conditions and it will be very difficult for your solicitor to water these down as part of the lease negotiation.

  2. Service Charge Caps – given ever rising utility and other costs, tenants are increasing looking at ways to limit their expose to increased costs during the term of their leases. This is particularly prevalent with the payment of service charge – tenants are often obliged to pay a fair and reasonable proportion of the service costs incurred by a landlord (or a relevant proportion linked to the floor area of the premises occupied).  But should the landlord’s service costs suddenly jump, a tenant is left exposed to these unknown increased costs.  A way to limit such exposure is to include a service charge cap within the lease.  Whether a landlord will agree to such a cap will largely depend on the commercial bargaining power of the landlord and tenant. But this subject should be discussed with the landlord at the outset of the transaction, at the heads of terms stage (with any agreement documented with the final set of heads of terms).  If this does not happen, and the subject is raised with the landlord during the course of the lease negotiation, it will be very difficult commercially to get the landlord to agree to the inclusion of any cap.
  3. Repair obligations and schedule of condition – it is well known that a tenant will always be obliged to keep the premises it occupies in repair (and be liable for the costs of the same). But a point often overlooked by tenants when negotiating terms with a landlord are a tenant’s obligations at the end of a lease.  In general terms, a tenant will be obliged to hand the premises back to the landlord in good and substantial repair and condition.  And this will apply even if the premises are in a state of disrepair at the start of the lease when the tenant first occupies the premises – although the tenant has inherited the disrepair, it will be obliged to remedy this and hand the premises back to the landlord with any such disrepair made good.  Often an agreement will be reached with the landlord for a tenant to not actually carry out any necessary repair works, and instead pay a capital sum to the landlord for the landlord to carry out the works itself.  This sum can come as a surprise at the end of a lease and be something that is not budgeted for.  A way to limit such exposure is to agree to include a schedule of condition in the lease – this will document the condition the premises are in at the start of a lease and limit a tenant’s repairing obligation to such condition.  So if the premises are in a state of disrepair when the property is first occupied, a tenant will not be obliged to remedy that disrepair (or pay for the same) on lease expiry.  Again, this is something that must be discussed with the landlord and negotiated for as early as possible and documented within the heads of terms.

This list is by no means exhaustive and there are a number of other points that need to be considered when negotiating terms for a proposed lease. Our team here at Sintons are experts in negotiating leases in the healthcare sector and would be more than happy to assist to ensure that the best possible terms can be negotiated.

Richard Hartis is a Partner in the real estate team specialising in the healthcare sector. To speak to Richard about anything raised in this article, you can contact him on 0191 226 7881 or richard.hartis@sintons.co.uk.

First class addition to Sintons’ real estate team

Hannah Hornsby, an associate solicitor who specialises in commercial property law, has joined Sintons’ real estate team.

Hannah gained a first class Masters in Law from Northumbria University and is experienced in all aspects of commercial property law including leases, sales, purchases and financing.

Mark Dobbin, who heads up Sintons’ real estate department, said: “Hannah’s advised people on transactions ranging from single properties through to multi-million pound deals and her previous clients have praised her professional and friendly approach. I know she will provide a first class service to our clients.”

Sintons has one of the largest real estate law teams in the North East and works with businesses and individuals throughout the UK.

Hannah’s appointment comes soon after two other additions to the team: Partner, Richard Hartis, who specialises in the healthcare sector, joined in January, and solicitor, Kara Hodgson, joined in February.

Hannah Hornsby said: “This is a large, established team which is known for providing the highest quality of legal advice. I’m excited to be a part of it and am looking forward to getting to know my new clients.”

Find out about the services that Sintons’ real estate team offers here.

Real estate team welcomes new member

A new property law specialist has been appointed to join Sintons’ real estate team.

Kara Hodgson, who gained a first class law degree at Sunderland University, has extensive experience of working with clients in the social housing sector, as well as supporting clients with legal matters relating to residential developments and self-build plots.

She joins Sintons’ existing team of real estate lawyers, who make up one of the largest real estate law teams in the North East.

Mark Dobbin, Partner and Head of Real Estate at Sintons, said: “Kara’s previous experience is impressive and she has a reputation for ensuring her clients get the best results possible – and that’s why I know she will be a great fit for our real estate team here at Sintons.”

Sintons’ real estate team works with clients across the North East and nationally and are regularly recognised by such independent publications as the Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners.

On joining the team, Kara commented: “I was attracted to the role here because Sintons is a firm which combines legal excellence with a first-class, proactive service for clients.  

“I qualified here in the North East and I can’t wait to get started as part of one of the region’s biggest and best team of real estate lawyers.”

Kara offers legal advice to clients of all sizes, including developers and housing associations.

Find out more about Sintons’ real estate team here.

‘Smash and grab’ and ‘true value’ adjudications: a single dispute?

Section 108(1) of the Construction Act provides the right to refer ‘a dispute’ under a construction contract to adjudication.  It is well established law that this refers to a single dispute rather than multiple disputes, and a Responding Party may be able to resist enforcement of an award that decides more than one dispute.

The recent case of Bellway Homes Limited v Surgo Construction Limited [2024] EWHC 10 (TCC) concerns the question of whether pleading a ‘smash and grab’ adjudication and a ‘true value’ adjudication in the alternative constitutes a single dispute, or more than one dispute. For commentary on the difference between ‘smash and grab’ and ‘true value’ adjudications, please see our previous article on the subject.

In Bellway v Surgo the initial dispute was between the contractor, Surgo, and one of its sub-contractors, who subsequently assigned its claim to Bellway. The sub-contractor had made an interim payment application of approximately £150,000 to Surgo, who served no payment or pay less notice and made no payment to the sub-contractor.

The sub-contractor referred the dispute to adjudication on the following basis:

  1. firstly that the sum within the payment application was the ‘notified sum’ and was therefore due, given no payment notice or pay less notice was issued by Surgo (a ‘smash and grab’ claim); and,
  2. in the alternative that it was entitled to payment on a true value basis, being such sum as the adjudicator shall decide (a ‘true value claim’).

The adjudicator rejected the smash and grab claim, and went on to decide the value of the account on a true value basis.

In enforcement proceedings brought by Bellway, Surgo sought to resist enforcement on the basis that the alternative way in which the referral had been pleaded amounted to multiple disputes, and that:

there is no clear link between these claims and that they are entire and independent from one another and separate and stand-alone in analysis, procedure and purpose as a result.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the court disagreed and adopted a wide interpretation of the word ‘dispute’, concluding that there was one dispute, being the sum owed, and that there were simply two routes advanced to reach that determination. The decision was therefore enforced.

This decision confirms that parties may refer payment claims on a ‘smash and grab’ basis and a ‘true value’ basis in the alternative, providing it is pleaded correctly.  It remains to be seen how often this will be done in practice however, as often parties are not ready to launch a true value adjudication as quickly as a smash and grab, and therefore may still seek to run a smash and grab adjudication whilst it prepares its true value position.

For advice on these or any other construction and engineering related issues or support, please contact our team and we will be happy to help.

Healthcare specialist Richard Hartis joins Sintons as partner

Newcastle-based law firm, Sintons, has expanded its team of healthcare specialists with the appointment of a new partner.

Richard Hartis brings with him 15 years of expertise in healthcare real estate, and specialises in property disposals and acquisitions, having worked with organisations including NHS Trusts, GPs and charities.

“Richard has acted for clients on multi-million pound projects, he’s advised on complex site developments and relocations, and he works closely with NHS bodies to help them correctly manage their estates,” said Christopher Welch, Sintons managing partner.

“Sintons provides top quality legal services to NHS Trusts and other care organisations, and having people like Richard as part of our team means our clients can be assured they’re working with people who really understand healthcare and who have the highest levels of expertise.”

The healthcare team at Sintons delivers advice to healthcare professionals, businesses and organisations, helping them to stay abreast of legal requirements and manage property transactions.

“Sintons is known for setting the standard when it comes to legal excellence and their team is consistently recognised as being amongst the very best in rankings like the national Legal 500,” said Richard. “To be joining a team like this, at a time of growth for the firm, is a brilliant opportunity.”

Sintons, which is headquartered in Newcastle city centre, was recently named as among the best law firms in the UK, with both its healthcare and real estate teams amongst those named in this year’s Legal 500. It has also been recognised as a leader in its field by the Chambers UK Legal Guide 2024.

Find out more at www.sintons.co.uk.

Three Sintons lawyers named in Business Today’s Lawyer Awards 2023

Three of Sintons’ lawyers have been named in Business Today’s Lawyer Awards 2023.

Tom Wills, Paul Nickalls and Paul Collingwood have all been listed in this year’s round-up of leading names in legal practice.

Tom Wills, who is partner and head of agriculture and estates at Sintons, is named amongst the top 10 agricultural lawyers who are shaping the North East’s rural affairs.

Business Today describes Tom as “exhibiting strong professional acumen,” and says that he has “earned recognition for acting for landowners and developers on complex transactions.”

Tom specialises in legal issues affected rural and agricultural businesses including landlord and tenant law, development and agri-environment schemes. He has acted on a number of wind farm and open cast coal projects in the North East and on the registration and transfer of mineral, manorial and sporting rights.

In Business Today’s Private Wealth Law category, both Paul Nickalls and Paul Collingwood are named in the top 10 private wealth lawyers in Newcastle.

Paul Nickalls is partner in Sintons’ personal and family team and is an expert in the administration of estates, including those with business assets, agricultural land and foreign property. He advises some of the region’s wealthiest individuals and is regularly appointed by the Court of Protection as a professional deputy in relation to vulnerable clients.

Business Today says: “Praised for his congeniality and dedication, he delivers consistently for his clients.”

Also listed in the top 10 private wealth lawyers is Paul Collingwood, partner in Sintons’ personal and family department. Paul advises clients on preparation of wills, he advises on succession planning and inheritance tax for business owners and he prepares lasting powers of attorney. Paul is experienced in preparing personal injury trusts and other lifetime trusts and in advising trustees on their role.

Business Today describes Paul as being “praised for his supportive nature and the excellent rapport he builds with his clients.”

Christopher Welch, Sintons managing partner, said: “I’m proud that we are consistently shown to have the industry’s leading lawyers here at Sintons. Our clients can be confident that they’re working with the best in the business.”

Find out more about Sintons’ services for agricultural and rural businesses here, and about Sintons’ personal and family team, which includes private wealth specialists, here.

Tapyard Studios creates new bar and music offering

A new bar/cafe venue in Newcastle will also create opportunities for the region’s next generation of music talent through providing studio and performing space.

Tapyard Studios is to open in Hoult’s Yard and will offer leisure and meeting space with café during the day and a relaxed bar by night, with a focus on music throughout.

The venue will offer three studios and a 300-capacity performance space which can hold live gigs, and will offer new opportunities to performers from across the North East and greater variety for music lovers.

Tapyard Studios, which will officially open on Saturday, is created by entrepreneur Sam Roberts, who is relocating to Newcastle to establish the venture after managing a bar and music venue in Leeds and seeing the potential for such a business.

Committed to helping to develop the next generation of musical talent, Sam also owns We Are Heard, a venture which enables schools to generating funding though recording and selling their own albums of songs and works with thousands of pupils across the country.

And through Tapyard Studios, Sam – who is financing the venue himself – hopes to add further to both Newcastle’s leisure and music scenes with the creation of his first venue.

“The place I used to work in Leeds was amazing, unfortunately it closed despite its rapidly increasing popularity with a really diverse crowd. I saw the potential for a model which brought a bar and cafe together with music studio and rehearsal space. It was a really magical combination,” he said.

“I looked all around Leeds and in various other cities to find the perfect venue. I found this place at Hoult’s Yard and it ticked every box and decided to go for it, so I have now moved to Newcastle.

“I have played in bands my whole life and care about music and creating opportunities, so I am really excited to open Tapyard Studios and help support existing and future talent.”

Sam has been supported with his opening by Sarah Smith, head of licensing at Sintons, who secured the licensing of the premises.

“I’m not from Newcastle and wasn’t sure where to go, but Sarah was recommended and I am so pleased to have met her. She has been so dependable and is so knowledgeable, and I’m really grateful for the support from day one,” says Sam.

Sarah Smith adds: “Sam is absolutely committed to music and to creating opportunities for the next generation – the success of We Are Heard shows his ethos and values, and it’s fantastic he is now creating a venue to take this commitment even further.

“Tapyard Studios will bring even more diversity to Newcastle’s vibrant leisure scene, with an informal bar/cafe offering combining with the music aspect to create something really exciting for the city.”

An Employment Update

Following the grey clouds of 2020-2021, 2022 seemingly got off to a flying start. We saw the re-opening of entertainment venues, and dancing shoes were removed from the back of the wardrobe. Events such as the World Cup, European Cup, British Grand Prix and the Commonwealth Games drew people together; we slowly started to remember the joys of seeing a face in real life rather than on a screen.

However, as 2022 progressed, the war in Ukraine took hold, supply chain issues magnified  and increased energy costs hit the leisure and hospitality industry hard; some businesses have passed the increases on to customers, some could not keep their doors open. Alongside spiralling costs, most businesses are working with a reduced workforce as a result of the pandemic and freedom of movement ceasing, and the Office of National Statistics predicts a drop in the GDP across 2023-2024.

Whilst the Spring budget has not afforded a VAT holiday or a reduction in business rates, the Government has promised additional energy support for eligible UK Businesses, in England, Scotland and Wales. In addition, it had pledged £63m to support punlivily0owned swimming pools and leisure centres as part of a one-year scheme to relive pressure caused by high fuel bills.

It is widely reported that inbound tourism has picked up thanks to the weaker pound, and new hotels have opened up nationwide. There are clearly growth opportunities if the right staff can be put place as consumer confidence starts to grow in the industry.

Most in the leisure industry, starts to grow in the industry, and particularly those in hospitality, are well aware of staffing shortages and , whilst there is no overnight fix, there is hope that the Government’s migration plans will help ease the labour supply pressures. As it stands visa applications for hospitality workers formed just 3% of the overall applications In 2022. In August 2022, the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) was commissioned to review the Shortage Occupation List (SOL) in the construction and hospitality sectors. Interim findings we published on 15th March 2023 ahead of a final review later this year. Whilst no hospitality roles have been placed on the SOL, there is time and the final outcome will be published later this year. We are hopeful that as a result of the findings, the legal migration system will become quicker and more responsive to the needs of businesses and economy. Finally, the Government has pledged to extend childcare support with the intention that more working parents may return to the workplace. The industry may well find applications are on the up as working parents re-enter the workplace. Businesses should therefore be mindful of applications for flexible working which will, in the coming months become a ‘day one right’ rather than a right reserved for employees with more than 26 weeks’ service.

Flexible working requests can take many forms. They can, for example, be for a reduction in hours, specific set hours, compressed hours, home working or job sharing, and can only be refused on one of eight prescribed business grounds, which includes the burden of additional costs, the inability to re-organise work and the detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand among others.

Thought and attention should be given to any flexible working request. They are often, but not always, intrinsically linked to caring responsibilities. If this is the case, and a flexible working request is declined without due consideration, business could find themselves on the receiving end of aa discrimination claim; something to avoid.

On a final note, keep and eye on the SOL, keep an Eye on the SOL, keep an open mind with hires and here’s to a prosperous 2023.

A Lidl issue: VAT Invoices and Final Dates for Payment

In any construction contract, the payment mechanism is of fundamental importance and it is no surprise that many disputes stem from the provisions dealing with how and when payments are made.

It is also why the payment mechanism must comply with the requirements set out in the Housing, Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996 (“the Act“) as amended.

An amendment or provision that we often come across in negotiating, reviewing or advising on contracts is one which ties the final date for payment to a period after the payee has provided an invoice (VAT or otherwise). Whether or not such a provision complied with the Act was uncertain after the 2020 decision in Rochford Construction Ltd v Kilhan Construction Ltd.

The TCC has now confirmed that such provisions are not compliant with the Act in the recent judgment in Lidl Great Britain Ltd v Closed Circuit Cooling Ltd (t/a 3CL) [2023] EWHC 2243 (TCC).

The case involved a dispute between the well-known retailer Lidl and 3CL, an industrial refrigeration and air conditioning contractor. The parties had entered into a framework agreement enabling the instruction of individual works orders. Under one works order, 3CL applied for payment of £781,986.22. Lidl failed to pay and a dispute arose over 3CL’s entitlement to the sums claimed.

One of the issues in dispute was the final date for payment. The contract provided that the final date for payment would be “either 21 days following the due date or receipt of the Contractor’s valid VAT invoice, whichever is the later”.

3CL argued that this clause failed to comply with Section 110(1)(b) of the Act:

(1)        Every construction contract shall—

(a)        provide an adequate mechanism for determining what payments become due under the contract, and when, and      

(b)        provide for a final date for payment in relation to any sum which becomes due.

The parties are free to agree how long the period is to be between the date on which a sum becomes due and the final date for payment.

3CL’s submission was that a contractual term purporting to fix a final date for payment other than by reference to a period of time following the due date is void and ineffective as it would contravene s110(1)(b). Lidl contended that the Act did not impose such a constraint, and that the clause in the contract was valid.

The TCC was not persuaded by Lidl and held that the clause in the contract was not compliant with the Act. The Court found that the wording of s110(1)(b) is deliberately more limited in scope when compared to s110(1)(a), which allows the parties to decide on the mechanism for determining when payments become due. The Court decided “on a proper analysis, that is because the only discretion intended to be and actually given in the former case is for the parties to agree the length of the time period between the due date for payment and the final date for payment”.

The result is that s110(b)(1) prohibits parties from agreeing to a final date for payment that is contingent on the occurrence of an event (such as the issuing of an invoice). Instead, it must be pegged to the due date to ensure compliance with the Act.

In this and any other case where a construction contract does not comply with the Act, the Scheme for Construction Contracts will be implied insofar as is necessary to correct the non-compliance. Under the Scheme provisions, the final date for payment is 17 days from the due date and the contract between Lidl and 3CL would have been amended accordingly.

The incorporation of the Scheme could result in unforeseen consequences such as a failure to make payment on time or issue payment and pay less notices in accordance with the contract  which, amongst other issues, may result in a smash and grab adjudication. Either way, it is in both parties interests to ensure that they agree a compliant payment mechanism and adhere to it.

If you are aware of any similar provisions in contracts that you currently use, it would be worth reviewing and updating these forms. As for any contracts already in existence, you should ensure that the effect of the Scheme is accounted for when dealing with pay less notices and making payments.

Sintons once again wins praise from Legal 500 2024

Sintons has again confirmed its position as one of the leading law firms in the North of England with the release of Legal 500 2024, which highlights the expertise and client service excellence delivered by departments and key individuals across the business.

Newcastle-based Sintons has won praise across the firm for the high levels of legal advice and personal service it delivers, and it is highlighted in four key practice areas as being leaders in its field in the North of England, and being recommended in 15 others.

A total of 48 lawyers are recommended for their standout practice in their respective fields, with fifteen of its lawyers hailed as leading individuals, which comprises experts in their field from across the North. Head of licensing Sarah Smith maintains her place in the Legal 500 Hall of Fame, in recognition of being a leading individual consistently for more than a decade.

A further four are named as next generation partners, and four hailed as rising stars.

While Sintons has for many years continually been named by Legal 500 as one of the key law firms in the North, its rankings for 2024 show the firm’s ongoing growth and progress, with gains made in many key practice areas.

Newly released for 2024, Legal 500 is based on extensive research into law firms throughout the UK, with its independent findings based on examples of work, client and peer testimonials and interviews.

In Legal 500 2024, Sintons is named as a top tier firm in:

Its leading individuals have been named as:

Next generation partners have been hailed as:

Rising stars are:

Christopher Welch, managing partner of Sintons, says: “This is a phenomenal and very well deserved assessment of our performance as a firm. We are ranked as leaders in our field in several key practice areas, with Legal 500 rightly recognising the huge capability and expertise we have here, and the progress we continue to make.

“Sintons is all about our people, and to see so many recognised for the outstanding efforts they make on behalf of our clients is fantastic news. We have excellence running throughout the business, in all areas of our work, and our team are all absolutely committed to delivering the best possible service and outcomes to our clients.”

Leading real estate and finance lawyer moves to Sintons

A well-known and highly experienced real estate finance lawyer has moved to Sintons as a partner, further confirming the strength of its real estate finance and banking offering.

Sarah Willshire arrives at Sintons with a strong track record in her field, having established, managed and developed a significant real estate finance and banking team at another North East law firm.

Sarah’s expertise encompasses acting for lenders and borrowers, including a number of national high street lenders, and is experienced in taking security over a wide range of properties spanning a variety of sectors.

Hailed as being “fast, efficient, with a solution and client-oriented approach” by Legal 500, Oxford graduate Sarah has been involved in many significant transactions during her 17-year career.

Her expertise means she also plays a key role in training for clients and colleagues in real estate finance and banking matters.

Her move to Sintons comes at a time of ongoing progress and development for the firm, with its banking and real estate finance specialisms continuing to be a key area of growth.

Hailed by Legal 500 and Chambers and Partners alike for its offering of legal excellence and the highest standards of client service, the real estate finance team – led by David Ferguson – and banking department, which is headed by Jane Meikle, are widely regarded as leading names in the marketplace.

“I am very pleased to join Sintons. I of course know the firm very well by reputation, and am impressed with its growth as well as its reputation and positioning within the North East,” says Sarah.

“The real estate finance and banking specialists in the firm – including Jane and David, both of whom I have worked with previously – are known regionally and beyond for the work they do for clients, and the fact they leave absolutely no stone unturned on their behalf. I’m really delighted to be joining such a committed and capable team.”

Christopher Welch, managing partner of Sintons, said: “Our reputation in real estate finance and banking in the North East is second to none. The role Jane and David have played in developing this over the last few years has been absolutely outstanding, and this is a key growth area for the firm, with increasing numbers of major clients appointing us to act for them.

“Sarah’s reputation in this very specialist area of work is excellent, so we are very excited to add her expertise into what is an already thriving area of the firm. Her talent and capability, alongside that of Jane, David and others in the team, will mean Sintons are now an even more compelling offering for clients across banking and secured lending.”

Sintons appoints three newly qualified solicitors

Three lawyers have been rewarded on their qualification as solicitors with permanent roles at Sintons.

Leigh Garbutt and Emily Richardson become solicitors after completing their two-year graduate training contracts at Sintons.

Nathan Johnson is now a qualified solicitor after completing the six-year North East Solicitor Apprenticeship (NESA) programme, having been one of the first people in the region to be chosen for the initiative in 2017.

After completing their training and becoming key components within the Sintons team, Leigh takes up a role in the Corporate team, Emily joins the Real Estate department, and Nathan also becomes a Real Estate solicitor.

The addition of three new solicitors to Sintons adds to the continued growth of the firm, and also demonstrates its ongoing commitment to the development of aspiring legal talent.

Every year, Sintons recruits a number of graduate trainees – 2023 sees it add another four to its ranks and a further solicitor apprentice. Sintons was a founder member of the NESA initiative, which widened career opportunities in law for young people through a programme which combines practical on-the-job training with part-time study.

Several of its current senior team began their legal careers at Sintons trainees, highlighting the quality of the training, development and progression on offer at the firm.

Christopher Welch, managing partner at Sintons, says: “We are delighted to offer roles to Leigh, Nathan and Emily at Sintons.

“They have shown great dedication and determination during their training here, and have been uncompromising in their commitment to delivering the highest standards of legal and personal service to each and every one of our clients. These are values which are at the very heart of Sintons, and we are very pleased to reward the excellent work they have completed so far with permanent positions here.

“Leigh, Nathan and Emily are the latest in a long line of recruits who have gone on to enjoy long and very successful careers with us at Sintons, and we will continue to support them with their ongoing career progression and personal and professional development.”

Sintons adds five new aspiring solicitors to its team

Law firm Sintons has continued its commitment to supporting the next generation of legal talent by recruiting its latest round of aspiring lawyers.

Sintons has added four new graduate trainees to its ranks, as well as a new solicitor apprentice who will embark on the North East Solicitor Apprenticeship (NESA) course towards qualification.

Corina Dias, Jessica Fields, William Chapman and Anthony May all join Sintons as trainee solicitors, selected from scores of applicants to undertake the two-year training programme, which will see them gain experience in a number of practice areas ahead of qualification.

In their first seats, which will last for six months, Corina will join the Employment team; Jessica will be in Neurotrauma; and William and Anthony will join the Real Estate department.

Faith Ramsay becomes Sintons’ latest solicitor apprentice, and will be supported for the next six years through the NESA programme – of which Sintons was a founder member – comprising legal experience and part-time academic study at Northumbria University.

She will begin her training at Sintons in the Dispute Resolution department.

Sintons’ existing trainees – who are in their second and final year of training – will also move seats from September as their development continues.

Lucy Milnthorp moves to Dispute Resolution; Charles Bell joins Construction & Engineering; and Edward Pattinson moves to Wills, Trusts and Probate.

Solicitor apprentices Saffron Sinclair will move to Corporate, Sabrina Jackland will join Residential Conveyancing and Sophie Lemon will remain in Wills, Trusts and Probate.

The addition of five new people – and ongoing development of its existing trainees – continues Sintons’ longstanding commitment to offering opportunities to the next generation of legal professionals, investing in their training and development and delivering supervision and support from lawyers who are leaders in their field regionally and nationally.

Christopher Welch, managing partner of Sintons, says: “At Sintons, we are committed to offering opportunities to outstanding legal talent throughout their time at Sintons. Investing in the progression and development of our team is absolutely fundamental to what we do here, and in how we value and recognise the people who make Sintons what it is.

“Our long track record in supporting lawyers through training contracts, and more recently apprenticeships, is something we are very proud of. Several of our senior lawyers in the firm began their careers at Sintons as trainees, which speaks volumes about the quality of our training and the ethos of the firm as a place to build a highly successful career.

“We welcome Corina, Jessica, William, Anthony and Faith to Sintons, and will support them with the highest quality of training and development from day one. Best of luck to Lucy, Charles, Edward, Saffron, Sabrina and Sophie as they continue to build their careers and advance the excellence progress they have already made during their time with us.”

Building Safety Act 2022 Update: secondary legislation for new building control framework

On 17 August 2023 the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities published a suite of secondary legislation which fleshes out the technical details that underpin the new safety regime for the design and construction of higher-risk buildings (“HRB”). The new regulations will come into force on 1st October 2023. This article therefore seeks to provide a short summary of the key changes that are likely to impact those in the construction sector. The new regulations include:

  1. The Building Regulations etc. (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2023.

This regulation amends the Building Regulations 2010 and applies to all buildings as opposed to HRB’s only. Perhaps most importantly it introduces new dutyholder roles, duties and competence requirements which includes the client, principal designer and principal contractor. These roles and competencies are referred to at Regulation 6 and it is important that those within the construction industry familiarise themselves with this regulation to understand what is expected of them.

  1. The Building (Higher-Risk Buildings Procedures) (England) Regulations 2023.

This regulation provides procedural building regulation requirements for HRB’s and provides details in relation to:

  • the procedure for “Gateway 2” applications which requires the submission of a building control approval application to the Building Safety Regulator (“BSR”) before the commencement of building works. Approval from the BSR must be obtained before the works start;
  • details on what must be included within the building control approval application referred to in Regulation 4;
  • the requirement for the creation and maintenance of a change control log by the principal contractor and what is to be included and requirements in relation to “major changes” and “notifiable changes”;
  • the arrangements and procedure for golden thread information and mandatory occurrence reporting system of the principal dutyholders to the BSR; an
  • the procedure and requirements for applying for a completion certificate (Gateway 3 application).

In depth guidance on the new regime in relation to Gateway 2 and 3 has been issued by HSE and can be viewed here.

  1. The Building (Approved Inspectors etc. and Review of Decisions) (England) Regulations 2023

These regulations amend the Building (Approved Inspectors etc.) Regulations 2010 in a way that supports the HRB control regime. For example, the regulator for any HRB will be the building control authority and approved inspectors will be replaced by registered building control approvers.

Clearly there is a lot to consider prior to the regulations coming into effect on 1 October 2023 and we would strongly advise those involved with HRB developments to familiarise themselves with the new regime. Parties will also need to consider whether there are any contractual implications arising from the secondary legislation that need to be addressed. It is worth noting that there will be transitional arrangements that allow HRB works to continue under the current framework if certain conditions are met. For example, if an initial notice has been given to a local authority prior to the new regime coming into force and the works have “sufficiently” progressed before 6th April 2024 then it may be eligible to continue under the current framework.

For advice on this or any other construction and engineering related issues or support, please contact our team and we will be happy to help.

Farm Sales & Purchases

Whether buying or selling a farming business, or expanding your existing business, our specialist Rural team, led by Tom Wills, Head of Agriculture & Estates, can ensure that the whole process is smooth and thorough.

Our experienced team will ensure all facets of the business are dealt with such as wayleaves and covenants, stewardship obligations, stock, subsidies, land entitlements, associated rights, local schemes, public access, water supplies and transfers.

You can be assured that you are in safe hands, as our specialist team understands the nature of the business of farming and the requirements when dealing with such transactions.

We would love to arrange to come out and see you, if this would be something you are interested in, as we are always keen to meet our clients. This also allows us to fully understand your land and your business.

If you would like any further information or would like to discuss any rural relating matter, please contact Tom Wills and we would be delighted to work with you.

JCT 2024 is on the way

The Joint Contracts Tribunal (“JCT”) contracts is one of the most widely used standard form suite of construction contracts in the UK. With the current edition of the JCT contracts being published in 2016, the time has come for an updated suite to take account of recent legislation, case law and market practice. We are currently short on detail, but the JCT has outlined some key changes it hopes to make in the 2024 editions, as follows:

Modernising and streamlining

JCT users can expect to see provisions that allow for increased flexibility for notices to be sent electronically together with electronic signing, which we are sure will be a welcome change as the industry continues to take a progressive approach to digital working.

The JCT 2024 will also see the adoption of gender neutral language across the suite of contracts.  We are particularly pleased to see this announcement given our recent work alongside Constructing Excellence in the North East and other law firms in the region, and our commitment to adopting gender neutral language in the drafting of bespoke construction and engineering contracts and ancillary documentation.

Legislative change

Given the key recent changes to the law, namely the Building Safety Act, it has been reported that the new edition will include significant updates in this regard. Further, changes will be made to take into account the new insolvency grounds that were introduced under the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020.

Additionally, the new edition will include a due date for final payment after termination, which will remove the uncertainty on this point within the 2016 suite and will reflect the requirements of the Construction Act.

Liquidated Damages and Termination

We understand the new edition will make clear when liquidated damages apply upon termination to take account of the decision of the Supreme Court in Triple Point Technology Inc v PTT Public Company Ltd in which it was confirmed that a liquidated damages clause will generally only apply up to the termination of a contract, with general damages for delay applicable thereafter. A full discussion of this case can be found here.

Extensions of Time

It is anticipated that the period of time for an Employer to assess an extension of time claims will be reduced from 12 weeks to 8 weeks from receipt of the required particulars.

In addition, there will be updates as to how statutory powers are dealt with and ‘Statutory Undertakers’ will be redefined to ‘Statutory Providers’.

Finally, new Relevant Events will be included to deal with epidemics, unexploded ordnance, contaminated materials and asbestos.

Resolving Disputes

The JCT 2024 is reported to put further emphasis on senior executives to meet sooner in an attempt to negotiate a settlement to disputes. It is also envisaged that parties will be able to choose their own Adjudicator Nominating Body as opposed to a shortlist being provided.

Future Proofing

It is anticipated that the changes will reflect the Construction Playbook and will incorporate previously optional provisions that relate to collaborative working and other matters such as sustainability.

New Target Cost Contract

Finally, JCT will be introducing its own JCT Target Cost Contract which will comprise a main contract, sub-contract and guide.  This contract is likely to be seen as an alternative to NEC ECC Option C.

The foregoing provides only outline detail at this stage, and we will be providing further updates and training in due course.

Support remains in place for pandemic rent arrears

Alok Loomba looks at tenant operators’ rights under the Commercial Rent (Coronavirus) Act 2022 and the circumstances in which they may be reassured amidst the latest economic crisis.

After suffering what can only be described as the most challenging conditions faced by the leisure sector in a generation, during the COVID-19 pandemic, with enforced closure for much of 2020 and some of 2021, leisure  businesses are, at last, starting to get back on their feet.

The return of a thriving leisure scene in the North East is encouraging to see, the leisure  and hospitality sector having for decades been integral to the local economy, with operators now able to take full advantage of the growth in confidence within the market – both locally and as a result of tourism – since those tentative steps out of lockdown in 2021.

However, while COVID lockdowns now appear to be a distant memory, leisure operators are now facing a new set of challenges. Recruitment and soaring energy costs are proving to be ongoing and persistent challenges and the cost-of-living crisis looms large over the sector, with soaring costs already biting and these look set to get even worse as the months go on. Whether footfall will be impacted as consumers look to shore up their own finances remains to be seen. Will entertaining and socializing take the hit – as customers struggle to make their disposable income meet the basics? It’s possible that these factors may reduce turnover and profit margins for leisure businesses, thereby increasing the financial squeeze.

It’s not just the cost-of-living crisis that has leisure operators concerned. Many tenant operators are still under the shadow of arrears owed to their landlords that remain outstanding from the height of the pandemic. There is potentially one bit of reassurance for leisure businesses amidst the developing economic situation, with regard to outstanding rent arrears incurred during the COVID pandemic.

Amidst closure, or being forced  to significantly revise their offering, for the best part of 16 months, many operators incurred sizeable debts around their rents, which remained due to landlords even though the premises were unoccupied or used to a small proportion of their normal capacity.

The Coronavirus Act 2020 afforded protection against eviction to those who were unable to pay their rent, although the total ban on forfeiture of commercial premises ended on 25 March 2022.

In its place has arrived the Commercial Rent (Coronavirus) Act 2022= (“CIRCA 2022), which ringfences outstanding unpaid rent built up during periods of forced closure of businesses during lockdowns and offers tenants protection for these.

While agreement between landlord and tenant is encouraged over these protected debts – which a specialist advisor can support – if this is not possible, the Act introduces a legally binding arbitration route to achieve resolution, with a supporting Code of Practice. The CRCA 2022 provided a six-month window in which a referral to the statutory arbitration scheme could be made. This ended on 23 September 2022, however the CRCA 2022 will continue to apply where a valid referral was made during the six-month window. Court proceedings to recover debts cannot be issued while arbitration remains an option.

Furthermore, a landlord cannot use these protected debts that fall within the CRCA 2022 to terminate a lease or enforce an eviction, providing there has been no actionable breach by the tenant – affording further protection to leisure operators who have faced such huge pressures since March 2020.

The route of finding a positive way forward through co-operation, or else arbitration, between landlord and tenant is one which will hopefully bring confidence to leisure businesses with knowledge that they remain safe in their premises, as debts incurred between 21 March 2020 and the date when specific restrictions on the relevant sector were removed, are protected. This is subject to a cut-off point of 18th July 2021 in England and 7 August 2021 in Wales. By way of example, in England, the protected period for non-essential retail will be between 21 March 2020 and 12 April 2021; for nightclubs, it will be  21 March 2021 to 18 July 2021.

As the trade looks to the months ahead and considers the impact of the developing cost of living crisis, we hope the Commercial Rent (Coronavirus) Act 2022 will continue to give them breathing space from the legacy of the COVID pandemic.

For any concerns around the implications of the Act, what it means for your business, or support in negotiating with your landlord, our leisure team will be able to assist.

Summer networking event for construction sector

An annual event which brings together professionals working in construction from across the North East is being held again this year.

The Summer Networking event, hosted by Sintons with Constructing Excellence North East (CENE), is a popular event which attracts those working in construction throughout the region to socialise in an informal environment.

The evening, held at Sintons’ headquarters – The Cube on Newcastle’s Barrack Road – provides an opportunity for people working in the built environment sector to come together and make new connections and renew existing relationships.

Sintons’ specialist team, led by Alex Rayner, continues to grow both its regional and national presence, acting for a number of leading names in the construction sector on both contentious and non-contentious issues.

“Our Summer Networking is always a popular event, and we once again look forward to welcoming the great and good of the industry this year,” says Alex.

“We are delighted so many people continue to attend this event, it’s a great opportunity to discuss industry trends and share experiences, but also just to take some time out to catch up with people in a relaxed environment.”

The Summer Networking will be held on Thursday, July 13, from 4.30pm to 7pm, at The Cube on Barrack Road in Newcastle.

To attend, contact dainee@cene.org.uk

Don’t get caught out!

Taxi drivers need to be aware of falling foul of council’s licensing policies and breaching the conditions that apply to their hackney carriage and private hire driver licences. Failure to comply can result in the loss of their licence, which can have serious consequences for their livelihood.

Licensing policies and conditions are in place to ensure that taxi drivers operate safely and legally, whilst also protecting passengers and the wider public.

They often include requirements relating to the following:

Reporting Incidents to the Licensing Committee

Policies regularly require drivers to report any incidents to the licensing authority within a certain deadline. This includes accidents, criminal convictions, and any other incidents that could affect their ability to drive safely or professionally, including attendance at a speed awareness course. Failure to report matters often lead to drivers being asked to attend before a licensing committee.

Driver Conduct and Professionalism

Councils licensing policies may have requirements for drivers relating to conduct and professionalism. This includes requirements such as dress code, communication and timeliness. If complaints are received relating to these matters drivers may find themselves being asked to attend an interview with the licensing officer or a hearing before the licensing committee.

Compliance with Regulations

Taxi drivers must comply with all relevant regulations, including those related to vehicle safety, insurance, and licensing. This includes having a valid hackney carriage or private hire licence, insurance coverage, and a safe and roadworthy vehicle. The council carry out regular checks and inspections to ensure compliance with these regulations. Failure to comply can result in penalties or the loss of a licence.

Drivers need to be aware of the council’s licensing policies and conditions. If in doubt, ask. And if you do find yourself being called before the licensing committee, seek advice. Investing in legal assistance at an early stage can often save time, money and worry in the long run.

Sintons can help and support taxi drivers.

Privacy and the Trouble with Drones

There has been much made in the press relating to drones over the last few years, particularly in the context of those disrupting holiday makers with their invasion at Heathrow Airport.

This airport has now installed an anti-drone system designed to block drones entering its airspace to counter this problem by using holographic radar technology to detect not only the drones, but their operators as well. However, unless the interference is one of health and safety or of national security, or a company has the financial resources to employ such technologies as this, then there has been an absence of remedies available to businesses to address this problem.

The Civil Aviation Authority recently updated its code of practice in this area. The ‘Drone Code’ was issued to address the use of drones by operators and provides guidance that operators should follow, including adherence to rules such as not flying closer than 50 m from a person, and not flying closer than 100m from a group of people. It’s also incumbent on an operator to make themselves visible to people while flying (no covert piloting) and always having a direct line of sight to their drone, amongst other things.

The enforcement of these rules is carried out by the police. As this updated guidance is new, (revised in January 2023) it’s unclear how the police will respond to this, and how seriously they take such reports generally. Nevertheless, the guidance suggests that if you suspect someone is in breach of these new drone rules, it is the local police force who should be contacted to deal with it.

In terms of privacy, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), the UK Regulator who oversees the collection and use of personal data, has issued some guidance on the use of drones, or “unmanned aircraft systems” (UAS’s). This is in the absence of any data protection legislation specific to the use of drones contained in the UK GDPR. The ICO guidance distinguishes between those who collect personal information for personal reasons, who they call “hobbyists”, and those who collect it for professional or commercial purposes. It may be that those who fall into the former category may rely upon the domestic exemption if they use the drones and any data collected from them for personal use only, and the ICO maintains even then that operators should be aware of wider privacy considerations when recording and sharing images with others.

The ICO does recognise that the use of drones can be highly intrusive and those who collect images of individuals for professional or commercial purposes without that individuals consent, must demonstrate their compliance with the legislation and codes of practice governing this activity. Particularly, operators should notify those individuals who would likely be caught by any recordings or make such information available through an accessible privacy notice and prepare a Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA) to demonstrate that it has considered the privacy rights of the individual(s) concerned.

This leaves businesses seeking to protect their brand and the privacy of their customers against drone activity with the following options:

  • Where the operator (or wider company who employ them) can be identified, report the operator and company to the police;
  • Place clear signage around property boundaries stating the prohibition of drone activity in its airspace;
  • Where recordings are made by a drone (this may only become apparent when uploaded to social media sites), report this to the ICO; and
  • Consider legal action for misuse of private information where the individual(s) concerned had a reasonable expectation of privacy

As tempting as it might be, businesses should not engage in action to shoot down drones as this could constitute criminal damage to property.

If you have any questions regarding this article, please feel free to contact Louise Weatherhead, a data protection lawyer, by email louise.weatherhead@sintons.co.uk or via Twitter @LNWdataprotect

The Importance of Risk Assessments and Best Practices in Licensed Venues

As an operator of a licensed venue, you have a responsibility to keep your staff and customers safe. One of the most important ways to do this is by conducting regular Risk Assessments and implementing Best Practices. In this article, we will explain why these concepts are integral to every licensed business and provide practical guidance on how to implement them.

What are Best Practices?

Best Practices refers to the most effective ways to do things. These practices are based on past experience, research, and industry standards. By adopting best practices in your licensed venue, you are using what has proven to be the most effective methods to promote the licensing objectives. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel by writing policies from scratch. You simply need to adopt the best-established practices and adapt them to the specific needs of your venue.

What are Risk Assessments?

A Risk Assessment is a documented evaluation of potential hazards and associated risks in a particular environment. The risk assessment will typically include information on the hazards, the people who may be affected, and the steps that will be taken to control the risks.

Why are Risk Assessments and Best Practices Important?

Many operators see Risk Assessments and Best Practices as a “tick box “exercise, simply creating a neat file of paperwork to gather dust pending their next licensing inspection. However, it is important to remember that these concepts are not just about compliance. They are about keeping your staff and customers safe and preventing incidents that could harm your business.

By identifying risks associated with your premises and applying Best Practices in how you address those risks, you will not only ensure that you are keeping staff and customers safe but will provide evidence that you are doing so. This will not only save you money in insurance premiums and claims if incidents do occur but will also promote compliance with licensing objectives.

How to Implement Risk Assessments and  Best Practices in your venue:

  • Conduct a Risk Assessment –

The first step in implementing best practices is to conduct a Risk Assessment. Identify potential hazards and associated risks in your venue and develop a plan to control those risks.

  • Adopt Best Practices –

Once you have identified the risks, adopt Best Practices that have been proven to be effective in addressing those risks. This could include policies relating to spiking of drinks and people, safeguarding and vulnerable people, dispersal, and drug and weapon policies.

  • Keep practices under review –

Best Practices have to evolve all the time to incorporate changes in risks relating to licensed premises. Keep your practices under constant review and adapt them as necessary.

  • Train your staff –

Train your staff regularly to consider Best Practice and encourage them to highlight potential issues with best practice and offer better solutions to improve how the venue operates.

In these difficult trading times the need to apply Best Practice and keep it under regular review is more important than ever. By conducting regular Risk Assessments and adopting

Best Practices, you can promote compliance with licensing objectives, keep your staff and customers safe, and prevent incidents that could harm your business. Remember, Risk Assessments and Best Practices are not just about compliance. They are about keeping people safe and promoting a safe and well-managed venue.

Please get in touch if you would like us to help you prepare or review your risk assessments and policies.

Brighter Times On The Horizon

Well nobody saw that coming!  This may seem an unusual way to start an article, but if you cast your mind back to this article 12 months ago, we thought that the industry had turned the corner, the dark days of Covid-19 were behind us, and there was plenty of opportunity to bounce back to profitability.

But how could we foresee the troubles that have hit the industry in the last 12 months?

With utility prices sky high, product prices rising as a result of suppliers carrying increased costs of production, the high rate of inflation hitting the pound in the pocket of many punters, and the chaos that followed September’s mini-budget, it became another increasingly tough year for many in the industry. With hindsight, it seems like the sector had walked out of a dark tunnel into the light, but that light was just the lightning flashes of the approaching storm!

But as always, this industry we love has been resilient and found a way forward. New outlets have popped up all over, from smaller microbusinesses (pubs and street food outlets), through to high end fine dining establishments, indeed it can easily be argued there has never been a better time to be a foodie in the region. Other areas of the industry have also continued to thrive, such as the holiday and caravan park market, where demand for sites is higher than ever and prices being paid are at all-time highs.

There has also been a strong uptick in the conversion of former retail space to leisure uses, so much so that statistics indicate the number of bars, large venues and high street units increased by 0.5%. Whist Pubs sit within a Sui Generis planning class, the introduction of Class E has allowed food focused operators to benefit from this relaxation in planning laws, and we’ve been pleased to see the opening of outlets such as NQ64 on Pilgrim Street and Four Quarters on Dean Street in Newcastle City Centre, which both build on the competitive socialising scene.

Licensing however remains tight in many city centre locations and as licensing authorities begin to review the pavement licences granted during Covid-19, there are no doubt some more changes to come.

That is not to say that there have not been closures of businesses, but the severity of closures was not as severe as many feared. The CGA/Alix Partners Report for October 2022 confirmed that total pub numbers in England & Wales declined by just 0.6% in the preceding 12 months (the increase in city centre venues, being offset by closures in the traditional wet led sector). This means that the total number of pubs would sit just short of 46,000 for the start of the year. These numbers, however, strongly suggest a distinct slowing in the rate of decline over the last 5 years.

Now whilst last year was undoubtedly hard work, there are still lots of positive things coming up. Once again, the RFL Magic Weekend returns to Newcastle, for an unprecedented 7th time, and the continued performance of Newcastle United, Middlesbrough and Sunderland will continue to ensure the hostelries of their respective town centres are full on match days. Music, Comedy and Theatre performances are back, audiences are growing and Sam Fender’s two nights at St James’ Park and Beyonce at the Stadium of Light will be the biggest shows the cities have seen for some time. Hopefully, the recent Business Rates Revaluation will result in reduced liabilities for operators, but even if your Rateable Value has not fallen, there are still ways to make sure that you are making the most of the savings available.

Whilst 2022 didn’t prove to be the year we all hoped, there’s every reason to think 2023 looks like it’s going to be another interesting year and hopefully, this isn’t another false dawn.

Article from our North East Leisure Supplement 2023, produced in conjunction with Sanderson Weatherall.

Sarah Smith, Head of Licensing and Gambling at Sintons – sarah.smith@sintons.co.uk – 0191 226 4897.

David Downing, Partner at Sanderson Weatheralldavid.downing@sw.co.uk – 0191 226 4897. 

Second edition of the CIC Low Value Disputes Model Adjudication Procedure has been published

The second edition of the Construction Industry Council (CIC) Low Value Disputes Model Adjudication Procedure (LVD MAP) has recently been published following a review of its use since the first edition was published 3 years ago.

As a reminder, adjudication is a statutory dispute resolution mechanism which applies to “construction contracts” as defined in the Housing, Grants Construction and Regeneration Act 1996. It is designed to promote cash flow within the industry and provide a quick and cost-effective method of obtaining an “interim-binding” decision within 28 days. The parties can then decide to refer the dispute on for final determination by the Courts or Arbitration, depending on the terms of the relevant contract.

Many Adjudicator Nominating Bodies, or ANBs, have developed or adopted streamlined adjudication models which the parties can use in order to further reduce the cost of disputes with lower values or simpler issues. These models are designed to sit within the provisions of the Scheme for Construction Contracts. The Scheme rules are implied where a construction contract does not provide a compliant adjudication mechanism or where the Scheme is expressly incorporated.

The LVD MAP is one such streamlined procedure, specifically design for low value disputes, and the second edition brings the following changes:

  1. Consent

The consent of both parties, either expressly noted in the contract or agreed after a dispute has arisen, is no longer required where the Scheme applies. Instead, the procedure can be requested by either party or applied at the adjudicator’s discretion.

  1. Increased Dispute Value

The upper value of disputes to which the LVD MAP can be used has increased from £50,000 to £100,000.

However, where the issues in dispute are so straightforward that they are capable of adjudication under the LVD MAP, the adjudicator has the discretion to apply the procedure. No advice is provided on the higher value disputes that could be adjudicated under the LVD MAP but guidance is given on factors that might make a dispute unsuitable, such as a non-financial remedy being sought or disputes where the Contract terms are not easily discernible.

  1. Adjudicator Fee Limits

The capped fees which can be charged by the adjudicator based on the dispute value have been amended to the following:

Up to £10,000:            £2,000

£10,001 to £25,000:    £2,500

£25,001 to £50,000:    £3,500

£50,001 to £75,000:    £4,500

£75,001 to £100,000:  £5,000

Any suitable disputes above £100,000 are subject to a negotiable fee cap. In addition, the hourly rate chargeable by an adjudicator has also been capped at £250.

  1. ANB Appointment Fee

ANBs charge a fee when an application is made to appoint an adjudicator. Previously, the LVD MAP  limited this fee to £250. However, ANBs are now free to set their own appointment fees.

At the time of this article, the CIC listed a charge £300 and the RICS listed £425 (both inclusive of VAT) for an appointment under the LVD MAP.

  1. Timetable Changes

The timetable for the adjudication for the adjudicator to direct. However, the LVD MAP provides a default position which applies unless the adjudicator directs otherwise.

This default timetable has been amended to increase the time available to the adjudicator to make their Decision by 1 week.

It does this by reducing the time which the Respondent has to serve the Response from 14 days to 7 days after the Referral Notice has been received by the adjudicator. A Reply is then due on day 14 with the Decision to follow by day 28.

The above amendments are the result of efforts by a working group reviewing the issues and hurdles experienced by users of the LVD MAP with the aim of making the second edition easier to use and applicable to a wider range of suitable disputes.

In our experience low value adjudication schemes can be a cost-effective way to resolve lower value disputes.  Expanding the LVD MAP to include disputes up to £100,000 is a welcome increase to the scope of the procedure and may assist in making adjudication more accessible for lower value disputes, where parties might otherwise view the potential costs of the process to be a bar to adjudicating.

For advice on this or any other construction and engineering related issues or support, please contact our team and we will be happy to help.

Charity expands into new ‘smart office’ home

A charity which has supported the growth of the community and voluntary sector across Tyneside for over 90 years is entering a new phase of development through moving into one of the region’s most desirable new office locations.

Connected Voice, which gives advice and support to organisations and individuals to enable them to make a positive difference to society, has relocated its headquarters to One Strawberry Lane in Newcastle.

The organisation moves from Higham House in the city, where it has been based for a number of years, into inclusive, modern workspace which meets the needs of both its workforce as well as its members, who represent all aspects of community and voluntary work across Newcastle and Gateshead.

The recently-opened Gallowgate development is one of the first ‘smart office’ spaces to be created to accommodate hybrid working and the changing needs of businesses and their workforces since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Built by Home Group – which has relocated its HQ to One Strawberry Lane – the development has six floors of co-working space available for hire, with a strong focus on community and diversity, with aspects including full accessibility, gender neutral toilets and a prayer room. It also shows its commitment to sustainability through innovations including living walls.

After 92 years of supporting community and voluntary work on Tyneside, Connected Voice is now able to meet the needs of its diverse member populations with its new headquarters, and look to the future of delivering growth for the charity, its members and the sector as a whole.

“This is a great place for us to be based, both for our staff and for our member organisations. It feels good to come into work and into a fully inclusive space which we can be confident will meet the needs of anyone coming to visit,” says Lisa Goodwin, chief executive of Connected Voice.

“One Strawberry Lane enables voluntary and community organisations to access excellent informal meeting space, innovation space and gives us a home for our extensive events and training programme. It’s very exciting to have such a space in the city centre and we are delighted to call this our new home as we look to the future.

“We have been around for over 90 years, we pre-date the NHS and statutory social services and have worked hard to tackle many inequalities during that time. The voluntary sector really began to flourish in the post war period, and we have been at the heart of developing many organisations that are thriving to this day.

“The support the voluntary and community sector provides is needed more than ever these days – and it is great to have an office base which supports workplace wellbeing.

“We support people and organisations to make a difference, and over the years we have evolved from setting up community services ourselves to enabling local organisations and people to do it. Our focus now is on empowerment.

“Being based here is really important in our ongoing development, it’s a space that supports a range of ways of working where our staff and members have the space to think, meet and innovate. We have enjoyed a very good relationship with Home Group throughout and are very grateful they have created such a brilliant development.”

Sam Watts, real estate solicitor at law firm Sintons, acted for Connected Voice in acquiring their new premises.

“One Strawberry Lane is a unique office space in Newcastle, having been created specifically to meet the needs of post-pandemic ways of working,” says Sam.

“It also recognises the requirements of small businesses and third sector organisations in offering ad-hoc meeting and working space, while also showing a commitment to diversity, inclusivity and sustainability. This truly is a workspace for modern, progressive businesses, and ideal for a forward-thinking organisation like Connected Voice.

“For over nine decades, the organisation has made a positive impact in the city, and through the hard work and commitment of Lisa and her team – and with a new headquarters to be proud of – that looks set to continue for many decades to come. We wish them the very best in their new home.”

Real estate team appoints new associate

The real estate team at Sintons is continuing to grow with the appointment of a new specialist.

Julie Polkey joins Sintons as an associate, moving from a global law firm to become part of Sintons’ fast-growing team.

With a strong track record in real estate work, Julie adds further to the expertise in Sintons’ specialist team, which acts for some of the best-known and most highly respected names in property regionally and nationally.

Acting for major clients in a host of sectors – including some highly niche areas including healthcare, faith-based institutions, leisure and agriculture – Sintons is regarded as a leader in its field in the North of England.

“I am very pleased to move to Sintons, a firm with a very strong reputation for its legal expertise and a commitment to delivering the best possible service to clients,” says Julie.

“The wide-ranging expertise here and esteemed presence in a host of sectors really sets Sintons apart in this field, and I am looking forward to working with my colleagues to build this even further.”

Mark Dobbin, partner and head of real estate at Sintons, says: “Over the course of many years, we have earned our reputation for legal and client service excellence in our real estate work. We have become the trusted advisor to some of the most recognisable names in property and are very proud of the status we have in this field.

“As instructions continue to come in, we are expanding accordingly, ensuring we have the capacity and capability to support our clients, however complex the matter and however tight the timescale.

“We are very pleased to welcome Julie to our team, a real estate specialist with a strong track record who we are looking forward to working alongside to achieve even further growth and progress for our department.”

Former House of Tides senior figures to open fine dining restaurant

A husband and wife team have left senior roles at one of the North East’s most esteemed restaurants to establish their own fine dining venue.

Jake and Laura Siddle are opening restaurant Faru in Durham, after building successful careers working at the House of Tides in Newcastle.

Jake worked his way up from chef de partie to be head chef for five years, and Laura – who was part of the team at the prestigious venue since it opened in 2014 – became front of house manager.

Working alongside founder Kenny Atkinson, Jake and Laura supported House of Tides in its achievement of a Michelin Star and Four AA Rosettes, achieving a reputation as one of the most sought-after restaurants in the North East.

Now, the couple – who met at House of Tides and married last year – are embarking on the creation of Faru, on Durham’s Silver Street, which will offer a seasonal tasting menu created with local and British produce.

And their decision to embark on the opening of Faru has been given the blessing of their mentor and friend, multi-award-winning chef Kenny.

Work is currently underway to create the restaurant, which was previously a Mountain Warehouse store, and will bring new high-end dining options to Durham city centre when it opens during spring.

The restaurant, which will have 10 tables, will feature an open kitchen set against a stained glass window which was discovered during the building work.

And the creation of Faru – which means ‘journey’ in Old English – marks the latest step in both the life and career journeys of Jake and Laura, who are fulfilling a dream by opening their own restaurant.

“After we both worked our way up through the ranks at House of Tides, then got married last year, we thought about what came next for us. We wanted to have our own restaurant one day, so decided now is the time,” says Laura.

“We have spent a lot of years learning the ropes and working alongside Kenny, helping the business grow and being part of such a brilliant place, and thankfully he is really supportive of what we’re doing.

“There is a gap in fine dining provision in Durham, and the high street isn’t what it used to be, so we hope Faru will help to draw people back into the city centre, or to stay for lunch or dinner during their visit.

“This is something we really want to do, and while COVID was a reason not to open a leisure business a couple of years ago, and now the cost of living crisis could be another reason – you can always look for excuses not to do things, but we want to be brave and go for it.”

The name of the restaurant was carefully chosen, says Jake.

“We wanted to use Old English in tribute to us being in Durham, and ‘journey’ is a word I think really resonates with everything we are doing,” he says.

“Laura and I are on our journey, and this is the next step, which is a massive one for us to take but we can’t wait to open. When people come to dine with us, we hope they are on a journey of their own as they move through the menu.

“We are really grateful to Kenny for his role in our journey – so many things in our lives wouldn’t have happened if not for him, and we’re really looking forward to the weeks and months ahead as we finally open our own restaurant.”

Jake and Laura have been supported in the acquisition of their premises by the real estate team at Sintons, with solicitor Sam Watts acting for the couple.

“Faru promises to be an outstanding addition to Durham’s culinary offering, and something very exciting for the city centre and its high street, which – like many high streets – has seen decline over the past few years,” says Sam.

“Jake and Laura have both built highly successful careers and are now using the benefit of their experience and expertise to live their dream and open a restaurant. We are very pleased to have been able to support them, and wish them the very best of luck with the opening – I am sure I am not alone in looking forward to dining in Faru.”

Sintons sponsors Point to Point at Ratcheugh

Sintons have once again lent its support to a key Point to Point date in Northumberland at Ratcheugh Farm in January for another year.

The law firm, which works extensively with rural and agricultural business and families, was delighted to sponsor the first race of the day, and to present the trophy to the winner, Miss R Howarth, who was riding the favourite Ballydonagh Boy.

The event, which attracts visitors from across the North East and Cumbria and is well attended by an array of agricultural businesses and individuals across the region, is an annual event in Sintons’ diary and is always well attended by the rural team.

The team, headed by Tom Wills, comprises of specialists including real estate, private client and commercial, bringing together their deep knowledge and renowned experience – alongside its focus on client service – ensuring the bespoke needs and requirements of individuals, businesses and generations of families are met.

As well as its national work with clients and its support of events such as the Point to Point, Sintons are helping to sustain longstanding and much-loved community occasions and are a key player at many agricultural events throughout the year.

“The Point to Point is always a superb occasion, and we are regular attendees. It is always a fantastic day, and we are again delighted to lend our support.” said Tom Wills.

“It provides an opportunity for the local community, and those from much further afield, to come together to enjoy sport in a sociable atmosphere. These events are really at the heart of the Alnwick and wider Northumberland community and it is great to be part of.”

“As a well-known and deeply trusted name in this region, Sintons is always very proud to attend or sponsor such events. We are the longstanding advisors to countless families and businesses, and our specialist knowledge of rural and agricultural communities and their needs sets us apart in the marketplace. The trust we build routinely lasts for years and spans generations, and it is a great privilege for us to be held in the esteem we are.”

“The team want to thank the organisers of the event for their fantastic hospitality, as always. We were delighted to have sponsored the race and presented the trophy to this year’s winner and we are looking forward to continuing our support for the The Point to Point in the future”.

‘Impressive’ client base and legal expertise see real estate team highlighted

The real estate team at Sintons has won praise from Chambers and Partners 2023 for its “impressive” client base and wide-ranging sector specialism.

Chambers hails the “comprehensive” real estate practice for its experience in acquisitions and disposals involving residential, retail and healthcare properties, as well as acting for tenants and landlords on lease agreements and being prominent in agricultural work.

Its client base spans public sector clients, landowners, developers and investors, with growing instructions on a national basis.

Chambers says Sintons “have wonderful attention to detail, a very proactive approach and helpful and supportive manner…they have a wide array of expertise across the whole gamut”.

Three of its key partners – Mark Dobbin, Paul Liddle and Tom Wills – are also highlighted for their work.

Head of real estate Mark wins praise for his experience in supporting housebuilders, developers and landlords; Paul is praised for his expertise in acquisition of properties and development sites, and head of agriculture and estates Tom is hailed for his “excellent knowledge and experience” in his specialist field.

The findings from Chambers come only weeks after similarly positive rankings from Legal 500 2023, which also pointed to Sintons’ client base, expertise and client-focused approach as making it stand out in the marketplace.

“Our real estate team has a strong track record in acting for major clients on a national basis, supporting them over many years to become their trusted advisor, with our commitment to legal and client service excellence being at the heart of this,” says Christopher Welch, managing partner of Sintons.

“As we continue to grow, those values remain fundamental to all we do, and it is excellent to see these recognised by Chambers. These rankings, which come only shortly after Legal 500 found similarly high standards from our real estate team, service as yet more independent endorsement of our work and the delivery of the excellence we aim for.”

‘Expertise’ in Construction & Engineering wins praise

The Construction & Engineering team at Sintons has won praise for its “expertise” in both contentious and non-contentious matters from Chambers and Partners 2023, as well as its ability to handle the most complex cases.

Again confirming it as a key name in the region, Chambers points to its support of clients with the design and negotiation of construction contracts, development work and adjudications.

Its client base is wide ranging, says Chambers, and includes contractors, utility companies and care homes.

Sintons is highlighted for its capability in highly complex matters, with Chambers stating the firm has an “impressive ability to comprehend the significance of technical matters….their ability to progress complex matters is excellent”.

Head of practice Alex Rayner is also singled out for his “hands on and forward thinking” approach, which has seen him become the advisor of choice to businesses across the North East and increasingly nationally.

“Without a doubt, he is the most pragmatic, commercially aware and legally knowledgeable construction lawyer we have used,” quotes Chambers.

The praise from Chambers comes only weeks after the release of Legal 500 2023, which also reported Sintons to be a leading name in the marketplace with deep expertise across the board.

Christopher Welch, managing partner of Sintons, says: “Our work and presence in the construction sector is growing strongly, with Chambers rightly highlighting our expertise in the field and ability to handle matters of the greatest complexity. We are the trusted advisor to many clients across the North, with our national reach increasing all the time.

“For Chambers to deliver such positive findings only weeks after Legal 500 reported similar positive ratings is great news, and further independent endorsement of the legal and client service excellence we are delivering.”

‘Standout’ agriculture and estates team praised by Chambers

The “standout capabilities” of Sintons’ agriculture and estates team have been praised by Chambers and Partners 2023.

The specialist team has advised private clients, landowners, farmers and businesses for generations and has become the longstanding, trusted advisor to many across the North of England.

Chambers points to its “efficient and thorough” approach and wins plaudits for being “knowledgeable and pragmatic”. The independent legal publication also hails Sintons’ stand-out position in its native region, with the firm being a key advisor in its field.

Tom Wills, head of agriculture and estates, is named as a leading lawyer in his specialism.

“He really goes the extra mile for his clients. He does a really good job,” quotes Chambers, adding: “He is great, he really gets down to the nitty gritty of the work and is a solid practitioner.”

The praise for Sintons’ agriculture and estates offering comes only weeks after similar ratings from Legal 500, which also reported the firm as being a leader in its field, citing its “very personal approach and absolute discretion” as being at the heart of its approach.

Christopher Welch, managing partner of Sintons, says: “Our agriculture and estates team has, for generations, supported rurally-based and farming families through a host of matters, in times good and bad, and have become regarded as a deeply trusted advisor in this very specialist area.

“We are very pleased with the findings of Chambers and Partners, which highlights the expertise we have here alongside our commitment to delivering the very best service possible to clients. Coming so soon after Legal 500 reported similarly outstanding findings, we are very pleased with yet more independent endorsement of our work.”

Sandman refinancing advances group’s growth plans

A hotel group has secured eight-figure refinancing to help fuel its ongoing growth.

Sandman Hotel Group as made a series of recent acquisitions to add to its core sites in Newcastle, Gatwick and Aberdeen, with further growth planned.

To help it achieve the next phase of growth, Sandman Hotel Group – a family-owned business hailing from Canada – has secured a new funding facility from HSBC. The Group is one of the largest privately owned hotel chains in North America – with more than 50 sites in Canada alone.

The United Kingdom and Ireland business – which has recently added to its portfolio Portmarnock Hotel & Golf Links in Ireland, as well as a newly acquired site in Sheffield – opened its first UK site in 2011 in Newcastle, having redeveloped part of the city’s iconic Scottish & Newcastle Brewery site into the Sandman Signature Newcastle Hotel.

It has since made significant investment into Gatwick and Aberdeen, and is now looking at the next phase of growth with renewed confidence following the huge challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sandman Hotel Group has again been supported by the specialist real estate finance team at Sintons, a longstanding advisor to the group.

Company director and head of the United Kingdom and Ireland arm of the business, Mitch Gaglardi, said “Since our inception, we have worked fiercely on expansion plans for Sandman Hotel Group United Kingdom and Ireland. We are entirely committed to delivering incredible service for our guests and furthermore, creating job opportunities and contributing to the local communities our properties lie within.

“We’re delighted to announce this further investment and continued backing from HSBC and we’re looking forward to additional development across our United Kingdom and Ireland portfolio.

“The support from the team at HSBC has allowed us to move on with ambitious plans, and we’re pleased to already be seeing further success within the market. We’re a determined and hardworking company and this funding stream will allow us to fulfil the growth goals we have worked hard to lay the foundations for.”

Jane Meikle, partner and head of banking, and real estate partner Alok Loomba led the transaction, supported by banking solicitor Sophie Townes and real estate senior associate Chris Jackson.

“Sandman Hotel Group have been building their presence in the UK market since their first opening in 2011, and more recently have been acquisitive in their approach to expansion across the United Kingdom and Ireland,” said Alok Loomba.

“This new funding stream from HSBC will enable them to unlock the next phase of their growth, allowing Mitch and the team to explore options around the ongoing development of the group in the UK.

“We are very pleased our specialist banking and real estate finance teams could again support Sandman Hotel Group in a highly significant transaction within the leisure marketplace, which positions the business strongly to take advantage of further opportunities.”

Burges Salmon acted for HSBC in the transaction.

‘Excellent’ legal and client service from property litigation team

The specialist property litigation team at Sintons has won praise from Legal 500 2023 for its “excellent” standards of legal and client service.

Sintons is a key name in property litigation regionally and nationally, and clients include nationally-known businesses, NHS Trusts, high net worth individuals and charitable trusts.

Its presence in the market continues to grow, with a host of leading lawyers in the sector in the North of England within its team.

Leading individual Angus Ashman – hailed as “extremely experienced and knowledgeable” – rising star Hilary Waters and partner Graeme Ritzema, all win particular praise from Legal 500 for their contribution.

Its focus on the highest standards of legal advice and client service is acknowledged by Legal 500, which quotes one client testimonial: “The service provided was excellent. The approach used was tenacious and appropriately pitched to secure a positive outcome for us without huge costs. We were very pleased with the successful outcome.”

Christopher Welch, managing partner of Sintons, says: “This is an area of work in which Sintons enjoys a very strong reputation. We act nationally for both businesses and private clients and our expertise is highly regarded. Our team has expertise few can match.

“Legal and client service excellent is at the heart of everything we do as a firm, and we are very pleased to see this acknowledged by Legal 500 within our property litigation offering. Disputes can be distressing but the capability of our team, combined with first-rate service, means our clients are supported throughout the process by lawyers committed to their best interests.

“I am very pleased to see our three key partners in the team acknowledged individually for their contribution. Our department continues to grow through the commitment of Angus, Hilary, Graeme and the team, and I am confident we will see further progress in this area of the business.”

‘Excellent’ real estate team praised by Legal 500 2023

The “excellent” real estate at Sintons has won praise from Legal 500 2023 for its wide-ranging expertise across a host of sectors.

The real estate team works nationally and counts some of the biggest names in property nationally among its client base, with the firm’s capability, first-rate legal advice and outstanding client service proving a strong offering in the marketplace.

Legal 500 acknowledges its expertise across the department, and highlights its work in commercial real estate matters and developments – areas in which it “excels”, says the independent legal publication.

It also points to the specialism Sintons has within its real estate department, focusing on sectors including healthcare, rural and agricultural matters, retail, leisure, faith-based institutions, and energy, waste and renewables.

“The team is excellent. Very knowledgeable, easily approachable and professional…a very strong team of highly experienced property specialists,” says Legal 500.

A number of key figures in the real estate team are also singled out for praise. Department head Mark Dobbin – hailed as being “of the highest quality” – is praised for his expert legal advice and client service.

Leisure and healthcare specialist Alok Loomba, energy specialist Paul Liddle, real estate finance partner David Ferguson, head of faith-based institution work Laura Peace and head of agriculture and estates Tom Wills are also highlighted as being leading names in their specialisms.

“Our real estate team are highly capable and experienced, winning new instructions continually on a national basis, while building longstanding client relationships further still through its commitment to delivering legal and client service excellence,” says Christopher Welch, managing partner of Sintons.

“This recognition from Legal 500 of our wide-ranging expertise is further endorsement of the first-rate service we offer. Our sector specialisms are what really help to set us apart, and our people are fundamental to that.

“It is excellent that so many of our key figures within real estate have individually won praise from Legal 500, in recognition of their capability and the outstanding efforts they make on behalf of clients.”

Agriculture and estates team praised for legal and client service excellence

The specialist agriculture and estates team at Sintons has again been hailed by Legal 500 as a leading name in its field, with expertise across a host of areas and deep commitment to its clients.

Sintons was praised by Legal 500 2023 for its wide range of clients, which span local farmers, landowners, rural businesses, developers, private clients and estates. Routinely, many of these clients have been with Sintons for many years, often spanning many generations of families and business ownership.

Praised for offering a “very personal approach and absolute discretion”, the firm was hailed for its breadth of expertise, covering acquisitions and disposals, estate management and tenancies, disputes, minerals, manorial rights, as well as supporting landowners and developers in energy, waste and renewables matters.

Tom Wills, head of agriculture and estates, was hailed as a next generation partner by Legal 500 in recognition of his “expertise” in a host of specialisms within the niche practice area.

Partner Paul Liddle, a renowned specialist in energy, waste and renewables, again won praise for his experience, and solicitor Sam Watts was also named as a key figure.

“There was no single item that made the practice unique, it was the summation of attention to detail, working within the agreed timescale, availability for discussions and willingness to suggest the way forward that made the team stand out,” quotes Legal 500 2023.

Christopher Welch, managing partner of Sintons, says: “Our agriculture and estates team has, for generations, supported rurally-based and farming families and businesses and have become a trusted advisor in this specialist area across the North of England.

“This latest independent endorsement of our work from Legal 500 2023 confirms the high quality of what we offer – expert legal advice in what can be highly complex matters, which we combine with outstanding client service throughout. This is fundamental to everything we do at Sintons.

“Tom Wills is fast becoming a leader in his field, combining his specialism in agricultural work with leading the ongoing growth and development of the team. Paul Liddle continues to be a highly respected name and we are also delighted with the rightful recognition for Sam Watts, a young solicitor who is playing a key role in the team.”

Sintons lawyer finishes in top five per cent of London Marathon 2022 runners

A lawyer from Sintons has finished in the top five per cent of runners completing the London Marathon 2022 with a hugely impressive time of under three hours.

Alex Wilkins finished the 26.2 mile route in 2:42:57 – almost two hours less than the average finishing time for the London Marathon of 4:32:39.

A dedicated runner, real estate solicitor Alex competes in a number of races each year, especially half marathons, and took on the London Marathon for 2022 alongside more than 40,000 other runners.

His impressive time puts him among the top 2,000 finishers and the top five per cent of times crossing the finishing line.

The London Marathon, the UK’s second biggest annual road race after the Great North Run, follows a route from Blackheath to The Mall and raises tens of millions of pounds for charity each year.

Alex said: “I had actually hoped to finish a bit faster than I did, but I am really pleased with my finishing time. It was a fantastic day with an amazing atmosphere and something I am so pleased to have been part of.”

Christopher Welch, managing partner of Sintons, said: “Alex is known for his love of running and I think his ability is very clear from this amazing time – to be among the first 2,000 people over the line in a field of more than 40,000 is fantastic!

“Through his commitment to fitness, Alex is a very positive influence on his Sintons colleagues. He is always only too keen to take part in physical challenges and activities, and exercise for both physical and mental wellbeing is something we are only too keen to promote among our team.

“Congratulations to Alex from us all on his achievement in the London Marathon – an outstanding performance.”

Licensing team top-rated again by Legal 500 2023

The licensing team at Sintons has again been confirmed as one of the leaders in its field in the North of England by Legal 500 2023, with its legal expertise and commitment to clients again setting it apart in the marketplace.

Sintons’ licensing team acts for a range of clients, from individual operators to major national leisure groups, and handles matters from new applications through to license variations, appeals and defending reviews of licences.

Legal 500 points to its expertise in handling “particularly challenging” applications in special stress or cumulative impact policy areas, with its “good working relationship with local authority licensing officers throughout the North East” being key in the positive outcomes it routinely secures for clients.

Head of licensing Sarah Smith – praised for her “immense knowledge of licensing” – maintains her position in the Legal 500 Hall of Fame, in recognition of being named as a leading individual in the North consistently for more than ten years.

Legal 500 quotes one testimonial: “Sarah Smith is one of the best licensing solicitors in the country. Her friendly and approachable style belies a steely determination to achieve the best outcome for our clients.

“She is well known and well liked by committees and responsible authorities. She has immense knowledge of licensing and the sector and her applications are always comprehensively tested before being made.”

Christopher Welch, managing partner of Sintons, says: “Our licensing team is the go-to advisor for leisure operators across the North of England and nationally, with our deep understanding of the leisure market and client-focused approach setting us apart.

“The renewal of our top-tier ranking by Legal 500 2023 is rightful recognition of the work of the licensing team, who continue to win work nationally on the strength of its stellar reputation in this very specialist area of work.

“Sarah Smith continues to be a stand-out name in this area regionally and indeed nationally. She is the longstanding trusted advisor to countless leisure entrepreneurs and businesses, supporting with both contentious and non-contentious matters to secure the best possible outcome for her client and their ambitions. To be in the Legal 500 Hall of Fame is endorsement of the highest quality of lawyer – our congratulations to Sarah on again being part of this prestigious group.”

Acropolis expands further with latest North East site

A Greek street food business is continuing to expand across the region with the opening of its latest site.

Acropolis has opened new premises in Jesmond as part of its ongoing growth, meaning the business now has five static sites in the North East, in addition to its regular appearances at pop-up events.

Its new outlet in Acorn Road comes after it was forced to find an alternative to its hugely popular former home in STACK in Newcastle, with the site being demolished earlier this year.

However, Acropolis is confident its Jesmond restaurant – which has sit-in dining as well as takeaway options – will help the business achieve new levels of success, in addition to its flagship Grainger Market outlet, previous most recent opening in STACK Sunderland, and sites at By the River HWKR Market and Jesmond Beach Box.

The business was established by brothers Viktor and Filip Tachan with Yusuf Yenil in 2016, and now has a team of people who create its range of dishes – which include chicken gyros, Greek salad, Greek sides like dolmadaki and feta cheese – for numerous events simultaneously, in addition to operating its permanent sites.

Acropolis also continues to develop a strong reputation among clientele, with appearances at locations including markets at Newcastle Quayside, Tynemouth, Jesmond, Hebburn and South Shields, and its popularity on social media helping to grow its presence in the market further.

“We have grown beyond our expectations since we first set up as a pop-up operator and have established a really strong and loyal customer base across the region, which is growing all the time,” said the team.

“We are really ambitious and always keen to look at the next opportunity, and we see Jesmond as a great opportunity.

“We are already looking at what comes next for Acropolis and our team.”

Acropolis has again been supported in its growth by law firm Sintons, whose real estate team are its longstanding advisor.

Partner Tom Wills and solicitor Sam Watts worked with the team to complete the acquisition of its latest site.

“Acropolis has seen huge popularity and ongoing progress since its launch in the region in 2016, with the business continuing to grow on the strength of its great quality food and the hard work of its team,” says Sam.

“Jesmond promises to be a very significant location for Acropolis as a vibrant community of residents, students, workers and visitors, and will combine with its sites in Newcastle and Sunderland – as well as its presence at events across the region – to build its reputation even further.

“While many leisure businesses suffered greatly during the pandemic, Acropolis demonstrated why it continues to grow with such success. The team worked hard to maximise the potential of its takeaway offering by operating pop-up outlets in neighbourhoods and communities across the North East, bringing its signature take on Greek street food to people in their own homes.

“It is great to see such a hardworking and dedicated team achieve ongoing growth and success, and we wish them the very best of luck with their latest site.”

Quarry redeveloped into nationally-known tourist attraction

A Northumberland quarry which had fallen into disuse is being redeveloped into a nature reserve, in a project spearheaded by the local community.

Embleton Quarry dates back to 1864 and was a major source of employment for the area for over 100 years, but after whinstone production ended in the 1960s, the site became overgrown and unused.

Wanting to revive the site, Embleton Parish Council put together a plan of action in 2016 which led to them acquiring parts of the quarry in stages from Northumberland County Council, and now owns the whole quarry and the associated Quarry House.

Led by local people, the site – the first on the coast to be awarded Dark Skies Designation Status – has been subject to extensive works to make it into an attraction for locals and tourists alike, with significant clearance and groundwork being carried out over the past five years.

Through the dedication of the Parish Council and the Embleton community, the site is now easily accessible again after the years of dereliction, and work is ongoing to make it fully accessible to wheelchairs and pushchairs so as to become a family and disability-friendly attraction.

The latest phase in the development of Embleton Quarry Nature Reserve involves the preservation of the Quarry House, once the home of the quarry manager, which it is hoped will be restored in the years ahead.

The huge achievement has seen the project feature on Kate Humble’s Coastal Britain, as part of her visit to Northumberland earlier this year.

The acquisition of the site has been supported by specialists at law firm Sintons, which has supported Embleton Parish Council in delivering on its ambitions to revive the quarry to become a site at the heart of its community.

“We have spent a lot of time designing the site to get to our objective of creating a nature reserve,” says Terry Howells, chair of Embleton Parish Council.

“The great thing about this project is that nobody has had a bad word to say about it, everyone seems to be with us. It’s very much led by the community.

“Back in 2017, we got to work straight away in clearing undesirable gorse and other vegetation, acquiring the rest of the quarry and then opening up more of the site from there.

“We’ve managed to clear a lot of paths and it’s now a site people can visit and enjoy, although work continues. We held a trial evening of stargazing in the darkest part of the quarry, and over 100 people came, so that was very successful – we look forward to hosting more of such events.

“Recently we organised clearing inside the house, which was a big job in itself – over the years the roof had fallen in and some massive trees had grown inside the house, and we are now working on getting it ready for stabilisation work to take place.

“This has been a huge undertaking and a very exciting project, and we’re delighted to have such positivity and positive feedback from the community and from our visitors, too.”

The Parish Council has been supported by Tom Wills, head of agriculture and estates at Sintons, alongside real estate solicitor Sam Watts, in the acquisition and development of the site.

“The development of Embleton Quarry Nature Reserve is an absolutely fantastic project, and the fact this has been led by the local community makes it very special,” says Sam.

“This has been a real labour of love for the Parish Council, and their volunteer workers whose dedication has been unfaltering.

“Through their efforts, what was once a key site in the local community has regained its proud status through becoming an attraction which is set to bring in tourists from miles around, as well as being a beautiful area for local people to enjoy.

“It has been a genuine privilege to be part of such a community-led initiative, which continues to develop and become even more impressive. Embleton Quarry Nature Reserve is now another great asset in our wonderful North East of England and we are delighted to have supported the plans in becoming a reality.”

Real Estate department at Sintons continues to grow with new addition

The real estate department at Sintons is continuing to grow and display its ambition with the addition of a new partner.

Julie Perkins joins Sintons with a wealth of experience in the real estate sector, with particular specialism in ecclesiastical work, adding further to Sintons’ renowned expertise in this niche area of law.

The firm’s faith-based institutions team acts for a wide range of high-profile clients on a national basis, including the Managing Trustees of the Methodist Church and Church Commissioners for England, making it a leading specialist advisor in the field.

In addition to her ecclesiastical specialism, Julie’s wide-ranging experience has seen her act for other major landlords and land owners including international estate holders, property investment funds, and sizeable corporate and private real estate property owners.

During her career, Julie – who relocates from a Yorkshire-based law firm to join Sintons – has dealt with matters of great complexity, including overseeing sales of major assets and the purchase of sites for extensive and high-value development.

She joins Sintons at a time of strong progress for the firm and its award-winning real estate team, which has a national reputation for its work and counts some of the most esteemed and recognisable names in UK commercial property among its clients.

The team, which is regularly instructed in matters nationally, continues to build its presence and profile in other specialist sectors of real estate work in addition to its faith-based work, including healthcare, leisure and construction.

“Sintons has a wealth of experience and capability across the entire real estate spectrum, with the size and range of specialisms within the team giving huge potential for us to build even further on what we have here,” says Julie.

“I am very pleased to join Sintons and the partnership, and look forward to working with colleagues to develop and grow the real estate team and wider business even further.”

Mark Dobbin, head of real estate, said: “Julie is a highly experienced real estate lawyer with an excellent reputation for her work. The fact she is able to add further expertise to our nationally-renowned work with faith-based institutions is a great asset in what is a highly niche area of legal work.

“At Sintons, we are held in the highest regard for the expertise and experience we have within our team, which enables us to handle a number of major deals consecutively and complete within the tightest of timescales, while delivering a level of client service that is second to none.

“Through ongoing instructions from major clients nationally, we continue to build our department and its presence in the UK real estate sector, and we look forward to working with Julie and the rest of our team to developing this even further.”

Ladhar Group acquisition paves way for sector resurgence

Despite the hugely difficult conditions for leisure operators, we have continued to see ambition and investment in preparation for the recovery and future prosperity of the industry.

While some have been forced to scale back, and others have sadly ceased trading altogether, others have weathered the storm as they look to emerge stronger from the other side.

Operators across the North East and beyond have taken the opportunity to invest in their premises, diversify their offering and sometimes add new properties to their portfolio. For tenants, landlord incentives have enticed them to move into buildings which have lost their occupiers during the pandemic, helping to revive town and city centres in the process.

But for some operators, their confidence in the future of their operation and the wider sector has seen major movement, huge investment and significant ambition.

One of the biggest leisure deals in the North East scene in recent years has been the acquisition of the Sir John Fitzgerald group by the Ladhar Group – both family-owned, longstanding operators in the region’s leisure economy, with Sir John Fitzgerald dating from the 1850s.

The deal – named Property Deal of the Year at the North East Property Awards 2021 – comprised the purchase of 16 leisure businesses and their associated properties, and retains ownership of a famous North East brand within the region.

The transaction was completed by Sintons, as the longstanding advisor to Ladhar Group, and was completed during a lockdown period with all parties working remotely – quite a feat to achieve, and certainly a deal like no other I have worked on, but a fantastic outcome for both businesses and the region.

The Ladhar Group have long been a hugely ambitious leisure business in the region, with an array of highly popular venues in central Newcastle which continue to see investment to ensure their offering is at the top of their game, and ongoing plans for the redevelopment of other areas of the city.

Their move to acquire another leisure business, despite the huge challenges that faced the leisure industry at that time, was brave and showed great leadership in the sector for others to follow by giving a very timely endorsement of the strength of the North East’s hospitality sector and the fact it would rise again.

Whether working with premises they already occupy, or looking to acquire new or different ones, the confidence that is returning to the sector – as well as North East town and city centres – makes this a great time to explore options and exercise ambition.

Article from our North East Leisure Supplement 2022, produced in conjunction with Sanderson Weatherall.

Alok Loomba Partner in Real Estate at Sintons – alok.loomba@sintons.co.uk 0191 226 7843.

Covid-19 Bounce Back

When we sat down to discuss our annual North East Leisure Supplement two years ago, we planned to highlight the peaks and troughs experienced by the leisure industry over the previous 12 months, as we had done routinely for years. Neither of us could have imagined, within a few weeks of that meeting, that such monumental and world changing events would have taken place. We decided not to proceed with our publication at that time, as it felt inappropriate to be expressing views on the health of the sector as the whole world, not just the leisure industry, appeared to be looking into the abyss.

Two years on, and with the Coronavirus pandemic, hopefully, becoming a manageable part of our lives, we can start to reflect on what has happened, review the positive lessons we have all learnt, and think more confidently about how the leisure industry is placed to bounce back.

As professionals working in the leisure sector – with over 60 years’ experience between us – we have always been acutely aware of the tenacity and strength of our clients. However, in the face of ever-changing Government regulation, nervous customers and significant staffing issues, it would have been easy for operators to close up shop and ride out the storm on Government loans and furlough pay-outs.

On the contrary, many of our leisure leaders took the opportunity to develop and expand their leisure offerings, investing in the future and positioning themselves to be in the strongest possible position once the restrictions lifted.

Those decisions showed a confidence not only that “this too shall pass”, but gave a huge endorsement in the industry more generally. A major lesson learnt in the pandemic is that we are social beings and need to be in the company of others to maintain good mental health. Where better to seek out those interactions than in the bars and restaurants of our cities and towns? They are an integral part of our lives and of our future.

During the last two years, we have seen some of the most bold, creative and innovative measures taken by operators to keep their businesses trading and their staff in employment.

From restaurant operators developing “cook at home” and delivery services of the highest a la carte food, to bar operators creating exotic cocktail nights to enjoy with friends via Zoom; not to mention the reinvention of much of our street scene into magical outdoor spaces inviting us to linger even on the chilliest of North East winter nights.

These offerings became reminders that there was still pleasure to be taken in the most difficult of times. Many of the changes created through necessity have been so successful they are likely to remain.

Certainly, the continental cafe culture, that was a dream of New Labour at the turn of the century, is here to stay. Officers were always wary of the potential noise and disorder issues that outside drinking may have on a city centre. However, this imposed trial has clearly been successful, with pavement cafes being well managed; they have clearly added a vibrancy to many town and city centres.

The introduction of table service has also been welcomed by customers and operators alike. No more jostling at the bar and spilled drinks as you fight your way back to your table; this offering creates a more relaxed atmosphere with customers staying in venues longer.

Customers’ appreciation of their leisure time has also led to a change in what they want from a night out. The importance of maintaining a work/life balance is reflected in people’s desire to reconnect with friends and family and enjoy leisure at an experiential level. The sector has obliged by offering ‘Instagram-able’ afternoon teas, locally-produced artisan products and competitive socialising experiences aplenty, leading to a general uplift in quality.

Town centre bars and restaurants have seen a surge in popularity as people want to ‘stay local’ and support their local operators. That in turn has seen existing and new operators investing in town centres which will have long-term benefits and is set to continue.

Staycations have also increased interest in the region and tourism is likely to continue to increase as both the pandemic and Brexit see people keen to explore the UK.

As the world starts to unlock – hopefully we have been shut down for the last time – the true impact of the pandemic on the leisure sector will start to show. There will be a long-term impact and not all of it will be positive.

Some parts of the sector – theatres, cinemas and nightclubs – have been hit hard with the tightest regulations applying to them and that will take a long time to repair.

Staffing issues in the hospitality sector are at crisis level with some venues, particularly in the hotel sector, not operating at full capacity simply because they do not have sufficient staff to allow them to operate safely. Time will tell if the issue is purely down to Covid-19 or the fallout of Brexit, but changes need to be made to address the shortfall.

The “work from home” culture is here to stay to some extent, and that will inevitably impact on footfall in city centres. The partnerships between councils, responsible bodies, Business Improvement Districts and operators are more important than ever. Working together to create vibrant city centres with innovative offerings, which will give customers the desire and confidence to return, is key.

Article from our North East Leisure Supplement 2022, produced in conjunction with Sanderson Weatherall.

Sarah Smith, Head of Licensing and Gambling at Sintons – sarah.smith@sintons.co.uk 0191 226 4897.

David Downing, Partner at Sanderson Weatherall – David.Downing@sw.co.uk 0191 268 0151

The Building Safety Act 2022

The Building Safety Act (the “Act”) received royal assent on 28 April 2022. The Act was introduced in response to the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017 and aims to secure the safety of people in or about buildings and to improve the standard of buildings generally. The provisions of the Act apply to the lifetime of a building from the design and construction phase to subsequent occupation. Secondary legislation is required to implement various measures over the next 12 to 18 months but there are some provisions which have already come into force.

Building Act 1984

The Act brought into force Section 38 of the Building Act 1984 (“BA”). This section creates a statutory claim for breach of Building Regulations where physical damage has been suffered.

Prior to Section 38 coming into force, an injured party would only be able to rely on the following to bring a claim for damage sustained as a result of breach of Building Regulations:

  • an express term in a contract that the works will be carried out in accordance with statutory requirements;
  • an implied term that any works will be carried out in a good and workmanlike manner and using materials that are fit for purpose; or
  • an implied term that works will be carried out in accordance with Building Regulations.

It is important to note that it is only possible to pursue a claim for physical damage under Section 38, such as injury to a person or damage to a property, and pure financial loss is not recoverable.

A claim can be brought by anyone for up to 15 years following completion of the relevant works and these provisions apply to all buildings in England and Wales to which the Building Regulations apply.

Defective Premises Act 1972

Section 1 of the Defective Premises Act 1972 (“DPA”) imposes a duty on anyone undertaking works on a dwelling to ensure that the works are undertaken:

  • in a workmanlike manner;
  • using proper materials; and
  • so as to ensure that the dwelling is fit for habitation.

This duty is owed by the person undertaking the works to the person who commissioned the dwelling and every person who subsequently acquires a legal or equitable interest in the dwelling.

Section 1 only applies to the provision of a dwelling which can include the construction of new dwellings or the conversion of existing buildings into new dwellings. It does not apply to works undertaken to an existing dwelling.

The Act has extended the limitation period for claims under Section 1 of the DPA from 6 years to:

  • 15 years prospectively; and
  • 30 years retrospectively.

This means that claims can be made in relation to works that were completed up to 30 years prior to the Act coming into force.

Given the potentially huge liability for developers and contractors, the Act provides two safeguards for retrospective claims, namely;

  • if a claim breaches a defendant’s human rights it must be dismissed; and
  • any claim that has been previously settled or finally determined cannot be re-commenced as result of the extended limitation period.

The Act also brings into force a new Section 2A to the DPA which extends the scope of the Act to allow a party to bring a claim in respect of any works undertaken to a dwelling in the course of a business, such as refurbishment works to an existing dwelling. Claims pursuant to this section can only be made prospectively with a limitation period of 15 years.

Building Liability Orders

The Act has introduced the concept of Building Liability Orders which permit the High Court in England and Wales to extend the specific liabilities of a company or an LLP to an associated company or LLP so that they are jointly and severally liable for a claim under S38 of the BA, Section 1 and 2A of the DPA and any claim relating to a ‘building safety risk’.

For the purposes of Building Liability Orders, an associated company is a company which is controlled by another company or two companies which are controlled by the same third party, for example parent and sister companies.

A Building Liability Order can be made against an associated company notwithstanding that the company with the original liability has since been wound up or dissolved. This allows a claim to be brought where, for example, a special purpose vehicle is incorporated for the purpose of a specific development and subsequently wound up upon completion of the development.

The High Court can make a Building Liability Order where it considers it to be ‘just and equitable’ to do so.

Each of the above-mentioned provisions came into force on 28 June 2022 and clearly increase the potential exposure of building owners and developers to potential claims.

The team here at Sintons would be more than happy to assist with any commercial property enquiries.

Dumpling and Bun secures licence with support from Sintons

A popular Grainger Market eatery has secured a licence with support from Sintons, which will allow it to develop its offering even further.

Dumpling and Bun serves an array of authentic handmade Chinese dumplings and stuffed buns, and attracts a growing clientele to its central Newcastle site.

The venture had hoped to expand its offering to customers to include alcohol, with its owners believing Asian lager and Sake would complement its food menu.

Its application to Newcastle City Council attracted objections from the Licensing Authority, Police and Environmental Health Team, but through the support of the specialist licensing team at law firm Sintons, has since been approved.

The business is now able to diversify its offering even further through the addition of authentic Asian alcohol to its menu.

Dumpling and Bun was represented by Sarah Smith, head of licensing at Sintons and regularly acknowledged as one of the leading lawyers in the North of England.

“This is a well-known food business in the Grainger Market which has very much become part of the community there, and its dumplings and buns prove immensely popular with a wide clientele,” said Sarah.

“Securing a licence is not always a straightforward process, even when it may appear to be, and unfortunately Dumpling and Bun met with some initial resistance when they submitted their application.

“Through turning to us, we were able to support them in making a case as to why their licence would be a positive for the business, the Grainger Market and wider local area, adding further to the diversity and vibrancy it already enjoys and is known for.

“As a highly experienced licensing advisor, we can support on a wide range of contentious and non-contentious applications, with our unrivalled expertise ensuring we continue to be the go-to advisor for small businesses and multi-site leisure groups alike.”

Climbing Prices – How the Industry Responds?

Constructing Excellence in association with Sintons are holding a panel discussion ‘entitled ‘Climbing Prices – how the industry responds’. The discussion will aim to address the impact on the sector of rising costs and ways in which the construction industry might be able to respond to and deal with the issue facing us.

The session will be chaired by Alex Rayner, Partner of Head of Construction & Engineering at Sintons and the panel will include:

Thursday 30th June 2022.

McGovern & Co’s Andrew Pickersgill

– CA Group Andy Dickinson

Further speakers will be announced over the coming days! To register click here or if you have any questions, please contact Leanne leanne@cene.org.uk.

Smash and Grab Adjudication – Alive and Well

As most of you will already be aware, a “smash and grab” adjudication occurs where the paying party to a construction contract fails to issue the relevant payment or pay less notice in response to a valid application for payment, meaning that the ‘notified sum’ that must be paid is that contained within the relevant application for payment.

By contrast, a “true value” adjudication occurs where either party seeks a decision from the adjudicator as to the ‘true value’ of the works for the relevant payment period.  As opposed to a “smash and grab” adjudication, which is solely concerned with the technicalities of whether notices have been issued on time, a ‘true value’ adjudication seeks to establish the correct or true value of the works.

Without setting out the potted history of “smash and grab” versus “true value” adjudication in the Courts, the established legal position in relation to the interrelationship between the two is that:

  • having lost a “smash and grab” adjudication, a paying party may subsequently commence a “true value” adjudication to establish the correct value of the application for which it failed to issue the correct notices (S&T (UK) Limited v Grove Developments Limited [2018] EWCA Civ 2448); however
  • the paying party must comply with the “smash and grab” adjudication and make payment of the ‘notified sum’ before it may commence a “true value” adjudication (M Davenport Builders Limited v Greer [2019] EWHC 318 (TCC)).

To put this another way, the right to adjudicate “at any time” to obtain a true valuation of the sum due under section 108 of the Construction Act is subjugated or trumped by the immediate obligation to make payment of a ‘notified sum’ under section 111.

The recent case of Bexheat Limited v Essex Services Group Ltd [2022] EWHC 936 (TCC) has further reiterated the pre-eminence of the payment obligations under section 111.  The relevant facts of which are as follows:

Adjudication 1 – Bexheat secured a decision that on a “true value” basis it was entitled to payment in the sum of £141,646 in respect of its interim application 22.  ESG paid the sums due to Bexheat in full.

Adjudication 2 – ESG failed to serve a pay less notice in time in respect of the Bexheat’s interim application 23 (which had been issued one day before the commencement of Adjudication 1).  Bexheat was awarded £706,029.62 as a result of ESG’s failure to issue a timely pay less notice, on other words a classic “smash and grab” adjudication.

ESG failed to pay the sums awarded in Adjudication 2 and Bexheat sought to enforce the decision.  The following interesting points arise from Mrs Justice O’ Farrell’s judgment to enforce the decision in Adjudication 2:

  1. The Adjudicator in Adjudication 1 had jurisdiction as the disputes were not the same or substantially the same. Not only were they concerned with different payment periods but they were also different disputes in nature; Adjudication 1 expressly dealt with valuation whereas Adjudication 2 was solely concerned with whether ESG had served a valid pay less notice.
  2. In any event ESG had not raised any challenge to the adjudicator’s jurisdiction in Adjudication 2 and/or specifically reserved its rights, therefore it was taken to have waived any such challenge.
  3. ESG could not rely upon a clause in the contract seeking to permit it to set off or make deductions against an adjudicator’s award in respect of any amounts which may be due or have become due from Bexheat to ESG. Such a clause was contrary to section 108 of the Construction Act which provides that an adjudicator’s award is binding upon the parties until finally determined.
  4. ESG could not rely upon a clause in the contract providing it with the unilateral right to elect that the adjudicator shall be entitled to adjudicate on more than one dispute at the same time (the second adjudicator had refused to allow a ‘joinder’ of the true value of interim application 23 with the “smash and grab” Adjudication 2). This clause was contrary to paragraphs 8 and 20 of the Scheme for Construction Contracts which require the consent of both parties to a multiple dispute adjudication. Further, section 111 of the Construction Act precludes ESG from refer the ‘true value’ dispute in respect of interim application 23 prior to paying the “notified sum”.

ESG was also unsuccessful in its application to stay the enforcement, with the Court finding that Bexheat was a going concern and that its financial position was substantially the same as when it entered into the contract.

This judgment reiterates that a paying party must pay under a “smash and grab” adjudication before commencing or relying upon a “true value” adjudication.  Further, an earlier “true value” decision does not preclude the payee from commencing a “smash and grab” adjudication regarding a payer’s failure to issue the correct notices in a subsequent payment cycle, even where the true value of that claim has already been decided.

This is a timely reminder that paying parties and their representatives must ensure that the contractual payment notice provisions are complied with at all times, including following a “true value” adjudication.

For advice on these or any other construction and engineering related issues or support, please contact our team and we will be happy to help.

Pablo Eggsgobao secures licence with support from Sintons

A city centre bao bun cafe has secured a licence with support from Sintons, after initially attracting objections to its application.

The fantastically named, Pablo Eggsgobao is a social media-favourite haunt in Newcastle, with a sister site in Whitley Bay, which enjoys particular popularity on Instagram for its range of baos.

The cafe, on Blandford Street, had wanted to secure a licence to develop its existing offering into a ‘community hub’ and function space.

However, concerns were expressed by a local college that its application could exacerbate alleged issues with anti-social behaviour in the area. Initially, their bid to secure an alcohol licence was rejected.

Facing a hearing before the Licensing Sub-Committee of Newcastle City Council, Pablo Eggsgobao turned to Sintons and its specialist licensing team – led by Sarah Smith, widely acknowledged as the go-to licensing lawyer in the North of England – who represented them leading to the licence being granted.

Sarah successfully argued that through the investment Pablo Eggsgobao was committing to the site, it would attract the potential for further regeneration and other businesses to move into the area.

She told the licensing committee: “That is the experience they have had in Whitley Bay.

“When they opened their shop on Station Road, there were some social issues. Since they opened, other businesses have opened too on that street and it is very much a vibrant hub.

“Those problems have been eradicated.”

The business can now serve alcohol from midday until 11pm.

Sarah added: “Pablo Eggsgobao is a very novel business which has built a very strong following on social media, particularly on Instagram, and attracts a growing and vibrant following to its cafes both in Whitley Bay and Newcastle.

“While the client’s application attracted objection we were able to intervene and highlight the very positive contribution such a dynamic business would make through being able to expand its offering even further.

“It is great news this has been given approval and we wish the team the very best of luck in developing the business even further.”

The implications for landlords following the end of the moratorium

Partner and Head of the Agriculture, Estates & Rural Property department at Sintons, Tom Wills, alongside Real Estate solicitor Sam Watts, recently recorded a podcast where they discussed the implications for landlords following the end of the moratorium.

You can listen to it below.

Break Notices: Don’t Rely on Implied Terms – Wigan Borough Council v Scullindale Global Limited & Others [2021]

Background

In 2016, Wigan Borough Council (“WBC”) granted a lease to Scullindale Global Ltd (“SGL”) of Haigh Hall for a term of 199 years at a premium of £400,000 plus VAT. SGL planned to convert the property into a hotel and the lease included a provision whereby WBC had a right to break the lease and re-acquire the premises (at what would essentially be the market value) if SGL failed to complete the conversion by 23rd May 2018, in accordance with planning permission obtained prior to the grant of the lease.

On 16th September 2019, WBL served a break notice on SGL claiming that an event of default had occurred as they had not met the May 2018 deadline imposed by the planning permission.

SGL argued that any delay in completing the refurbishment works had been attributable to WBC. They also argued that a term should be implied in the lease to the effect that the landlord must serve a break notice within a ‘reasonable’ time following an event of default and not ‘at any time’. SGL maintained that by waiting 16 months, WBC had waived their right to break the lease on the basis of that default event.

The lease was due to terminate pursuant to the break clause on 22nd November 2019, however SGL remained in occupation after this date.

The Court’s Decision

The Court did not accept SGL’s argument that there should be an implied term that any break notice must be served within a ‘reasonable’ time rather than ‘at any time’ following an event of default. It confirmed that this would have created uncertainty and taking the words ‘at any time’ in their ordinary meaning would not result in an uncommercial situation.  The Court did, however, submit that it was implied that a break notice could only be validly served ‘at any time’ whilst an event of default still persisted, on the basis that ‘it goes without saying’ that the parties had intended to proceed on this basis.

Despite the implied limitation, the Court decided that an event of default had occurred as SGL had not completed the required works by the 23rd of May 2018 deadline and that this default was still subsisting when WBC served the break notice on 16th September 2019. It denied that any delay in the refurbishment attributable to WBC, as the local planning authority, should have any impact upon the lease which WBC entered into in its capacity as landlord. It was therefore determined that the break notice was validly served by WBC.

WBC also applied to the Court for mesne profits, which represented the sum of rent they could have obtained in respect of the property had SGL not remained in occupation after the expiry of the break notice on 22nd November 2019. The Court dismissed this claim on the basis that WBC had no realistic prospect of re-letting the property prior to the end of the Covid-19 lockdown and SGL had received no financial benefit by remaining in occupation.

Commercial Considerations

This case serves as an important reminder for tenants of commercial premises to ensure that careful consideration is given to any request by a landlord for the inclusion of a landlord’s break option. Further care must also be taken when agreeing the terms upon which the break option will be exercisable by the landlord. Whilst the Court was willing to imply a limitation on the break notice in this case, no reliance should be placed on this when negotiating the terms of a lease.

Tenants should consider whether it is appropriate to allow an open-ended break clause, i.e. one that does not have a specific time period for service of a break notice, where the break is conditional upon a trigger event, such as an event of default. Greater certainty can be provided to both parties if a deadline for service is provided e.g. no later than 3 months after the trigger event occurs. This is especially relevant in respect of longer leases where the trigger event could occur at any point within the term. These are discussions that should take place as early as possible, and preferably at the heads of terms stage, to ensure that all parties are comfortable with the provisions.

Here at Sintons we are specialists in advising both landlords and tenants on commercial lease terms and break options. We would be happy to discuss such matters with any existing or new clients.  If you have any queries or would like assistance in relation to a new or existing commercial lease, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the team.

Sector body teams up with region’s law firms to promote inclusivity

In what is a rare industry move, a number of law firms in the region are collaborating alongside Constructing Excellence in the North East to promote a fairer and more diverse construction industry.

The sector body and law firms including Ward Hadaway, Muckle, DAC Beachcroft, Clyde & Co, Sintons, Weightmans and Womble Bond Dickinson, are working to ensure everyone, regardless of gender, feels valued in the region’s construction industry.

Whilst women account for approximately half of the UK’s workforce, ONS data compiled by the CITB suggest that the average number of women working in construction specific roles remains approximately 16%, of whom only 1% are employed in the trades.

Catriona Lingwood, chief executive at Constructing Excellence North East, said: “Officially launched in 2020, one of the stated aims of the region’s OneVoice construction strategy is to build a sustainable and inclusive construction sector and as part of this aim we have teamed up with and applaud those legal firms who are joining forces to discuss ways in which the legal sector can support gender inclusion in the construction sector, whether this be at entry level or senior management.

“Whilst we understand that plans are underway to adopt gender neutral language in the next suite of JCT contracts (The Joint Contracts Tribunal), a move which is welcomed, Constructing Excellence in the North East is delighted to be a co-signatory to this letter alongside law firms from the region, which signals a commitment to the use of gender-neutral language in the drafting of bespoke construction and engineering contracts and ancillary documents.”

Alex Rayner, Partner and Head of Construction & Engineering at Sintons, and Constructing Excellence North East board member, said: “It is not often that the legal sector get the opportunity to collaborate in this manner and I am very grateful to all the firms involved for their co-operation in this initiative.  The construction and engineering contracts we draft are used in projects of all shapes and sizes across our region and beyond and we believe that the use of gender neutral language within those contracts and ancillary documents is essential to promote and facilitate the diverse and inclusive construction industry that we all want to be a part of”.

Scream for Pizza licence extended with support from Sintons

A popular pizza and ice cream café, offering New York style pizza slices and homemade ice cream, on Newcastle’s Quayside has had its bid to extend its licence approved thanks to support from specialists at Sintons.

Scream for Pizza applied to extend its licensed hours from 7.30pm to 10pm, as well as to allow takeaway customers to purchase alcohol from the premises.

However, the business – which expanded from its initial site in Sandyford to open on the Quayside – faced some opposition to its plans from local residents, who raised concerns about alcohol-fuelled behaviour.

But with support from the specialist licensing team at Sintons, Scream for Pizza was successful in its application, gaining approval from Newcastle City Council’s licensing sub committee.

Represented by Sarah Smith – Sintons’ head of licensing and widely regarded as one of the leading lawyers in the North – she highlighted the quality of the restaurant and its offering, and its commitment to building an esteemed brand which would add to the area.

I Scream for Pizza is now able to extend its hours and scope of alcohol sales, which the business says will be an important diversification as it continues to recover from COVID-19 lockdown.

“Scream for Pizza is a high-quality brand which has two successful Newcastle sites, and we are very pleased to have been able to support them in their ambitions,” said Sarah Smith.

“While there was some opposition to their application, we were able to allay the concerns raised through highlighting the very positive impact, and thoroughly responsible approach, this business takes. It is an asset to the Quayside area and a leisure brand that looks set to continue to grow.

“We wish them the very best of luck for the future.”

Sarah Kilby, Group Operations Manager at Scream for Pizza said “We are very pleased with the outcome of our licence change and thank Sarah for her support and assistance throughout the whole process. Sarah’s help has allowed us to push our vision for the site forward and dramatically increase evening trade.”

Trainee qualifies as commercial property solicitor

A trainee solicitor has been rewarded for her efforts with a permanent role at Sintons after successfully completing her training contract.

Charlotte Johnston has qualified as a solicitor having joined Sintons as a paralegal in May 2019, commencing her training contract in September 2020.

She takes up a role in the firm’s highly esteemed commercial property team, having gained experience of working in the team during her two-year training period.

Charlotte also gained experience of the department through taking a role as a real estate paralegal at Sintons prior to beginning her training contract.

Charlotte will now begin her career as a specialist commercial property solicitor, working alongside some of the most highly rated and well-known lawyers in their field in the North of England.

“I am delighted to have become a qualified solicitor and to be given this opportunity with Sintons,” says Charlotte.

“I loved my time in real estate prior to, and during, my training contract, and it’s fantastic that I can now take up a full-time role with the team.

“The department has such strong experience and expertise that it is a dream role for me as a newly-qualified lawyer to build my career while learning from such amazing people. I look forward to working alongside my colleagues to build the department even further.”

Mark Dobbin, head of real estate, added: “Charlotte is an excellent young solicitor and we were very impressed with her capability and attitude during her time with us as a trainee. I am confident she will be a great asset to the team, and I am delighted we have been able to reward her efforts with this role.”

Agriculture and Estates offering continues to develop at Sintons

Specialists from across Sintons are helping to drive forward the firm’s specialist agriculture and estates team, which continues to grow its profile and case load across the North of England.

The team has built trust with rurally-based families and businesses over the course of generations, with Sintons’ presence in rural and farming communities spanning much of its 126-year history.

The firm’s legal expertise and outstanding client service has made it the legal advisor of choice for people across several generations of families and business ownership, and its presence continues to grow across the North of England on the strength of its reputation.

Bringing together expertise and leading lawyers from across a number of Sintons practice areas, the agriculture and estates team – headed by Tom Wills – has made significant gains in the past few years in particular.

The firm’s specialism is widely known and respected in what is a very niche area of law, where few firms are recognised as having the capability and knowledge to truly serve the unique needs of rural communities.

Bringing in expertise from a host of specialisms, Sintons offers bespoke support in family law, real estate, contentious and non-contentious private client work, dispute resolution, regulatory and business matters, and commercial work.

Key team members comprise Alan Dawson, the firm’s chairman who has been known for supporting rural families for over 40 years; Angus Ashman, Jay Balmer, Robert Burn, Paul Collingwood, Sophie Croft, Cristina Falzon, Lauren Coad, Elizabeth Gallagher, Louise Kelly, Paul Liddle, Amanda Maskery, Louise Masters, Emelie Rowell, Emma Saunders and Sam Watts.

“The capability of our team is there for all to see, and few other firms can come anywhere close to the decades of expertise, experience and reputation we have in our agriculture and estates offering,” says Tom Wills.

“For generations, we have been by the sides of families and businesses in rural and agricultural communities across the North of England, earning the trust of these clients so they stay with us over the course of many years. It is a privilege to be able to support them through hugely significant moments in the lives of individuals and families, and to be able to give our expert advice to benefit businesses.

“We continue to grow on the strength of our reputation and the outstanding legal and client service we deliver, and our instructions come from across the entire region, often involving matters of great complexity, which Sintons is well equipped to handle.

“The growth we have seen, and continue to see, is hugely positive and confirms the standing that Sintons has held for many years in this very specialist area of law.”

Real estate specialist joins Sintons

The real estate team at Sintons has added further to its expertise with the appointment of a new specialist.

Stephen Bennett moves to Sintons to bring new capability to its esteemed real estate department, which attracts instructions from across the UK and has a client base comprising some of the biggest property owners in the country.

He specialises in commercial landlord and tenant work, acquisition and disposal of freehold and leasehold property, and also acts for property investors.

The appointment of Stephen comes at a time of progress for Sintons’ real estate team – whose capability was again shown through its win of the Property Deal of the Year Award at the North East Property Awards 2021 – with its expertise across a range of property-related matters being sought throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Sintons has a very strong reputation for its real estate work and its client portfolio really sets it apart from competitors and is an endorsement in itself of the quality and capability that exists within the team,” says Stephen.

“I am delighted to join and look forward to playing my role in building the department even further.”

Mark Dobbin, head of real estate at Sintons, says: “Our expertise has been in continual demand over the past two years on a wide range of matters arising from the opportunities and challenges of the pandemic, and we are keen to bring in new talent to support our work wherever possible.

“Stephen is a very capable young solicitor who we are very pleased to add to our team. We are known across the North of England and beyond for the significant expertise we have in the team, and are regularly involved in transactions of the highest levels of complexity and value, so adding to our team can only increase our capacity to be the choice for clients nationally in such matters even further.”

Sintons sponsors Point to Point

Law firm Sintons is continuing to show its support for rural communities by lending its support to a staple Northumberland racing event.

Sintons, a trusted name among rural and farming families and businesses across the North of England for generations, was a sponsor of the Men’s Open Race at the Point to Point racing event in Alnwick at the weekend.

The Point to Point event, a form of amateur horse racing which has taken place in Northumberland for decades, attracts racegoers of all ages from across the county and beyond and its meetings are hugely popular occasions.

Sintons – whose specialist agriculture and estates team is one of the leading names in the North, known for its specialist knowledge in a very complex area of law – added its support to the Percy Hunt in support of a key community event, which has been absent for much of the past two years.

Tom Wills, partner and head of agriculture and estates at Sintons, said: “The Point to Point is a much-loved longstanding event in Northumberland which plays a central role in the community. Amateur horse racing plays a role at the heart of rural life and has been much missed during the pandemic.

“It is fantastic to again see people gathering at these superb events and we are only too pleased to lend our support. As specialist and deeply trusted advisors to families and businesses across rural Northumberland for generations, we will always play our role in making communities as vibrant as possible, and key events like this are really important in doing that.”

Resources NE expands with new Tyneside academy

An organisation which has helped to train and upskill young people in the region for over 30 years is opening a new centre, to help create further opportunities in a sector particularly hard-hit by the impact of the pandemic.

Resources NE Ltd has overseen the training of thousands of young people since 1990 across Sunderland and South Tyneside, paving the way for them to embark on successful careers in areas from bricklaying to IT.

Operating from its head office in Southwick, in Sunderland, and its Resources South Tyneside base in Jarrow, the provider matches the needs of employers in the region with the skills required, ensuring vacancies are filled with fully-skilled young employees.

Now, Resources has opened its first base in Newcastle, which will focus on creating opportunities within the hair and beauty sector, which despite being devastated by the impact of COVID-19, is now emerging strongly.

Its base, at Amen Corner next to Newcastle Cathedral, will house its 1st Degree Hair and Beauty Academy, which will deliver training in hairdressing, styling, barbering, beauty therapy, massage and nail technician work.

Resources has devised an array of apprenticeships and traineeships for young people, supporting the city’s hair and beauty industry to continue its recovery by taking on trained staff. Some opportunities are also available for unemployed people to re-train for the sector.

“As we all know, the service sector, and especially hair and beauty, has taken a massive hit from COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdowns, being one of the first to close and one of the last to re-open,” says David Watson, managing director of Resources.

“Salon owners and students wanting to upskill and train have had 18 months of uncertainty which has affected their progress, apprenticeships, traineeships and their livelihoods, with some losing their positions and some salons closing up for good.

“Here at Resources, we want to help reinvigorate this industry through our new training centre. We will offer training and work experience to keen and ambitious young people wanting to get into this industry, and will support employers in recruiting new and enthusiastic staff.

“We’re really excited about the potential of our Academy and to supporting young people from across the region to achieve their ambitions and potential.”

Resources NE Ltd employer engagement manager, Nicola Taylor – herself an industry employer with apprentices – said: “ For the hair and beauty sector, things have already been as bad as they can get. We all need to keep looking forward, the situation is improving and we will come out of the other end with new opportunities for fresh new talent.”

Resources was supported in acquiring its new site by real estate specialists at law firm Sintons, who are the longstanding legal advisor to David and his team.

Real estate partner Tom Wills, and solicitor Sam Watts, oversaw the completion of the lease in the sought-after location.

“For more than three decades, Resources has been committed to raising aspirations among young people and giving them the skills and training they need to enjoy a successful career,” says Sam.

“It is absolutely fantastic news that now, at a time when opportunities for young people are often scarce as businesses continue to recover, the business is investing in their future. The Academy is a fantastic addition to Newcastle and the whole region and will support the development and progress of talented individuals wanting to work in hair and beauty.

“We are delighted to have been able to support David and the team with this expansion and wish Resources, as well as the many young people who will soon be training here, every success.”

A Rural Roundup with Tom Wills – episode 7

In episode seven of the Rural Roundup series with Tom Wills, Tom and Sam Watts from our Real Estate team discuss ‘right of way – landowners options’

Please click on the play button below to listen.

IMPORTANT UPDATE – DEFRA have recently announced the planned cut-off of 1st January 2026 for the recording of new rights of way to be included within the Definitive Map and Statement has been abolished. No new deadline has yet been proposed. More details are set to follow and we will communicate those in due course.

The Commercial Rent (Coronavirus) Bill

On the 9 November 2021 The Commercial Rent (Coronavirus) Bill was published and received its first reading in the House of Commons.

It is the aim of Government that this new legislation will become law by no later than 25 March 2022 and its purpose is to determine the extent, if at all, to which landlords of commercial premises must (a) write off accrued financial arrears payable under the terms of business leases which were caused by the legally enforced closure of business premises during the Coronavirus pandemic, and/or (b) allow extended periods of time for the payment of such arrears.

On the same day as the proposed new legislation was published, the Government also published a new Code of Practice for commercial property relationships to replace the existing code and which, while voluntary, invites commercial landlords and tenants to reach agreement on Covid-19 financial arrears using the same principles as the new legislation will legally impose upon them following 25 March 2022 if agreement cannot be reached.

While the proposed new legislation has yet to complete the full legislative process, it is unlikely its basic terms and principles will be materially altered.

The key points of the new legislation are:

1. The legislation and the protection intended for commercial tenants relates only to a ‘protected rent debt,’ which is defined as being arrears of rent, service charge, insurance, VAT, and interest on late payments which are payable under a lease of business property and which were caused by the legally enforced Covid-19 pandemic public health closures of businesses in England during the period between 2pm on 21 March 2020 and 11.55pm on 18 July 2021. For businesses in Wales the protected period is between 21 March 2020 and 7 August 2021.

2. The legislation allows for arrears of protected rent debt to be (a) written off in whole or in part, (b) for additional time to pay such arrears up to a maximum of 24 months from the date of any decision, and (c) for contractual interest on the late payment of such arrears to be reduced, potentially to 0%. One or more of these remedies can be found to apply to the protected rent debt otherwise payable under a business tenancy.

3. Where landlords and tenants cannot agree upon how protected rent debt will be dealt with, Government approved bodies can be approached by either side to appoint a suitably qualified independent arbitrator to determine what, if any, relief there will be for a tenant with protected rent debts.

4. While the period may be extended by Government, any reference to arbitration of a dispute over a protected rent debt must be made by either the tenant or the landlord within at most 6 months of the new legislation becoming law. Tenants and their advisers will need to carefully monitor this deadline for seeking remedies in relation to protected rent debts.

5. Neither a landlord nor a tenant can refer a dispute over a protected rent debt to arbitration unless they have first given the other side notice of their intention to do so and allowed up to 28 days for the other side to respond.

6. The reference to arbitration must include (i) the referring party’s proposals for how the protected rent debt should be dealt with, and (ii) their accompanying documentary and verified witness evidence to which the other party must respond with their own proposals and evidence within 14 days. The parties then have up to 28 days to put forward any revised proposals and further evidence.

7. While the dispute can be resolved by an arbitrator based on the written evidence and submissions alone, either side can request an oral hearing. Oral hearings will be held in public unless the parties agree that such hearings should be in private and must take place within 14 days of a request by a party for such a hearing.

8. Arbitrators must make their awards as soon as reasonably practicable after receiving each sides’ final proposals and evidence and within no more than 14 days of an oral hearing. The decisions of Arbitrators must be made public.

9. Unless in the circumstances of a particular case the arbitrator directs otherwise, the parties will (a) equally pay the appointed arbitrator’s fees and expenses, which the Government may seek to impose limits upon, and (b) will pay their own professional fees of the arbitration process.

10. An arbitrator can only make an award giving relief to a Tenant if their business is either ‘viable’ or would be viable if one or more of the remedies available was granted. Failed or failing businesses which cannot continue trading irrespective of any assistance they receive with a protected rent debt are not to be assisted by the legislation.

11. Arbitrators when deciding what, if any, remedy to grant to business tenants are required to make their decisions based on 2 principles, (a) that the purpose of any award is to preserve the viability of business tenants or to restore them to viability in so far as that allows a landlord to remain solvent, (that is, so that a landlord is able meet their debts as they become due), and (b) that tenants should pay the sums due under their leases in so far as this is consistent with preserving or restoring their viability.

12. Arbitrators when determining the application of the 2 principles will need to consider and the parties will need to provide evidence of their respective (i) assets and liabilities, (ii) of a tenant’s payment history, (iii) the impact of Covid-19 on the tenant’s business, (iv) any other leased property owned by a landlord, and (v) any other financial information an arbitrator considers relevant.

13. An Arbitrator will disregard anything done by either party to manipulate their financial position to improve their prospects of a favourable award, for example, excessive dividend payments, and will, when determining either a tenant’s viability or a landlord’s solvency, disregard their capacity to borrow money or to restructure their businesses.

14. Landlords cannot seek to legally enforce the payment of protected rent debt through the Court system, commercial rent arrears recovery (‘CRAR’), forfeiture of a lease, by using a tenant’s rent deposit, or through insolvency proceedings during ‘the moratorium period’ which is the later of 6 months from the date the legislation becomes law or the conclusion of the arbitration process in a case.

15. When the legislation becomes law, this protection from the legal enforcement of a protected rent debt will be considered to have applied as from 10 November 2021. Landlords who are using or have used court processes to obtain money judgments on protected rent debts and which remain unpaid will not be able to enforce these following the legislation coming into force and during the moratorium period.

The legislation is intended to create a rapid legal process for determining how the burden of Covid-19 related commercial rent arrears will be divided between landlords and tenants and to require the parties to put forward reasoned and evidenced arguments on what proposals will allow viable businesses to continue but at the same time maintaining landlord solvency.

While such terminology is not used in the legislation, the emphasis in the Code of Practice is on what is ‘affordable’ by both sides with account being taken of a tenant’s anticipated credit/debit balance sheet value, business performance since March 2020, assets, government assistance received (including loans and grants), and dividend payments to shareholders.

Only the determination of several such disputes within what is intended to be a public process is going to provide precise guidance as to how the arbitration process and Arbitrators will treat such protected rent debts and above all how the term ‘viable’ will be interpreted, the legislation and the Code of Practice deliberately declining to define such a term and leaving it to be decided on the facts of each case.

Landlords may seek to argue that provided a tenant’s business will remain solvent, that is, able to pay its debts as they become due, even if a tenant is required to pay all Covid-19 arrears owed, that the tenant’s business is viable and should therefore be forced to pay in full. Landlords will argue that large commercial business tenants with consequently more substantial reserves and resources should be forced by arbitrators to pay protected rent debts in full.

A viable business however is more than one that is basically solvent. A viable business is one that can maintain acceptable net profit margins in its market sector, can provide a competitive rate of return to its stakeholders, that is, employees and investors, can invest and diversify as opportunities arises, and accumulate and maintain reserves.

While the legislation specifically defines solvency it does not define viable, and that expression is likely to be determined to mean more than solvency. While the legislation only requires landlords to be kept solvent in such disputes, arbitrators are required to keep business tenants viable.

The period during which such disputes must be referred to arbitration in the absence of agreement is going to be relatively short and the referring party is going to need to give the other party prior notice and set out its proposals before the dispute can be referred to arbitration.

Landlords and Tenants, and particularly tenants need to be considering their financial evidence with their accounting and legal advisors sooner rather than later and ensuring that they will be able to put forward their reasoned and supported proposals as to why protected rent debts should be waived, paid over a period, and should not bear interest. Such proposals need to be based on financial evidence of what is affordable by them and taking account of how the expression ‘viable’ is likely to be interpreted and applied.

Landlords with real solvency issues will need to evidence these but even where their solvency is not jeopardised, Landlords, particularly those with large retail, hospitality and commercial portfolios, should be scrutinising and requiring disclosure of such tenants’ financial position and emphasising (a) such tenant’s pre-Covid-19 trading and financial histories, that returns to stakeholders cannot be expected to be fully maintained during a time of crisis, and the likely reserves available to such tenants, and (b) the second principle arbitrators must apply that business tenants should be made to pay their historic financial liabilities under leases in so far as this is consistent with maintaining their viability.

Angus Ashman is a Partner in our Dispute Resolution department at Sintons. You can contact Angus at angus.ashman@sintons.co.uk or on 0191 226 7823.

‘Excellent track record’ of licensing team praised by Chambers

The licensing team at Sintons has again been confirmed as a leader in its field by Chambers and Partners, which praises its “excellent track record”.

Sintons’ licensing specialists are longstanding trusted advisors to some of the leading leisure operators regionally and nationally, with new clients continually being added on the strength of its work and reputation.

Chambers 2022 highlights Sintons’ strength in a host of licensing matters, including obtaining licenses in cumulative impact zones and acting across sectors including sexual entertainment, retail, leisure, and food and drink.

Contested licensing issues are a “particular strength”, it states, and is adept in securing and advising on temporary licenses.

Sarah Smith, named by Legal 500 as being part of its Hall of Fame – which comprises lawyers who have excelled in their specialist field consistently for many years – is also hailed as a go-to advisor by Chambers.

She is said to be “routinely called upon” to handle significant and high-profile matters including premises license applications, as well as variations and revocations.

“I always found her to be very prompt and, most importantly, very aware of the challenges of our industry,” Chambers quotes.

The latest praise for Sintons’ licensing capability comes only weeks after the publication of Legal 500, which similarly found the firm to be a leading name in licensing in the North of England.

Christopher Welch, managing partner of Sintons, says: “Our licensing team is known nationally for its specialism, which makes it the advisor of choice for increasing numbers of major leisure operators.

“Sarah and her team are absolutely committed to supporting their clients in every way possible, through what can be very contentious public licensing matters, and deliver an absolutely first-rate legal and personal service throughout.

“We are very pleased that Chambers has again confirmed us as a leader in licensing, which is well-deserved and rightful recognition of our standing in the marketplace.”

‘Comprehensive’ offering from real estate team praised by Chambers

 The real estate team at Sintons has won praise from Chambers and Partners 2022 for its “comprehensive” legal offering and “impressive” array of clients.

The specialist department, widely recognised as a leader in the North of England, is again hailed by Chambers for its experience in matters including acquisitions and disposals and landlord and tenant work.

Its expertise spans sectors including residential, retail, agriculture and healthcare, and Sintons’ client base comprises significant property owners with interests throughout the UK.

Sintons’ completion of the acquisition of the Sir John Fitzgerald Group for its client Ladhar Group – recently named as Property Deal of the Year at the North East Property Awards 2021 – is hailed by Chambers as a deal highlight.

It quotes client testimonials which attest Sintons’ quality of service, with one saying the firm offers a “very well-run team that is always there for us and always comes through”.

Head of practice Mark Dobbin and partner Paul Liddle are both named as notable practitioners in real estate in recognition of their significant experience and expertise in the specialist field of work.

Chambers’ findings echo those of Legal 500, published only weeks ago, which similarly independently verified Sintons’ commitment to delivering legal and service excellence to its clients.

“The fact our real estate team counts some of the biggest and most significant names in property on a national basis as longstanding clients speaks volumes about the standards we operate here at Sintons,” says managing partner Christopher Welch.

“We are absolutely committed to delivering the highest standards of legal and service excellence to each and every client, and by having the size and quality of team that we do, we can ensure this is the case in every transaction, even those of the highest complexity.

“It is very pleasing to again be recognised for our capability and client commitment independently, most recently by Chambers and previously by Legal 500, both of which have highlighted our expertise in real estate for many years. We are very proud of the reputation we have built and will continue to advance that even further.”

‘Expertise’ and client service in Construction & Engineering team praised

The outstanding legal and client service delivered by the specialist Construction & Engineering team at Sintons has been highlighted by Chambers and Partners 2022.

The department, hailed for its “expertise” in both non-contentious and contentious construction matters, provides “great support informed by their diverse experience”, the independent legal publication states.

“Sintons are motivated to do their best for the client. Great individuals working as a team,” it quotes.

The team, which has grown its national presence and client base strongly over recent years, is known for supporting clients with the design and negotiation of construction contracts, redevelopment work and adjudications.

Among its many notable work highlights, Chambers points to its involvement in the £52m Ark Soane mixed-use development in Acton, West London, where it drafted the construction agreements on behalf of contractor Jerram Falkus Construction.

Alex Rayner, head of the department, is again hailed as a notable practitioner for his work across a range of matters, contentious and non-contentious.

“He gives great legal advice to people who aren’t lawyers by explaining things in a digestible way,” quotes Chambers.

The strong praise for the team comes only weeks after similar assessment was made by Legal 500, which also pointed to the quality of legal advice and client service from Sintons’ Construction & Engineering specialists.

“Our construction team has progressed strongly over recent years and we now rightly have a national reputation for the quality of our advice and client service,” says Christopher Welch, Sintons’ managing partner.

“We are involved in major construction projects on a national basis, acting for clients across an array of sectors, with more appointing Sintons all the time on the strength of the outstanding job we do on our clients’ behalf.

“We are delighted this has again been recognised by Chambers, which echoes the findings of Legal 500 in attesting the quality of the service we deliver. Construction & Engineering continues to be an area of strong progress for us and we are very pleased with this latest independent endorsement of what we are doing.”

Sintons again recognised for capability across the board by Chambers 2022

Sintons has again been hailed as one of the leading law firms in the North of England in newly-released rankings from Chambers and Partners UK.

The firm, consistently praised for its strength and capability throughout the business, again wins recognition for its legal expertise, deep experience and first-rate levels of client service.

Practice areas across the business win recognition as leaders in their field, with healthcare again being confirmed as one of the key advisors nationally for its work with growing numbers of NHS Trusts, organisations, professionals and healthcare businesses across the UK.

Chambers and Partners 2022, published today, also highlights 17 of Sintons’ lawyers as being stand-out names in their specialism, many of whom are recognised in the legal marketplace as being leading figures regionally and nationally.

The rankings come only weeks after Sintons won similar praise across the board from Legal 500, which also recognised the wide-ranging expertise, legal capability and service excellence the firm delivers to its clients.

Both Chambers and Legal 500 are independent publications which assess and rank law firms and lawyers throughout the UK, based on interviews, examples of work, and client and peer testimonials.

“For over 125 years, Sintons has built a well-deserved reputation as a first-rate legal advisor delivering outstanding levels of service to its clients, and those values have remained at the heart of the firm since our foundation in 1896,” says managing partner Christopher Welch.

“That these key features are consistently highlighted by independent legal publications like Chambers and Partners, and recently Legal 500 too, is a huge endorsement of what we do here at Sintons. Businesses, families and individuals put their trust in us to deliver an outstanding legal and personal service and that is what we deliver.

“Chambers again confirms our strength across the whole Sintons business, with capability and talent running throughout the firm, and a shared commitment by everyone here to continue to build Sintons so it can be the best it can be. We are all delighted to again have our efforts recognised in this way.”

Legal 500 praises Sintons for agriculture and estates work

The agriculture and estates team at Sintons has again been hailed as a key advisor in its specialist area by Legal 500 2022, with significant expertise and experience within its ranks.

The team has grown significantly in the past few years, building on over 120 years of advising farming and rurally-based families, and is now a central player in estate and agricultural tenancy work.

Legal 500 points to its expertise in such areas, highlighting its work in acquisition and disposal of large farming ventures, agricultural holdings and significant development projects, as well as assisting with the registration of portfolios of mines and minerals.

It has also been instructed by a number of coal and wind farm sites in the North East in an endorsement of the team’s specialism in energy and renewables, Legal 500 notes.

Tom Wills, head of agriculture and estates, is praised for his focus on estate and tenancy work, and partner Paul Liddle is also highlighted for his years of experience in acting for developers and landowners in the energy, waste and renewables sectors.

“Our client base in the rural and farming communities of the North East and Cumbria dates back more than a century, and Sintons is a trusted name among countless families having supported them with both personal and business affairs for generations,” says Christopher Welch, managing partner of Sintons.

“Coupled with that, we have a strong and growing specialism in estates and renewables work, which sees us involved in many of the major land projects in our rural communities. To see this capability again recognised by Legal 500 is a rightful endorsement of the work we are doing, both with existing and new clients.”

‘First class’ real estate team hailed by Legal 500

The “first class” real estate team has again won praise from Legal 500 2022 for its breadth of expertise and standards of client service.

The team is known as being one of the biggest and most capable in the region, handling transactions on behalf of major clients nationally, and Legal 500 again points to its wide-ranging specialism.

Healthcare is a key area of work for the team, with Legal 500 pointing to its many client relationships and panel appointments in the sector, where it acts for NHS Trusts and specialist care providers on site acquisitions and disposals, as well as development projects.

Real estate finance is also an area of strength, as is rural property work, which Legal 500 points to as a “bedrock” of the practice, particularly with regard to high-value agricultural assets and land transactions.

Practice head Mark Dobbin and partner Paul Liddle are “highly experienced” in development projects and portfolio management for large investors, and partner David Ferguson wins praise for his real estate finance work.

“Outstanding” Tom Wills, head of agriculture and estates, is highlighted for his work in leading on rural land mandates.

Partner Alok Loomba and senior associates Louise Kelly, Catherine Davies and Chris Jackson are also named as key figures in the department.

Client testimonials cited by Legal 500 point to the team’s legal and client service expertise, with one saying: “The team that I have the pleasure of dealing with is first-class. The strengths of the team are its very high-level and detailed knowledge of property transactions”.

Another says the team has “excellent lawyers; dedicated, creative, problem solvers, 100% per cent reliable”.

Christopher Welch, managing partner of Sintons, says: “Our real estate team is again independently confirmed as a leading player in this field on the strength of our client base in a host of sectors and the quality of service we deliver on every occasion. This combination is at the heart of everything we do at Sintons, so to again be recognised for this is fantastic and something we take great pride in.

“We couldn’t be the firm we are without our people and we are delighted to see so many from our real estate team named as key figures in this specialist area – the capability we have here is first-rate and for the breadth and depth we have in our team to be recognised by Legal 500 again is a great achievement.”

Sintons once again wins praise from Legal 500 2022

Law firm Sintons has again maintained its reputation as one of the leading law firms in the North of England in newly-released rankings from Legal 500, winning plaudits for its strength and expertise across the firm.

Legal 500 2022, released today, renews its praise of Sintons and confirms them as being a go-to legal provider in the region in many key practice areas.

The independent publication – which ranks law firms and lawyers across the North, compiled as a result of examples of work, interviews and client and peer testimonials – names eight of Sintons’ lawyers as leading individuals, three as next generation partners and a further six as rising stars. One of its lawyers also secures the highly coveted accolade of being named in the Legal 500 Hall of Fame, in recognition of consistent achievement throughout their career.

The latest Legal 500 rankings add further to the long-standing reputation of Sintons – winner of five awards at the most recent Northern Law Awards, including overall Law Firm of the Year – as a leading player in the North of England, with national reach and capability in many of its departments.

The leading individuals at Sintons, as identified by Legal 500, are:

The next generation partners, as identified by Legal 500, are:

The lawyer named as member of the Legal 500 Hall of Fame is:

The rising stars at the firm are:

Christopher Welch, managing partner of Sintons, said: “We are very proud of the reputation we have built during our 125 year history as being a law firm which consistently offers legal excellence and an outstanding service to our clients, and for these two factors to again be recognised by Legal 500 as being a staple of Sintons’ offering is very pleasing.

We are delighted to maintain our position as one of the leading law firms in the North of England, with strength, capability and experience running throughout our practice areas.”

Ladhar Group acquisition, completed by Sintons, wins Property Deal of the Year

An acquisition of a leisure group completed by Sintons on behalf of a long-standing client was last night named as Property Deal of the Year at the North East Property Awards 2021.

The Sir John Fitzgerald (SJF) group, a key operator on the region’s leisure scene since the 19th century, was bought by Ladhar Group in December 2020, and was hailed as one of the most significant leisure and property deals in any climate – but particularly during such difficult times for the leisure scene amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

The deal, which saw Ladhar Group taken on all 16 of SJF’s properties across the North East, was completed by property specialists at Sintons, the long-standing advisors to the Ladhar Group.

The acquisition retained ownership of the SJF brand within the North East, and also ensured fast-growing Ladhar Group play an increasingly central role in the ongoing development of Newcastle’s leisure economy. The group already owns some of the city’s most desirable venues and is behind ambitious city centre regeneration plans.

It was named as winner in its hard-fought category at the North East Property Awards, organised by Insider Media and held last night, in one of the biggest awards events held in the region since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020.

Judges were impressed with Sintons’ efforts in completing such a significant transaction, particularly in such a challenging climate.

The deal, one of the highest-value property deals in the region during 2020, had to be completed in a particularly tight timescale, and had the additional challenges of a 16-property transaction being completed remotely.

However, the transaction, led by real estate partner Alok Loomba, was completed successfully for the client within the timeframe, and marked the latest step in its growth to be supported by Sintons. The law firm has supported Ladhar Group for many years and continues to be its advisor of choice.

“We are absolutely delighted this acquisition has been named Property Deal of the Year, it is rightful recognition of our client’s ambition and vision in making this purchase, and we are very pleased our role in this has been recognised,” says Alok Loomba.

“This was a bold step by Ladhar Group, particularly during a climate when leisure was one of the hardest-hit sectors by the pandemic, so to purchase an entire group and add that into a portfolio showed great courage but also shows the willingness of our client to invest in the North East economy, protecting jobs and driving our vibrant leisure scene even further forward.

“Admittedly, this was a complex transaction, comprising 16 properties across the region and the ongoing COVID restrictions meaning everything had to be done remotely, but our expertise and experience as a team ensured we were able to meet the very tight timeframe for completion. We are very pleased indeed this has been recognised with the Property Deal of the Year.”

A Rural Roundup with Tom Wills – episode 6

In episode six of the Rural Roundup series with Tom Wills, Tom and Sam Watts from our Real Estate team discuss ‘public rights of way – changes to the the definitive map.’

Please click on the play button below to listen.

IMPORTANT UPDATE – DEFRA have recently announced the planned cut-off of 1st January 2026 for the recording of new rights of way to be included within the Definitive Map and Statement has been abolished. No new deadline has yet been proposed. More details are set to follow and we will communicate those in due course.

Electrical safety standards in residential properties

The vast majority of landlords across England take seriously their responsibility for ensuring that the electrical appliances contained within their rental properties remain in good and safe repair. However, the introduction of the Electrical Safety Standards in the Private Rented Sector (England) Regulations 2020 has further extended landlords’ obligations to ensure that electrical safety standards are uniformly high across the entirety of the private rental market.

The Regulations came into force on 1st June 2020, and as of 1st July 2020, they have applied to all new tenancies granted. This transitional window has now closed, and as of 1st April 2021, the Regulations now apply to all relevant tenancies. A relevant tenancy is defined by the Regulations as a residential tenancy in England, granting one or more persons the right to occupy part or all of the premises as their main residence. There must be payment of rent and the tenancy should not fall within one of the exceptions included within the Regulations. The exceptions are contained within Schedule 1, and include social housing, student halls, hostels, long leases and care homes.

It is therefore now the case that all private landlords must ensure they are complying with the Regulations by ensuring that every electrical installation is inspected at regular intervals of no more than five years by a person qualified to do so. This also includes the requirement to ensure that the first testing is carried out before the commencement of any new tenancy or, as of 1st April, an inspection is carried out at the premises of all existing tenancies.

The landlord is further obliged to provide the inspection report to each tenant within 28 days of the test being carried out, and to hold a copy of the most recent report until the next inspection is carried out.

The Regulations state that the inspection must be carried out by a ‘qualified person’. This is defined as someone who has the necessary training and qualifications to assess electrics and wiring, and is also covered by a professional insurance policy.

At present, the Regulations do not extend to requiring landlords to PAT test all portable appliances, but PAT testing is often a requirement in a property which is operating under a licence. If the inspection report highlights that any remedial work is required, this should be carried out by a person qualified to do so within 28 days of the inspection, or within a shorter period should the report stipulate this. A confirmation is then required from the qualified person to confirm that the remedial work is complete, and the property has passed the inspection.

The introduction of the Regulations is evidence of the Government’s attempt to improve safety standards in the private rental sector. Electrical safety is a matter which ought to be taken seriously by landlords. Compliance with the new Regulations is important, not only to avoid the potential £30,000 fine which may be imposed for a breach, but also to assure tenants that the electrical installations at the premises within which they reside are both safe and secure.

Forfeiture post 30 June 2021 – the road to recovery?

The Coronavirus Act 2020 has imposed significant restrictions on landlords’ remedies for recovery of outstanding rents. Since 26 March 2020 any forfeiture of most business tenancies by proceedings or by peaceable re-entry on the grounds of non-payment of any sums due under the lease has been suspended. Consequently landlords have been unable to exercise a right to forfeit a lease based on non-payment of rent since 26 March 2020.

It seemed that the road to recovery of these outstanding sums including rent arrears could be in sight with the restraint imposed by the Coronavirus Act 2020 being due to expire on 30 June 2021.

However on 16 June 2021 the Government announced that it intends to extend the restrictions on rent-related forfeiture of business tenancies by 9 months to next year’s March quarter date, 25 March 2022. Although the statutory instrument extending the restrictions to 25 March 2022 could be negated by a vote in either House of Parliament, it seems unlikely.

In addition the Government intends to introduce an entirely new Act of Parliament to deal with the accrued rent arrears of businesses which had to shut during the pandemic. The new Act of Parliament will force landlords to waive some of the total amount or agree long-term repayment plans with their tenants. In default of such agreement it is intended that the new legislation will provide a binding arbitration process so that landlords and tenants can reach a formal agreement in relation to the rent arrears.

We will have to watch this space and await the detail of the draft Bill in order to fully understand the effect of these proposals on the recovery of rent arrears.

As the suspension only applies to forfeitures based on non-payment of rent, a landlord could still exercise a right of forfeiture based on any other grounds by way of peaceable re-entry where possible or by commencing proceedings for forfeiture of breaches other than for non-payment of rent or other sums due under a lease. However a landlord needs to be careful to ensure that force is not used against anyone present in the premises, that any eviction is carried out lawfully and that the correct procedure in terms of the service of a notice on the tenant is followed.

Aimee Hubbard is an Associate in our Dispute Resolution team at Sintons. To speak to Aimee about this topical matter, contact her on 0191 226 3792 or aimee.hubbard@sintons.co.uk.

First Homes – changes to affordable housing

After the Government’s consultation last year on securing an affordable housing product that will make it easier for first time buyers and key workers to step on to the property ladder its housing initiative ‘First Homes’ ‘was introduced for registered providers on 28 June 2021.

The intention behind the change is to facilitate, subject to being able to satisfy the eligibility criteria, individuals being able to acquire a dwelling locally and at an affordable price. A pilot scheme has been operating in Bolsover and the market information is that demand is likely to be high, with properties being snapped up quickly by eligible purchasers.

The ‘First Home’ scheme requires the allocated dwellings to be sold with, at least, a 30% discount on the open market value. That will last in perpetuity; it will bind subsequent buyers who will also receive the same % discount. This indicates that the Government has learnt from the lessons of the past where affordable housing stock has been substantially diminished under ‘right to buy’, without any obligation to pass the discount forward on future sales.

The discount level can be increased by a local planning authority, under the local plan process, up to a discount of 40% or 50% That would be based on need and viability, which may occur in more expensive areas. The percentage can also be reduced, if there is appropriate justification. The changes are to be incorporated in the National Planning Policy Framework and will require at least 25% of all affordable housing to be ‘First Homes’, with the Government’s preference being that the next 25% will be social rented units. That will only leave the remaining balance for other affordable home ownership types. The impact of this change has yet to be seen but the concern is that with the number of properties available for other types of affordable housing registered providers may struggle to increase its housing stock from new build developments, as part of the affordable housing allocation.

The initial targets that have been set are to achieve 1,500 First Homes in 2021, with around 10,000 being the end goal.

In terms of the end purchaser there is eligibility criteria which includes being a first time buyer (that excludes those who have inherited properties) and having a combined income below £80,000, increasing to £90,0000 in London. The scheme will not apply to all dwellings; there is to be a price cap. Properties over £250,000 (increasing to £420,00 in Greater London) after the discount has been applied will not be included.

The position on local connection is not clear. The likelihood is that the criteria will be established by each local planning authority, as it the case at present. The Government’s preference is to have consistency across the country in delivering First Homes, as part of section 106 planning agreements. However, that may take some time to achieve as there is likely to a wide disparity in local connection requirements across the regions, particularly in areas of high tourism and holiday homes.

This is certainly a marked change to affordable housing but there is still time to take a step back and consider the position. The initiative won’t apply to sites that already have planning approval or a decision is likely to be granted before 28 December 2021 nor sites where there has already been significant pre-application engagement. For those the transitional period is until 26 March 2022.

Sintons appointed to £52m West London development

Construction & Engineering specialists at law firm Sintons have been appointed to support the creation of a £52million development in West London, which will bring vital new education and residential provision to the area.

Ark Soane is a mixed-use development in Ealing, which will comprise a new 1,200-pupil secondary school, Ark Soane Academy, alongside 116 new homes.

The development’s unique design will see the secondary school occupying the first three floors of the six to 12-storey buildings, with 113 apartments located above this, in addition to three separate townhouses on the site.

The project, which has secured full planning permission, is being delivered by developer Countryside and Jerram Falkus Construction. It is expected to be completed next year, with Ark Soane Academy due to open to pupils in September 2022.

Jerram Falkus, which has secured the design and build contract to deliver all construction works associated with the school and residential development, appointed construction experts at Sintons to handle the legal aspects of its involvement.

The specialist Construction & Engineering team at Newcastle-based Sintons has built and developed a relationship with Jerram Falkus over many years, with partner and head of department Alex Rayner acting for the business on a number of significant projects.

Alex said: “We are delighted to have advised Jerram Falkus on this exciting project.

“Given the scale of the project and the number of stakeholders involved the negotiations were extremely complex and it is really pleasing to see this over the line so that construction work could commence.

“We look forward to seeing the project progress and ultimately provide much needed school places and residential properties.”

William Jerram, managing director of Jerram Falkus Construction Limited, said: “Contract negotiations were fascinating with all the different stakeholders. Work had to progress at risk to change the faҫade from curtain walling to brickwork, while simultaneously amending planning and entering straight into contract at full speed.

“We would not have achieved this without the hard work, help and commitment of Alex and his team at Sintons.”

Real Estate Update – July 2021

Welcome to your Real Estate Update – July 2021 from Sintons.

This Real Estate Newsletter is issued following a period of national crisis and great uncertainty, at a juncture where the population finally sits on the cusp of relaxation of social distancing restrictions. Hopefully, the latter will encourage vitality across the market as a whole, and particularly within those sectors that have suffered heavily as a result of lockdown. Setting aside the buoyant residential market, real estate has, contrary to expectations and many predictions, held up reasonably well during the past 15 months, however certain sectors have certainly experienced unprecedented challenges.

Notwithstanding the impact of the pandemic upon those involved in the licenced trade, our Leisure Team has concluded several significant deals over the last 6 months including the acquisition of the long established Sir John Fitzgerald pub chain by the Ladhar Group. The team has also been pleased to welcome Darlington Football Club to their growing number of sporting, rural and leisure clients.

Over the next few months, the property sector will see the tapering and conclusion of the stamp duty holiday incentive. Time will tell how the real estate sector navigates a path forward and out of the pandemic over the months to come, as furlough ends and businesses face up to realities, with less government intervention. It will be interesting to observe what further initiatives and economic incentives may follow. Non-payment of rent is likely to come into sharp focus for many, whilst commercial entities recalibrate with the continued possibility of trading difficulties in the post-pandemic world. In this Newsletter, we look at the options open to landlords in relation to rent arrears.

Amongst other current topics we touch on changes to Affordable Housing provisions and separately scrutinise the potential implications for leasehold repairing obligations where asbestos is present.

For the Real Estate team at Sintons, business continues, as usual and we look forward to continuing to work with and support our clients and even perhaps meeting some of them in person as the world returns to “normal”.

Please click here to view the full update.

Best wishes,
Mark Dobbin, Head of Real Estate.

Delay & Liquidated Damages

Construction & Engineering specialists at Sintons recently delivered a ‘delay and liquidated damages’ online webinar, held in association with Constructing Excellence in the North East (CENE).

Alex Rayner, head of Construction & Engineering, and solicitor Jay Balmer discussed issues relating to delay and liquidated damages in construction and engineering contracts.

They also gave practical tips as to claiming and assessing extensions of time.

Please click on the play button in the bottom left corner of the below video image to start viewing.

Sintons supports acquisition of The New Golden Bird

A Chinese takeaway which has been at the heart of its community for over 40 years is under new ownership, with its purchasers already investing in its modernisation.

The New Golden Bird has operated in Gateshead since the late 1970s and has now been purchased by David Zhang and Jolin Lin.

David has worked in kitchens of Chinese restaurants for over two decades, and he and Lin most recently owned a takeaway in Sunderland.

Now, the couple have invested in their new venue on Gateshead’s Coatsworth Road, and even in their first few weeks of ownership have introduced a new menu, inspired by modern flavours and choices in Chinese cuisine.

They have worked closely with the outgoing owners of the New Golden Bird in the transition to taking over in their own right.

“This has always been a family-owned business and we know how important it is to the community, it’s a lovely business that David and I are really pleased to become owners of,” says Lin.

“The previous owners have helped us a lot, they still come in and support us and that’s lovely. I think it shows the kind of community we have here, we’ve had a great reception.

“David has worked in the kitchen for over 20 years and we also previously had a takeaway in Sunderland, so we have the all-round experience for taking on this new business. We learned a lot during our first time of owning a business and now we’re all set to take the New Golden Bird forward.

“We’ve changed the menu quite a lot, we have gone from a Chop Suey house, which is more old style, to modern Chinese dishes and flavours. It’s been a big thing for us but a lot of the people who have come here for years feel really happy with it.

“The first few weeks have been very good, this was a big step for us but I’m pleased we have done it.”

David and Lin were supported in their purchase by real estate specialists at law firm Sintons, with partner Tom Wills and trainee solicitor Sam Watts completing the acquisition.

“It is always quite a task taking over a popular business which has been under the same ownership for many years, but David and Lin are paving their way very successfully,” says Sam.

“They are already putting their own stamp on their venture and their experience and knowledge of this industry will no doubt ensure they continue to make new innovations and introductions if they feel they are needed, to make the New Golden Bird a successful local business for many more decades to come.

“We are really pleased to have supported them in their purchase and wish them every success for the future.”

Adjudication – one contract or two?

Adjudicator’s awards are temporarily binding unless and until the dispute is finally resolved by litigation or arbitration, and the Technology and Construction Court (TCC) has developed a streamlined process for enforcing decisions that have not been complied with, by way of a summary judgment application. Essentially, this is where the case is decided without a full trial, because the Defendant cannot demonstrate that it would have a real prospect of successfully defending the claim at trial.

Challenges to an Adjudicator’s award are rarely successful, however those challenges which do succeed are often decided on the basis that the Adjudicator acted outside of his or her jurisdiction. Under the Scheme for Construction Contracts (the Scheme), it is well established that an Adjudicator cannot deal with multiple disputes without the consent of the parties, whether those disputes arise under the same contract (Paragraph 8(1) of the Scheme) or related disputes arising under multiple contracts (Paragraph 8(2) of the Scheme). In Delta Fabrication & Glazing Limited v Watkin Jones & Son Limited [2021] EWHC 1034 (TCC), the Court had to decide whether the dispute that had been referred to adjudication arose under two separate sub-contract orders, or alternatively that the parties had agreed to combine those orders into one single contract.

The Facts

Delta was engaged by Watkin Jones to provide cladding and roof works as part of the construction of student accommodation. The cladding and roof packages were let to Delta under separate sub-contract orders some months apart, each with a separate sub-contract reference number as per previous dealings between the two parties.

A few months into the sub-contract works, Watkin Jones issued a single payment notice showing a combined figure due to Delta under both of the sub-contracts. The payment notice was supported by a table which set out the separate calculations for the value of works performed under each sub-contract. This format continued from that payment notice onward and Delta followed a similar practice of combining its payment applications for the two sub-contracts with each one supported by separate calculations.

A dispute arose regarding an alleged repudiatory breach of the sub-contracts and Delta made a single referral to an Adjudicator. Watkin Jones was ordered to make payment to Delta and when the Adjudicator’s award was not complied with, Delta applied to the TCC to have it enforced by way of summary judgment.

Arguments and Court Analysis

Watkin Jones contested the application on the grounds that the Adjudicator did not have jurisdiction to deal with multiple disputes, referring to the existence of two separate sub-contracts which Delta were claiming for.

Delta made three distinct arguments:

  1. The Contractor made an offer to vary the contracts

By combining the payment notices for both sub-contracts into a single document, Watkin Jones had made an offer to vary the contracts by amalgamating them into one. Delta contended that it had accepted the offer by issuing its request for payment under both sub-contracts in one document.  As such, the Adjudicator was acting within his or her jurisdiction.

The Court was clear that combining the payment applications was not the same as combining the two contracts into one. Watson J pointed to the separate calculations for each sub-contract set out in the first combined payment notice and those notices and applications issued subsequently, finding that there was no confusion or amalgamation of the sub-contracts. Instead, Delta would need to show a more specific intention to combine the contracts themselves, rather than just the administration of those contracts. The Court was unable to find any such intention in the evidence that was presented.

  1. The sub-contracts had become one contract for the purposes of the Construction Act

Delta further argued that, where the sub-contracts have been administered as one, they would qualify as a single contract for the purposes of the Construction Act. That is to say, by treating the contract as one for the purpose of the payment mechanisms, the parties had elected to treat it as one contract for the purposes of the adjudication provisions.

The Court’s deconstruction of Delta’s argument found a proposition that the usual common contractual formalities of offer, acceptance and consideration needed to vary a contract at common law were not required for the contracts to be amalgamated for the purposes of the Construction Act. This was rejected and Watson J again found that the parties had not unequivocally administered the contracts as one due to the detailed breakdowns of sums due under each sub-contract.

  1. Delta had relied on the Contractor’s representation that the contracts should be treated as one and, as such, Delta has a claim in estoppel

Delta’s argument was that Watkin Jones had represented, by the combined payment notice, that the sub-contracts were to be treated as one contract, Delta had relied on that representation and that Delta has suffered a detriment as a result.

The Court had already determined that the combined payment notice did not show an intention to combine the contracts and that, by the same reasoning, there was no such representation. Watson J did not find any evidence that Delta had relied on such a representation and, in respect of the detriment, failed to see how Delta would have incurred any additional costs as a result of treating the contracts as one. Indeed, Watson J noted that Delta would have likely made a small saving.

Outcome

The central theme of Delta’s arguments was that the combination of the sub-contracts for the purpose of administering the payments thereunder amounted to an amalgamation of those contracts into one. The Court failed to agree with that analysis, instead finding the clear breakdown of the amounts due under each sub-contract suggested otherwise.

The Court concluded that the Contactor had a strong prospect of successfully defending the claim on jurisdictional grounds and refused to grant summary judgment.

Comment

This case provides a useful reminder of the difficulties that can arise when trying to administer two separate contracts for the same project, with the same parties.  Our advice would be:

  1. To ensure that there is only one contract for the project with the second package of works perhaps being agreed as a variation to the first; or if that is not possible
  2. To ensure that the separate contracts are dealt with entirely separately, with separate payment applications and notices, in an attempt to make it easier to deal with them independently in the context of a dispute.

Fundamentally and as with a lot of disputes we see, problems arise where the parties do not have a clear understanding of the precise nature of the contractual relationship between them.  In this instance greater clarity in this regard may have prevented the parties from an expensive and ultimately futile reference to adjudication.

For advice on this or any other construction and engineering related matters, please contact our team and we will be happy to help.

Double award shortlisting for Sintons

Law firm Sintons has been shortlisted in two categories of the North East Property Awards 2021, in recognition of the prominent role it has played in the region’s commercial property scene over the past year.

Sintons, widely regarded as one of the most capable property advisors in the North of England, has been named as a finalist in the Property Law Firm of the Year category. The shortlisting comes after Sintons was again involved in several major property deals during 2020 on a national basis.

The firm has also been shortlisted in the Property Deal of the Year category, which recognises its role in the acquisition of the Sir John Fitzgerald Group by Sintons’ longstanding client Ladhar Group.

The deal was the biggest leisure deal in the North East of 2020, retaining ownership of the century-old SJF brand in the region and strengthening Ladhar’s portfolio further as the hospitality sector emerges from the pandemic.

The North East Property Awards has become known as the flagship property event of the year in the region, recognising and rewarding businesses and individuals working within the sector and highlighting the ambition and investment being made in the North East’s commercial property scene.

The awards event will be held on July 8 and will be one of the first major black tie events to be held post-lockdown.

“We are very proud of the reputation we have built over many years for the expertise we have in our department, which enables us to handle the most complex of transactions for significant property owners throughout the UK, as well as for building longstanding relationships with such clients, which sees us routinely supporting them over many years with many significant milestones for their business,” says Mark Dobbin, head of real estate at Sintons.

“This double shortlisting in the North East Property Awards is yet more independent endorsement of the work we do and the highest standards we continually deliver. Despite the many challenges of 2020, we have been by the sides of our clients whenever they needed us, completing highly complex transactions in very short time-frames – all while working remotely – but have delivered on every occasion.

“The Sir John Fitzgerald acquisition is a case in point of the work we do – we have supported the Ladhar Group for many years, supporting them throughout their continual growth, and we are delighted to have been able to complete this highly significant transaction for them as they look to lead the region’s hospitality sector out of lockdown.

“We are very pleased with this latest recognition from the North East Property Awards and look forward to attending the event – to gather with our contemporaries and colleagues from the region’s property sector, like we always used to, is something we are all looking forward to immensely.”