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Real Estate Annual Seminar – Skylines and Streetscapes: Building on Success

The firm’s auditorium was filled to capacity on Thursday 3 October, primed to hear from this year’s keynote speaker, Alison Nimmo, CBE, Chief Executive of The Crown Estate. Following on from her success as Director of Design and Regeneration at the Olympic Delivery Authority, Alison now manages a portfolio of land and property worth over £8 billion.

Alison described The Crown Estate’s successful business model which includes strategic partnerships with international investment partners such as Oxford Properties, HOOPP and Norges Bank Investment Management.  These partnerships help The Crown Estate to maintain adequate working capital for re-investment into its portfolio as it cannot borrow. Alison’s presentation was accompanied by striking images of some of the most prestigious addresses in London including the iconic Regent Street, Piccadilly, Jermyn Street and The Crown Estate’s newest, and perhaps most ambitious development to date, St James’s Market, on which Hogan Lovells have been advising.

Without doubt, The Crown Estate has an expert team and is a financial juggernaut; if listed, it would be in the top 50 of the FTSE 100. However, what Alison importantly emphasised was that it is far more than simply a profit-generating machine. Central to the organisation and the way it does business are its values – commercialism, integrity and stewardship – along with a drive to be sustainable.  The balance demonstrated in many of its successful developments, between heritage and delivering modern space for its customers, has been expertly delivered through its considered and collaborative approach, with a resulting net gain for UK plc.

Alison, herself, works on the basis of the Ephebic Oath which states (in part):

I shall not leave this city any less, but rather greater, than I found it.”

It is also evident that this oath accurately encapsulates the strategy of The Crown Estate as a whole as sustainability, conservation and place making are at the heart of its work.

Most ably chaired by our Global Chair Nicholas Cheffings, the remaining speakers at the seminar included Nicholas Roberts who set out a discrete list of key issues affecting development: changes to chancel repair liability; the Telecoms Code; reform of judicial review; and the issue of enlargement – a potential pitfall for those investing in student accommodation. Dellah Gilbert then spoke about rights to light, development obligations in leases and litigation pitfalls. Finally, Mathew Ditchburn wrapped up a lively and informative evening with an entertaining overview of ten of the year’s most important real estate cases.