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Lodders

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Better London links are required if Midlands rail travellers are to make the most of HS2, according to a legal expert.

Alastair Frew, partner and head of the HS2 advisory group at Stratford-upon-Avon law firm Lodders, said connections with existing mainline services and also the Channel Tunnel needed to be improved.

His comments follow the Higgins Report which urged that plans to create a £50 billion high-speed rail link across England should be dramatically accelerated and increased in ambition.

Mr Frew said: “At the moment HS1 goes into St Pancras while HS2 will arrive at Euston and there is quite a walk between the two.”

He warned that a similar disconnect would exist for those bound for the Channel Tunnel and he bemoaned the abandonment of a plan to demolish and rebuild Euston, replaced with a scaled down proposal which the leader of Camden Council, Sarah Hayward, had scathingly described as “a shed being bolted on to an existing lean-to”.

Mr Frew noted: “There are hopes that this might be reversed and let’s hope it is. Indeed last month, the Chancellor hinted at a rethink when he talked of turning Euston into a major development, with a shopping centre.

“It would seem illogical for the nation to spend so much money on HS2 yet make onward journeys a challenge. There will be many people from the Midlands using HS2 who are headed for UK destinations other than London and equally many heading on to France. We need to make this easy rather than difficult.

“We need the connections to be both quick and fully integrated. This doesn’t seem much to ask in the overall context of such a massive project.”

Phase One will run from London to Birmingham and, if the Higgins Report is accepted, on to Crewe. The cost will be £21.4 billion plus £3 billion for the trains.

Phase Two sees it split in a Y-formation headed to the North West and North East. The bill for that is £21.2 billion plus £4.5 billion for the trains.

Phase One is schedule to be operational by 2026 with Phase Two following in 2032/33.

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Lodders Solicitors has helped one of the country’s top holiday park businesses clinch a major deal with the NEC Group’s catering arm, Amadeus.

Avon Estates Ltd, advised by Lodders partner Alastair Frew, is to operate the new £3.2 million Riverside Clubhouse, in partnership with Amadeus.

The clubhouse was designed by architects Emission Zero, manufactured in Russia and constructed on site by Evesham contractors Desert Oak who are finishing the interior, fitting all internal packages including the windows, ceiling and heating.

Avon Estates managing director Nic Allen said: “The building is extremely eco friendly, built on the flood plain on stilts and is, we believe, the largest wooden structure in the UK.

“The 13,000 sq ft building was built in Russia of eco-friendly timber construction and is based on a Swiss chalet style, incorporating nautical themes in keeping with its riverside setting.”

He added that while they were extremely proud of the clubhouse they had built to serve their complex of three holiday parks either side of the River Avon, they recognised that to capitalise on this extremely valuable asset, they should seek outside expertise.

“Who better than the NEC Group whose Amadeus has experience of serving some of the biggest exhibition and conference customers in the world?” he said.

The new, purpose-built clubhouse is on the Tiddington Road site, adjacent to the footbridge built by Avon Estates across the river to link the firm’s three holiday parks, which was opened in May 2001 by Olympic rowing gold medallist Matthew Pinsent.

Nic Allen said: “We are planning to open Riverside Clubhouse in March this year as the holiday parks reopen for what we anticipate is going to be a really busy season.”

Lodders partner Alastair Frew said: “This is a stunning building providing a world class venue for the holiday park and Warwickshire events.

“Being in Stratford-upon-Avon which is known across the globe, it will also have international reach for foreign companies investing in the Midlands and seeking a prestigious venue for events such as product launches.”

Amadeus has created 15 new jobs to support the new contract.

Kevin Watson, managing director of Amadeus said the firm would call on its experience in both the meet and visit hospitality areas to cater to individual needs and offer the very best in food, service and management.

“The venue is well equipped for conference and team building exercises, with private balconies and break-out space, while the beautiful setting makes it a fairytale location for weddings.

“Riverside is a unique venue in a magnificent location. We are really looking forward to welcoming local residents and businesses alike. Amadeus has over 34 years’ experience of providing venue management and catering, so you can rest assured that fabulous quality food and service is guaranteed whatever the occasion.”

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A Midlands law firm has played an important role in bringing a major new development to Bristol.

Lodders Solicitors advised IM Properties, one of the UK’s largest privately owned property companies, on the sale of a site in the city – destined for a new outlet by self-storage company Lok’nStore Group.

The deal was for a 0.9-acre site at Longwell Green Trade Park.

Lodders has a long standing business relationship with Coleshill-headquartered IM Properties and partner Paul Mourton advised the company on this transaction.

Once open, it will be Lok’nStore’s 26th facility.

It already has planning approval for a 50,000 sq ft facility. The £4 million project is set to create a significant number of new jobs.

Andrew Jacobs, chief executive of Lok’nStore, said: “We’re pleased to announce the acquisition of this well located site in Bristol.

“This is a key part of our strategy and adds a further site to our store development programme. The news comes at an exciting time for Lok’nStore as we are currently in an expansion phase building out our existing site pipeline, and this adds a further site to our portfolio.

“We have recently opened a new store in Maidenhead and the Bristol site is likely to be built after the completion of this year’s new store programme which includes sites in Reading, Southampton and Aldershot.”

Mr Mourton, a Lodders partner, said: “This is a significant investment on a very popular complex.

“We have worked with IM Properties on many projects and I am pleased to be able to play a part in this deal coming to fruition.”

Lok’nStore builds, buys or leases large warehouses or industrial buildings and rents storage units to customers on a weekly basis. Around 60 per cent of the company’s 7,000 customers are residential and 40 per cent commercial.

Lok’nStore has more than 920,000 sq ft of net rentable space, which is evenly split between freehold and leasehold.

Longwell Green Trade Park was completed in 2012 and is already home to Screwfix, Halfords Autocentres and Toolstation. It is adjacent to a strong retail location with occupiers including Homebase, B&Q, Marks & Spencer, Next and Boots.

Located off the A4147 Avon Ring Road, the trade park is just five miles from Bristol city centre and has strong connections to the national motorway network through Junction 1 of the M32 and Junction 19 of the M4.

It is reckoned that within a 15 minute drive time there is a population of 324,417 across 123,288 households.

IM Properties has an investment and development portfolio of around £1 billion across the UK, Europe and the US, spanning the industrial, retail, office and residential sectors.

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Employment law is facing a major shake-up with the introduction of Acas pre-conciliation reforms, law firm Lodders has warned.

Solicitor Amrit Rama said it could see a further reduction in tribunal numbers following the introduction of fees last summer.

She said: “Employee claims fell significantly following the introduction of fees and the conciliation effect may prove similar.

“For both employees and employers it is going to be a big change with the emphasis on a very different culture.”

The new system of “early conciliation” will be introduced from April 6.

Various details will have to be presented to Acas before a tribunal claim can be submitted.

Pre-claim early conciliation will last for one month. If conciliation is refused by either party, or is unsuccessful, the claimant will be able to go ahead and present their claim to the employment tribunal. If the parties enter into early conciliation, this will “stop the clock” on the limitation period to present the claim.

Ms Rama said: “Tribunals can be costly in time and money for all concerned.

“The new approach would see the conciliator first talk through the problem with the claimant and outline the different courses of action available.

“If the claimant decides to go ahead, the conciliator will then invite the respondent to discuss the issues involved. As the discussion progresses, the conciliator will try to find a mutually acceptable way forward. If the parties can agree a basis for settlement, the conciliator will also offer to help them to record the terms in a binding written agreement.”

Ms Rama pointed out that, according to Ministry of Justice figures released late last year, the number of claims received by employment tribunals had fallen by 17 per cent since the introduction of fees. Comparing the numbers between the second and third quarters of 2013, employee claims fell by 11 per cent from 44,335 in April-June to 39,514 in July-September. Against the same period last year, the fall was 17 per cent.

But she pointed out that the full picture was yet to emerge as many had submitted claims early before the fees were introduced in order to avoid paying them – 24,000 claims were submitted in June, dropping to 7,500 in August.

She said: “It seems likely that early conciliation will cut tribunal numbers further, especially if significant numbers of claimants choose this route.

“For employers, it holds out the hope of further cutting the time and cost faced by the whole process. Only time will tell how big the benefit proves.

“Employment tribunal cases typically take many months before being heard

Even if you’re the winning party, you don’t always get what you want.”

Conciliation has always been available, with thousands of disputes sorted out this way every year. The change comes with all claimants now directly approached and required to consider the possibility ahead of a claim being submitted.

According to Acas, cases resolved in pre-claim conciliation take, on average, less than four weeks to reach a conclusion. There is no need to fill in forms or get witness statements. And, they stress, it is both free and independent.

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One of Warwickshire’s best known corporate lawyers has joined Lodders Solicitors in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Mark Lewis, formerly a long standing partner of Leamington Spa-based Wright Hassall, will work with Lodders’ head of commercial law Victor Matts to build the firm’s client base in the West Midlands, Warwickshire and Gloucestershire.

Victor Matts said: “Mark’s decision to join Lodders reflects on our growing reputation both within the industry and also in the marketplace we serve.

He comes with a formidable array of references from the legal industry “bibles” Legal 500 and Chambers, and we are very pleased to have his experience and contacts available both to our clients and our younger lawyers here.”

The Chambers UK Guide 2014 states “Mark Lewis represents an array of charities and voluntary organisations, utilising his background as a corporate and company law expert to advise on a range of contract and constitutional matters.

“According to interviewees he is ‘very punctual with his replies and a very clear thinker’.”

In the Chambers UK Guide 2012 he is praised by clients for “thoroughness, precision and promptness”.

Legal 500 2013 refers to him as a “responsive” solicitor who provides “accurate advice”. The Legal 500 2011 noted he is “focused on achieving the best solutions in corporate and commercial matters” and in charity law, clients are stated as having “full confidence” in his advice. In the Legal 500 2009 he was noted for “very strong commercial understanding” and also for his ability to “translate well from legal to layman’s language”.

Mark Lewis has significant experience in advising charities and not-for-profit-organisations as well as a strong background in corporate and commercial law. In particular he has extensive experience with mergers, acquisitions and takeovers, disposals, management buy-outs, joint ventures, LLPs and partnership law.

He said: “I chose to join Lodders because of the firm’s established reputation as a successful regional law firm with solid historical roots, an excellent reputation and a commitment to growing in a competitive marketplace.

“I very much look forward to continuing to work with charities and not-for-profit organisations as well as carrying on with my corporate and commercial work.”

He is a consultant editor of the Law Society’s book on the Companies Act 2006, a contributing editor to Butterworths Corporate Law Guide and a former contributing editor of Butterworths Corporate Law Service.

He is currently the Chairman of the lawyers in the UK200 Group – a group of lawyers and accountants looking after the needs of the SME sector.

Locally, he is also a branch committee member of the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, a member of the Charity Law Association and was previously the chair of the Leamington Spa Chamber of Trade.

Mark spent 20 years with Wright Hassall and before 1994 was with Osborne Clarke in Bristol having qualified with DMH Stallard in the South East.

Lodders’ senior partner David Lodder said: “Having someone on board with Mark’s experience both as a corporate lawyer and as a former senior partner of a regional law firm can only help us with our growth plans internally and externally.

“With the opening of our Cheltenham office in the autumn of 2013 and the recruitment of Mark Lewis, this demonstrates our commitment to broadening both our locations and our legal firepower.”

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Many employers will face a higher holiday pay package following a recent EU decision, an expert has warned.

Kim Klahn, a solicitor with Stratford-upon-Avon based Lodders, said the bill was set to rise in the wake of the Advocate General of the Court of Justice of the European Union’s opinion that it should be calculated taking in commission as well as basic salary.

“This is going to increase employer costs,” cautioned Ms Klahn, who has been running Lodders’ new employment service Empline which aims to provide business owners and HR professionals with legal peace of mind for a fixed annual fee.

The opinion of the Advocate General stated that employees whose pay is commission based, should be entitled to holiday pay that includes an amount that reflects their commission previously earned over a representative period.

The case involved Mr Z J Lock v British Gas.

Ms Klahn said: “The Advocate General has given a clear signal that Mr Lock, an internal energy sales consultant, should be entitled to his commission payments when on annual leave.

“Currently he loses more than 50 per cent of his average earnings for any period of annual leave. As a result he would never take more than five consecutive days.

“This is an important case as commission often features in the pay package of workers in the UK and across the EU.

“The unions are already hailing the decision as a major step towards allowing workers who rely on commission as part of their regular income, to take a holiday without fear of losing out.

“Naturally, Empline has been briefing this information to clients to keep them up-to-date and enable them to forward plan.”

The Lock case, first aired at an Employment Tribunal in Leicester, has been in the pipeline for nearly two years.

Ms Klahn said: “This will put an extra burden of cost on businesses but the EU takes the view that people need a proper break from work.

“For that to happen employees must not fear being penalised. This opinion, as with employers being no longer permitted to roll up holiday pay, is part of the process.”

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Law firm Lodders is to focus its charity push on local Warwickshire projects.

Via Heart of England Community Foundation, the Stratford-upon-Avon solicitors are to throw their fund-raising effort behind The Buzz Arts and Community Centre and Support Sport Ltd.

Based in the town’s Henley Street, and catering for the needs of a range of individuals and groups, Buzz provides a venue for leisure activities, support bodies, training, charity events and conferences.

The complex is for the public generally but in particular those who are young, old, infirm or disabled, in financial hardship or living in trying social or economic circumstances.

Lodders will fund a part time chef to support the centre’s Go Enjoy Project which aims to help those of limited mobility get into Stratford, meet others, get a bite to eat and enjoy some activities in an affordable setting.

Support Sport Ltd is a not-for-profit organisation enabling children and young people to benefit through sport and leadership activities.

The aim is to develop tomorrow’s community leaders, boosting ambitions, goals and confidence.

Lodders will back workshops for children aged 9, 10 and 11 at five different primary schools across Warwickshire, targeting those in areas of either high deprivation or rural isolation.

Senior partner David Lodder, head of the firm’s charity committee, said: “Every year we try to do our bit for charity.

“These are two great local causes, where hopefully we can help to make a difference.”

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The news that more people are having to pay Inheritance Tax (IHT) on death has prompted Lodders Solicitors to highlight the ways of reducing the potential liability.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has reported that in the year to April 2013 IHT receipts increased by eight per cent to £3.1 billion, but the figure has soared by 30 per cent during the past three years.

Lodders partner Eamonn Daly, a chartered tax adviser, said: “This is down to a number of factors, including the recovery in housing prices, household savings and equities recovering but also the freeze in the IHT threshold, which has been fixed at £325,000 since April 2009 has dragged more estates into the IHT net.

“The simplest way of planning to avoid IHT is to give cash/assets away more than seven years prior to death. However clients are often keen to keep control of the sums gifted, fearful of their intended beneficiaries spending the hard earned wealth frivolously or losing it in the event of a bankruptcy or divorce.”

Mr Daly pointed out that for significant gifts of over £1 million the use of corporate structures such as Family Investment Companies (FICs) should be considered to help address these issues.

Individuals can subscribe cash or assets for shares in their own bespoke FIC and then make substantial gifts of some of the shares to beneficiaries without incurring an immediate IHT charge.

The founder of the FIC can retain significant control by the retention of voting shares.

“For smaller gifts, where an individual wishes to maintain some control, trusts are still the main lifetime IHT mitigation tool,” Mr Daly advised.

“Where the total of assets to be gifted does not exceed the individual’s IHT threshold of £325,000 – or £650,000 for a couple – trusts are usually the most flexible solution,” he said “above these figures lifetime IHT is payable on assets transferred to most trusts at 20 per cent.”

He stressed that whatever the level of cash and assets held over the £325,000 or £650,000 joint threshold, professional advice could help to significantly decrease the IHT burden and protect family wealth.

Lodders Solicitors has offices in Cheltenham, Stratford-upon-Avon and Henley-in-Arden.

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One of the Midlands major annual property conferences was held this year at Henley-in-Arden Golf Club where Lodders Solicitors hosted over 100 clients and fellow professionals.

The keynote speaker this year was Tony Green, chief executive of Birmingham-based Horton Estates, the family-owned property investment and development company. He was joined at the rostrum by fellow speaker Simon Horan of Savills in Birmingham, and Michael Campbell and Michael Orlik, members of the highways and rights of way team within Lodders’ real estate department, rounded the conference off with some legal insights into the problems inherent in varying Section l06 agreements and issues concerning rights of way and village greens.

Guests were welcomed by Lodders chairman George Campion who commented that while a north-south divide was readily discernible with the recovery more rooted in the south, he was encouraged by signs of a pick up in the Midlands property market.

Picture by John James.

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Over 100 invited guests heard Lodders senior partner David Lodder announce the dawn of a new era in legal services in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire and the Cotswolds.

The law firm, which has served its local communities from its Stratford-upon-Avon and Henley-in-Arden offices for over 225 years, has opened a major office in Cheltenham.

Mr Lodder said the launch was based on the firm’s core services – private client, agricultural and property. The move is being spearheaded by partners Robin Beckley, Paul Mourton and Penny Gladman, all of whom have a long established track record in the area. The reception was held at the Mercure Cheltenham Queens Hotel, Cheltenham, only yards from Lodders’ new offices at 25 Imperial Square.