Clarke Willmott dropped by Crown Estates following review

Clarke Willmott has been kicked off the Crown Estate’s rural panel in favour of a consolidated roster comprising Bond Dickinson and Burges Salmon.

Current energy panel firm Bond Dickinson and longtime advisers Burges Salmon won the top spots on the group’s rural, coastal and Windsor Estate portfolio at the expense of Clarke Willmott, which first won a spot seven years ago.

The tender documents for the panel went out at the beginning of the year, when it began the hunt for two advisers (13 February 2014). The rural panel is one of four legal rosters operated by the portfolio, divided into rural, Scottish, energy and urban panels.

The rural and coastal roster is one of its smallest after being slashed in half seven years ago. Foot Anstey, Manby & Steward and Aaron & Partners were previously also on the roster but only Clarke Willmott and Burges Salmon were appointed back in 2007.

This year the Estate is understood to have asked around seven firms to pitch for the role. It already has strong relationships with both Bond Dickinson and Burges Salmon.

Bond Dickinson won a place on the group’s slimmed down energy panel in 2013 with Norton Rose. Meanwhile Burges Salmon plays roles the Estate’s urban and rural panels, having been reappointed to the urban panel in 2011, where it handles a key role on the portfolio’s St James’s regeneration work.

The Estate has launched a £320m scheme in the area with partner Oxford Properties and owns almost 50 per cent of the buildings in St James’s.

Burges Salmon will take responsibility for representing the Crown Estate across its rural assets, which together form one of the largest portfolios of agricultural, forestry and common land in the UK. The firm will also take responsibility for the Estate’s Windsor Estate which includes Windsor Great Park, extensive forests, residential and commercial properties, golf courses, a racecourse and tenanted agricultural land.

The firm has fielded partner William Neville to act as the client relationship partner. Bond Dickinson chairman and partner Nick Page is the client relationship partner. Crown Estate general counsel Vivienne King is understood to have been keen on firms which put forward operational and lead partners from the management board or senior team.

Bond Dickinson will represent The Crown Estate across its coastal holdings in England, which includes around fifty per cent of the foreshore and interests in ports, harbours, marinas and other commercial coastal developments. 

Each of the Estate’s panel reviews is organised by a different one of the portfolio’s four in-house lawyers and run in line with the Crown’s procurement team. They are all put in place for a three to five-year period with the legal function reviewed each year.

The Crown Estate is one of the largest property portfolios owned by the Crown and one of the largest property portfolios in the UK with a profit of £252.6m for the 2012/13 financial year. The portfolio invests in land for wind energy as well as prime central London property.