Mills & Reeve advises Trinity College on £50m acquisition of Dunsfold Park

Mills & Reeve has advised Trinity College on its acquisition of Dunsfold Park near Cranleigh in Surrey at a total cost of just more than £50m.

The college, through its subsidiary Dunsfold Airport, has entered into asset management and promotion agreements with the former manager, Rutland Group, to manage and develop the 900-acre estate.

Dunsfold Park is the largest brownfield site in the borough of Waverley and consists of a 516-acre airfield, 65 acres of commercial space and 30 acres of land allocated for a solar farm and an anaerobic digestion plant. There is also agricultural land totalling 286 acres.

The site had formerly been used as a Canadian airfield in World War II and subsequently by British Aerospace (now BAE Systems) to develop Hunter, Harrier and Hawk aircraft. Dunsfold Park is most famous as the site for the production of the BBC’s Top Gear programme. There is now an opportunity to extend the business park, build new homes or expand the airfield business, which has unrestricted planning permission for the erection, repair and flight testing of aircraft.

A 55-strong team led by partner Michelle Cookson advised on all legal aspects of the acquisition, including real estate, tax, banking, disputes, corporate, planning, environmental and construction. The team undertook an extensive due diligence exercise involving more than 150 occupational interests and worked to a tight deadline to complete the acquisition before Christmas.

The real-estate team was recognised at last year’s Legal Business Awards for its advice to Trinity College on its landmark investment in a 50 per cent stake in a portfolio of 11 Tesco stores across the UK worth £440m.