Spotlight on: Birmingham Law Society’s Property & Development Committee

Birmingham Law Society has 14 professional committees, dealing with different areas of legal practice and/or areas of common interest to the profession. They are the engine room of the Society, undertaking work that keeps our members updated with developments in their areas of law, ensuring they are well connected with key stakeholders such the courts, police and other bodies and representing their interests, and those of their clients, to Government, regulators and others. All of our committees are made up of volunteers drawn from the Birmingham legal community.

In this issue we shine a spotlight on the work done by the Property and Development Committee chaired by Denise Watkins, Gordon Jones Solicitors.

A full list of Birmingham Law Society’s committees can be found on our website, along with contact details of the committee chairs. If you are interested in joining a committee, please do get in touch with the chair.


What is the role of your committee?

The Property and Development Committee has lawyer representatives from Residential and Commercial Property, Construction and Planning Law and a Barrister who provides updates on current case law dealing with all aspects of property. We respond to Government consultations, Law Society procedural changes and implementation.

All members of the Committee are actively involved and give monthly updates on their areas of Property Law. We seek to address ongoing issues of law and practice for all BLS members and are available to discuss matters where we can with any members who choose to contact the Committee with any concerns.

Tell us about some of the main events/activities that your committee has worked on in the last year?

The Committee has responded to several Government consultations over the past couple of years. As part of the Government consultation on “Making the home buying and selling process quicker, cheaper and less stressful” we arranged a meeting with The Right Hon Sajid Javid MP who at the time was the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government to discuss with the Minister certain aspects of the consultation before returning our formal response. It is testament to BLS and the Property and Development committee that he was prepared to make time for such discussions.

The Committee have also been involved in a Government consultation on Leasehold Reform and Commonhold which looked at the nature and problems surrounding Leasehold properties and the matters flowing from this including challenges with Managing Agents. Some changes in the Leasehold process have now become law.

We have also responded to a consultation for Birmingham City Council on Statement of Community Involvement to give views on different aspect of planning. We were pleased to assist our local Council.

As Chair of the Committee I was involved in a Property Convention last year in conjunction with The Law Society and representatives from Land Registry to discuss topical issues with BLS members and to give an insight into the meetings of the Property and Development Committee. This was very well attended.

I have also attended Property Consultations on behalf of the BLS Property committee to give feedback on Land Registry updates and changes in practice and other areas of law and procedures. Experts are on occasions invited to Committee meetings to discuss topical issues.

What would you say will be the biggest issue in the area that your committee focusses on in the next 12 months?

We have continuing discussions regarding the amount of construction that is surrounding Birmingham which can only be good for the economy. With all the construction and the Government’s determination to build more than 1 million houses within the next 10 years, the Committee’s future focus will be how regeneration and development of brown and green field sites will impact on climate change such as flood risk and contaminated land on Commercial and Residential Conveyancing.

The Committee have also been discussing and will continue to discuss potential Reservation Agreements which are to attempt to reduce the number of abortive matters on residential properties, but which Agreements carry with them many advantages and disadvantages. We will liaise with The Law Society on the overall findings as requested recently when the new President attended the BLS Council meeting. Arguably however, one of the biggest “hot potato” discussions for the Second City’s property lawyers will be land acquisition for the ongoing development of HS2 and potential legal and environmental issues flowing from this.