26th April 2023
Thrings Partner Charlotte Dooling speaks to The Business Exchange about Bath and her work in the property market
Charlotte is part of the thriving Thrings Commercial Property team in Bath and specialises in both commercial and residential lending transactions, acting for multiple private, commercial and retail banks in the UK and offshore. Her team deals with a range of commercial property clients, including developers, landlords and tenants, across a wide range of matters, including the acquisition and sale of commercial property in and around Bath.
1. How is business?
Very positive! February was busy, with a large number of commercial acquisitions and new leases coming in and we are receiving regular new instructions acting for lenders, borrowers, tenants and buyers.
It’s heartening to see people keen to carry on and not be perturbed by the uncertainty that we’ve experienced in recent years.
2. What are you working on at the moment?
We are working with our lender clients on the refinancing of a number of large property portfolios to release equity for future investment. Whilst some landlords have hit difficulties, in times like this there are always opportunities for those property investors with cash to pick up a few bargains and for developers to find sites where deals have fallen through.
3. Are you seeing any let up in the market in terms of property instructions or lending?
After a busy end to 2022, January felt quiet. However, things are certainly picking up and, despite the increases to interest rates last year, those in the property world are still keen to borrow and do business. It never stays quiet for long as there are always people prepared to take some risks for long term returns.
4. What are the current challenges?
There are always complications in some deals - that is to be expected - but the amount of time it is taking to get many matters over the line seems to have increased. Clients are costs conscious and we, as lawyers, have to strive to bring value to the deals that we work on and help clients to manage their risks.
5. Are you seeing a difference here compared to other parts of the country?
Yes and no. Bath has always been a city that seems to operate slightly in a bubble and the housing market remains buoyant, though fewer properties seem to be coming on the market right now. People remain as keen as ever to move to the city, enabled by hybrid working. You only have to drive around Bath to see the wealth of developments going on and there continue to be opportunities for regeneration around the city. This has reflected in movement across the office market with many companies looking to downsize, creating opportunities for businesses to make the most of the space that is available in more intelligent and collaborative ways.
Bath will also always appeal to those wanting to visit and experience a beautiful city. As an internationally recognised destination, we continue to see more restaurants, pubs, wine bars and cafes opening up to take advantage of the tourism market in the city.
6. Bath and North East Somerset Council have recently held a consultation on changes to the Local List of Planning Application Requirements. What are your thoughts on this?
Some of the changes are necessary following the adoption of the Local Plan Partial Update in January and the intention seems to be that other proposals will help provide clarification around the submission of planning applications and reduce delays. Clearer instructions on what is required can only be a good thing, but it remains to be seen what impact this will have for residents and developers and we would want to see the Council strike a balance between making the planning process more efficient and putting undue burden on applicants.
7. What is the most exciting deal you’ve ever worked on?
I always love being involved when clients are lending against impressive developments or stunning properties in Bath and London. I am lucky enough to have dealt with transactions in the high millions and never tire of looking at the valuations and heritage of such properties.
8. What do you enjoy most about your work?
There is a lot of variety to working as a solicitor, even in secured lending which some might consider to be one of the less glamourous areas. I get to act on all sorts of properties and transactions. You rarely get a straightforward deal - there is always something new to learn and new problems to fix. I also love the lasting relationships you make with lender clients and through encouraging junior lawyers into this area. Once they get started, they soon realise that such work can be rewarding, fast-paced and fascinating!
9. Tell us something we wouldn’t know about you?
I have lived in 25 different homes across 10 different locations in the UK. My parents moved a lot when I was young, and I seem to have continued that trend. I certainly think this has contributed to my enjoyment of working in the property world.
10. What do you enjoy outside of work?
Spending time with my family and friends, drinking wine and watching rugby.
Click here to find out more about Charlotte and the work she does.