(L-R) Pinsent Masons solicitor Mark Balmforth, partner Scot Morrison and senior associate Helen Robinson

Finalists: Addleshaw Goddard; Berwin Leighton Paisner; Clifford Chance and Devonshires (highly commended); CMS; Mayer Brown; Norton Rose Fulbright (highly commended); Simmons & Simmons.

Pinsent Masons took the award for property team of the year for its work assisting Manchester City Council in an effort to secure a developer for the Northern Gateway project that aims to deliver 10,000 new homes and transform the north of the city.

The firm steered the council through a complex and innovative procurement process and transaction structure that was designed to be faster than a traditional EU-regulated development agreement, striking a balance between the council’s need for strategic control and the investor’s need for flexibility to attract further investment into the area.

That framework helped maximise investor interest, with the council securing and signing a partnership with Hong Kong property developer Far East Consortium in under four months – a timeframe accomplished thanks to Pinsents’ extensive experience and expertise structuring property joint ventures and its ability to react quickly to potential problems (such as various title issues that came up during the investor’s due diligence).

Given the housing shortage across the UK, other local authorities are looking at the deal’s structure as a viable way to deliver other large-scale housing developments. “The fact the framework developed is now being used by other authorities is a testament to success — a clear winner,” a judge applauded.