The Interview – Darren Hughes catches up with Darren Hughes, a property partner at Manchester law firm Gateley.

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the property sector in the North West right now?

In terms of Manchester, the biggest challenge facing the market is a lack of supply. There are requirements out in the market, but with no purely speculative developments taking place, it’s a distinct possibility that we will run out of commercial space, which will subsequently create an issue for occupiers looking for new space. Unsurprisingly, developers are restricted by the limited availability of development finance. If the market is to improve, the appetite of lenders in this sector must improve in order to rebalance future supply and demand.

If you could improve anything in the region, what would it be?

If I could improve anything in the region then it would have to be the infrastructure. While there are still proposals on the table for HS2, faster improvements need to made to ensure that cities, including Manchester, can get maximum connectivity through projects like the Northern Hub, in order to provide a viable alternative to London and the south east – it’s an effective way to attract business to relocate to the North West.

Looking into your crystal ball, what are your property predictions for the next six months?

The level of activity will continue at the same rate, certainly up until Christmas and possibly into the New Year. With the General Election coming up next year, as is always the case, people will hold back on transactions the nearer we get to polling day, because of the uncertainty that this generates within the market.

What is the best project you’ve been involved in?

It has to be working with the Betfred team on the acquisition of the Tote. Not only is it a significant name within the region, and a high-profile deal but it also demonstrated our capabilities to provide effective legal advice on significant national property portfolios.

Name the person who has most inspired you and the one who has had the biggest influence on your career?

Unquestionably, it has to be my (now deceased) parents. They taught me the values of working hard and, despite neither of them going to university, they helped me get my education and my first-ever legal job. The person who has had the biggest influence on my career has to be Peter Hosker, the group legal director at Peel. He gave me my training contract in the mid ’90s.

If your career didn’t exist, what would you do?

Either a travel writer or a restaurant critic – I love both travel and food!

What’s the best thing about your job?

It has to be the feeling of knowing that you’ve done a good job for a client and receiving the recognition that you’ve contributed to the client’s business at the end. It’s also about working in a great team and collectively delivering a first-class service time after time.