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Consistently ranked in the highest band by Chambers & Partners, Landmark has market-leading expertise across the full range of local government functions boasting strength in depth at all levels of seniority and acting for most of the largest City Councils and all other levels of local government.

Commercial Law

As a set with a particular focus on local government work and with an extensive local government client base across the UK, Landmark regularly advise local authorities and other public sector bodies in commercial disputes with private counterparties. Our commercial law experience spans the full range of general contractual disputes.

In terms of our local authority clients, given Chambers’ leading national market position in real estate and planning disputes, our commercial litigation experience has historically centred on disputes arising from the management, development and/or disposal of council-owned property portfolios including overage and section 106 agreement disputes, and associated insolvency and Company Voluntary Agreement (“CVA”) matters.

As well as advising in our traditional core sectors of development and infrastructure, as our public law practice has diversified over recent years, we have also increasingly advised and acted for local authorities in their capacities as social services, education and housing providers in private commercial disputes arising in the course of the exercise of their statutory functions.

Our commercial law expertise is complemented by our strength in local government work more generally, which means that our barristers are particularly well placed to recognise and understand the specific needs and priorities for public sector clients in a commercial dispute: finding pragmatic and economic solutions, whilst always meeting their paramount statutory duty to provide their services and, where possible, avoiding risks of reputational damage and the erosion of the public’s trust.

In addition to extensive experience in the Commercial and Chancery Courts, we also have a particular expertise in commercial arbitration, with a number of our practitioners being qualified as arbitrators and mediators. Our disputes work ranges from multi-million high value claims to lower level claims heard in the county courts and costs matters.

The following are examples of our specific expertise in advising local authority and public sector clients on matters of commercial dispute:

  • Acting for 19 NHS trusts regarding an application to strike-out the Trust’s claim for overpaid rates on the basis that the claim was issued without authority;
  • Regularly advising and acting for local authorities in commercial landlord and tenant disputes, including lease renewal work under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954 (where our clients include Transport for London). We have advised recently in landlord and tenant issues arising from transport and infrastructure projects, including the upgrade and improvement of Finsbury Park Bus Station and South Kensington Tube Station;
  • Advising a local authority in relation to a dispute against a major international retailer concerning the purported termination by the retailer of a multi-million pound sale and purchase agreement in respect of a substantial development site owned by the local authority;
  • Advising eight London local authorities (The London Area Procurement Network) across a 4-year period in relation to a commercial dispute over service charges, with a value of approximately £350 million;
  • Acting for the Environment Agency (“EA”) in the successful summary judgment Manchester Ship Canal Company Ltd. v Environment Agency [2017], a £13 million claim against the EA under a contract agreed in 1963 by the Manchester Ship Canal Company (“MSCC”) and the Mersey River Board (a predecessor of the EA), and subsequently confirmed in Schedule 2 of the Mersey River Board Act 1964. MSCC claimed damages under the contract in respect of flood damage caused to the Canal during the extreme floods on Boxing Day 2015.

Contracts and Procurement

Landmark’s barristers have significant expertise in advising local authorities in relation to their public law duties and obligations arising from their contracting and procurement activities.

As a Chambers with a particular focus on local government work and with an extensive local government client base across the UK, Landmark’s barristers regularly advise local authorities in relation to all aspects of local government contracting, including compliance with procurement law and duties under the  Public Contract Regulations (“PCRs”), State Aid obligations, and wider vires issues including compliance with best value obligations under the Local Government Act 1999 and compliance with the Local Government Contracts Act 1997.  Although much of this work is advisory, our barristers regularly appear and act for local authorities and the wider public sector in litigation, particularly in the procurement field.

Landmark has a particular strength in procurement law. It’s procurement team offers expertise in all areas of public procurement, with barristers regularly instructed to advise on procurement-related issues, particularly in the urban development, housing, healthcare, transport, waste, energy, and utilities sectors (in the majority of instances with a local authority or public sector client). Our specific areas of expertise in procurement (and related State Aid issues) covers the following sectors:

  • Development agreements for urban regeneration, including local authority estate regeneration programmes;
  • Central and local government contracting, including loan, waste and renewable energy schemes;
  • Construction projects for infrastructure projects, including local authority funded transport schemes;
  • Private Finance Initiative and Public-Private Partnership contracts, and project financing (including challenges to the withdrawal of funding);
  • Health and social care commissioning and procurement.

Our team has regularly advised contracting authorities (in particular local authorities) on all stages of procurement competitions, including non-contentious advice on the design of tenders and ITTs, the conduct of competitions and litigation arising out of challenges to contract award decisions, through to post-award contract variations and assignment.

Landmark’s barristers have acted as counsel and advised public authorities in some of the most significant procurement and local government contracting cases in recent years in the UK courts, including:

Development/infrastructure procurement litigation

  • R (Faraday) v West Berkshire Council (2016) – on whether a conditional obligation to perform works in a development agreement is sufficient to be a “direct or indirect obligation” so as to bring the agreement within the scope of Directive 2014/24/EU and the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 (David Elvin QC acted for West Berkshire Council);
  • R (Gottlieb) v Winchester City Council [2015] – on the principles applicable to whether variations to an existing public works contract require procurement (David Elvin QC acted for Winchester City Council);
  • R (Leyton Orient Football Club) v London Legacy Development Corporation [2013] – the procurement challenge to the London Legacy Development Corporation’s rejection of a bid from Leyton Orient for the use of the London 2012 Olympic Stadium. James Neill advised the London Legacy Development Corporation;
  • Fiona Scolding QC as junior counsel in 2015/16 defended the government’s implementation of a new contract for criminal solicitors, which concerned over 115 claims run on a group litigation basis;
  • Wylde v Waverley Borough Council [2017] – on the test for standing to bring a judicial review claim alleging a breach of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015.

Other general public sector procurement and litigation 

  • R (All About Rights Law Practice) v Lord Chancellor [2013]– on the principle of equal treatment of bidders (acting for the UK Government);
  • R (Hossacks) v Legal Services Commission [2012] – on public authorities’ powers to seek clarification or amendment of a tender and the principle of equal treatment in the context of the contracting authority’s approach to mistakes in bids (Fiona Scolding QC acted for the LSC);
  • R (Midlands Co-Operative Society Ltd) v Birmingham City Council [2012] – on the applicability of the Public Contracts Regulations 2006 to development agreements (David Elvin QC acted for Birmingham City Council);
  • JR Jones v Legal Services Commission [2010] – on improvements in bids and the circumstances in which a mistake can be corrected (Fiona Scolding QC acted for the LSC);
  • (Keep Louth Special) v East Lindsey DC – defending a claim for judicial review of its commercial sale of Louth Livestock Market against challenge by local residents, addressing issues of best value and State Aid as well as issues about contract and public law (Tim Buley acted for ELDC).
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