English Partnerships declares results of reviewed law panel

Nabarro Nathanson, Hammond Suddards Edge and DLA are among the casualties of a major panel review at English Partnerships, the Government’s urban regeneration agency.

The chosen firms are Eversheds, Denton Wilde Sapte, Pinsent Curtis Biddle and Warrington firm Forshaws. Firms covering niches such as the Greenwich Peninsula have still to be finalised, but are likely to include Berwin Leighton, Addleshaw Booth & Co and Masons.

English Partnerships has an annual legal spend of between £1.5m and £2m. It inherited two separate panels when the Commission for New Towns (CNT) and the Urban Regeneration Agency (URA) merged to create English Partnerships in May 1999.

Contracts for both panels are due to expire in the next few months, prompting plans to create a new unified panel of between three and six firms, which would be more cost-effective and easier to manage.

A total of 96 firms tendered for highly-coveted places on the panel following a notice in OJEC magazine in September 2000. The selection process focused on quality and cost based on an 80:20 ratio.

A shortlist of 10 firms were requested to submit a quality plan, followed by interviews. Eight firms, known to include DLA and Hammonds, were then asked to make financial bids. The process was completed last week.

Paul Morgan, English Partnerships’ legal manager for the South, says the organisation was looking for firms of “a certain status” in the key areas of property, planning, environment, grant funding and PFI. He says: “They also have to have a geographical spread because we’re a national agency. We were not strictly looking for City of London firms.”

Each of the chosen firms has represented English Partnerships before, but Morgan says that continuity was not a prerequisite. Eversheds and Dentons can both expect a new variety of work. The former was previously on the URA panel, while Dentons acted for the CNT. Ousted firms Hammonds and Nabarros were previously members of the URA panel, while DLA acted for the CNT.

Eversheds partner Stephen Sorrell, who led the firm’s bid says: “This is very exciting. It gives us access to another side of the organisation which we didn’t work for before.”