In Access for Living v London Borough of Lewisham [2021] EWHC 3498 (TCC), the bidder, Access for Living, confused the standstill extension with an extension to the limitation period, and missed the deadline for proceeding with a claim. We explain how the court made its decision and how you can avoid similar pitfalls. 

Case background

The local authority (London Borough of Lewisham) ran a mini-competition for adult learning supported living services. Access for Living was notified in a debrief letter that it had been unsuccessful. 

The Authority agreed to extend the standstill period to address Access’s concerns.  Access issued proceedings within the extended standstill period but – fatally - more than 30 days after receipt of the debrief letter explaining why they lost. 

The Court declined to extend the 30-day limitation period as there was “no good reason” to have missed the deadline

After finding that Access had brought its claims outside the 30-day limitation period, the Court decided that there was no “good reason” why Access could not have issued proceedings earlier.  The delay was a mistake because the bidder thought the standstill extension was an extension to the limitation period.   The Court observed:

  1. There is no exhaustive list of factors that may or may not be a good reason to extend time.
  2. Requesting only a short extension does not constitute a good reason in itself.
  3. A matter that is beyond the control of the applicant may well provide a good reason e.g. absence of key staff due to sickness.

How to challenge a procurement decision within appropriate time limits

This case is a reminder of the importance to obtain legal advice quickly on receipt of a debrief letter to understand your rights and the time-scales for pursing a challenge. Bidders can learn the following from this case:

  1. Do not mistake an extension of the standstill period for an extension to the statutory limitation period.  They are separate processes, and we can help you understand the differences between the two.
  2. Unless you have a “good reason”, i.e. a matter outside of your control, the Court will not extend the limitation period and a challenge cannot be brought.

A copy of the judgment is here.

How Capsticks can help

With extensive knowledge of procurement law, our specialist procurement team can advise you quickly on all aspects of defending or bringing a procurement challenge.

Please speak to Dylan Young and Catherine Mulroney to find out more about how Capsticks can help.