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Case no: CO/1045/96 ...
Case no: CO/1045/96

An advertising company who accuses the now defunct Bristol Development Corporation of unfairly awarding a prime commercial pitch to a trade rival, today failed in a bid to win a judicial review hearing of the tendering process.

Mr Justice Turner said that 'on the face of it' Parkin Advertising Ltd had every right to complain about the way in which the corporation had handled tendering for the outdoor advertising pitch.

He told the court: 'The facts indicate that something very short of a level playing field existed so far as Parkin Advertising were concerned in the manner in which this piece of land was disposed of. There may be an explanation I know not'.

But he dismissed the company's case, saying: 'The short answer to this application (for judicial review) is that the damage has already been done.

'The longer answer is that although the actions of the former Bristol Development Corporation on the face of them call for some enquiry, they do not provide grounds for judicial review'.

The dispute was in truth a private commercial one and not suitable for judicial review which concerns public law rights only, the judge ruled.

But he added: 'This is in no sense to render comfort, solace or encouragement to those who, acting on behalf of public bodies, succeed in creating the impression that their actions are secretive, unfair and give rise thus to the appearance of partiality'.

The judge refused an application by lawyers for the Government Office of the South West - which took over the development corporation's liabilities in January this year - for an order that Parkin Advertising pay the action's legal costs bills.

'I don't consider it right to penalise Parkin Advertising in costs for reasons which will be self-evident'.

The case centred around the sale of the 0.1-acre parcel of land at New Spine Road, near Lawrence Hill Roundabout by the Development Corporation in September last year.

Parkin Advertising, a 'substantial company in the field of outdoor advertising', submitted a tender of £62,000 on September 14 1995 at which date they were the only bidders, said the judge.

But trade rivals, Mills and Allen, put in a competing bid and were later allowed by the development corporation to 'revise' their tender.

The end result was that Mills and Allen's tender was accepted by the corporation after it came in at £2,000-£3,000 higher than Parkin Advertising's bid.

Lawyers for Parkin Advertising attacked the corporation's management of the tendering exercise as unfair, and had come to court in an attempt to overturn the sale to Mills and Allen and force a new tendering process.

But Mr Justice Turner ruled: 'If Parkin Advertising had any right, and I stress the word if, I am satisfied that it was a right in private law and not a right the breach of which can be complained of in a public law action'.

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