Nightingale Associates is planning to exploit a loophole in an attempt to get on to the lucrative Learning and Skills Council (LSC) Framework, after it failed the first time round.
The UK-wide firm was among a number of high-profile outfits, including RMJM, Sheppard Robson and BDP, which failed
to secure a place on the £1.6 billion-a-year framework, that commissions further education work on projects worth £5 million or more.
However, the AJ has learned that Nightingale now hopes to set up a joint venture with one of the 21 practices that have made it on the list, in a move that could provide a back-door route to the framework.
There is already one joint venture between van Heyningen and Haward and Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios on the southern sector of the agreement, but that was formed prior to selection.
An architect on the framework said: ‘We were surprised not to see [Nightingale] on the list in the first place, but there were a few practices which we thought would be on there and didn’t turn out to be.
‘But we now hear that the firm is trying to establish a joint venture with another practice on the framework, which could perhaps demonstrate a better geographical spread and provide more people for projects.’
A senior source at Nightingale confirmed that it was exploring alternative routes to get on to the framework, but refused to elaborate, for fear of giving other practices ‘the same idea’.
The source said the time for lodging appeals against the original decision to omit the practice had ‘been and gone’.
It added that a number of project management firms which failed to make the framework list had mounted legal challenges, although it is understood no architecture practice has done so.
The LSC refused to be drawn on whether Nightingale was looking into a joint venture with an existing member of the panel, stating only that the practice was unsuccessful in gaining a place on the panel earlier this year.
The LSC’s director of infrastructure and property services, Phil Head, added: ‘The LSC has been informed by Nightingale Associates that they will not be challenging the LSC’s decision.’