Mr Peter James Fancote
THE ARCHITECTS REGISTRATION BOARD PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT COMMITTEE
In the matter of
Mr Peter James Fancote (041167A)
Julian Weinberg (Chair)
Roger Wilson (PCC Architect Member) Jules Griffiths (PCC Lay Member)
In respect of the charges against Mr Peter Fancote (“The Respondent”):
Mr Peter Fancote:
a. accepts the facts and matters set out below and consents to the Consent Order Panel of the Professional Conduct Committee making a disciplinary order against him in the terms set outbelow;
b. confirms that he has been offered the opportunity to appear before a Hearing Panel of the Professional Conduct Committee to present his case, but does not wish to do so.
The Architects Registration Board (ARB) accepts the facts and matters set out below and consents to the Professional Conduct Committee making a disciplinary order against Mr Peter Fancote in the terms set out below:
An allegation of Unacceptable Professional Conduct has been brought by the ARB against the Respondent. The ARB has particularised the allegation as follows:
(1) The Respondent did not provide adequate terms of engagement contrary to standard 4.4 of the Architects Code;
(2) The Respondent did not carry out work in accordance with the terms of engagement and/or agreed instructions;
(3) The Respondent did not deal with a complaint and/or dispute appropriately.
Statement of agreed facts
1. The Respondent is a registered architect and practices at Hargreaves Architects Limited.
2. In around July 2017 the Respondent was appointed by Ms H (“the Complainant”) to assist with preparing drawings and the necessary applications with the Council for the proposed works at the property which would be her parent’s home (“the Property”). The proposed works involved the demolition of the existing garage and erection of a two bedroom, two storey house in its place.
Terms of Engagement
3. Following initial discussions between the Complainant and the Respondent, the Respondent sent the Complainant an email on 17 July 2017 confirming his services. That email advised that a detailed measured survey would need to be carried out and that proposals would then be prepared which would be submitted for planning permission. The Respondent noted that he would prepare the submission and “deal with the Planning Officer on your behalf”. The email went on to state that once planning approval had been received then he would progress with the development of detailed working drawings for the contractor and for Building Regulations approval. He noted that he would deal with the Building Regulations application on her behalf. The Respondent set out his fees for the various stages of the work. The Complainant advises that she did not receive any further terms of engagement.
4. Whilst the initial email set out the Respondent’s proposed services, it did not provide the full information required by the Code. In particular, the email did not set out the names of the contracting parties and who was responsible for what. Further, the email did not provide information on insurance, complaints handling or confirmation that the Respondent was registered with the ARB.
5. Additionally, the Respondent’s position is that that the second part of the project developed by meetings and discussions. The scope of the Respondent’s role had expanded and moved into additional matters by the time the Respondent emailed the Complainant on 21 November 2017, yet no updated terms of engagement were sent.
Planning Application and Approval
6. The Respondent prepared the planning application and this was submitted to Bexley Council (“the Council”) on 12 September 2017. Planning approval was granted on 7 November 2017 with a number of conditions. The full conditions were set out in the decision notice. A copy of the decision notice was sent to the Respondent’s office.
7. Building work commenced in January 2018 and was completed in December 2018. The Complainant advises that the Respondent was not involved with the construction works and that he did not provide her with guidance on what needed to be done to discharge the planning conditions.
Community Infrastructure Levy (“CIL”)
8. The Complainant advises that she was made aware by the Respondent at the outset about the CIL. The Complainant understood that she would be exempt from the levy
and the Respondent advised her that he would deal with the paperwork for this. This was then confirmed in an email on 21 November 2017, albeit that the Respondent noted that the charge would be “at the very bottom of the scale”.
9. The Complainant applied for a postal address for the newly built property in around October 2018. At that point, the Council advised the Complainant that they could not provide this as there was an outstanding matter regarding the CIL.
10. The Complainant contacted the Respondent about the conditions that needed to be discharged and that there was a payment due of almost £5,000 for the CIL, due to the fact that the paperwork had not been dealt with. The Complainant had to chase the Respondent for a response and subsequent correspondence passed between the Complainant, the Respondent, the Respondent’s colleague and the Council.
11. The Council advised the Complainant that no paperwork had been received requesting self-build relief and therefore the full amount for the CIL needed to be paid. A deadline for payment was set for 23 November 2018.
12. The Complainant contacted the Respondent noting that she was not prepared to pay the CIL, as the charge was due to his error. The Respondent advised he was taking advice from a specialist. The 23 November 2018 deadline passed and the Complainant sent further emails on 30 November 2018 and 4 December 2018. The Council advised that if payment was not received by 5 December 2018 then both interest and a surcharge would be applied.
13. A new CIL demand notice was issued on 6 December 2018, which included a surcharge as a result of non-payment. The outstanding amount payable at this stage was £5,171.47.
14. The Complainant did not hear further from the Respondent for a lengthy period of time. On 9 May 2019 she contacted the Respondent and he advised that he had notified his insurers and would update her. The Complainant sent further emails seeking updates on 14 and 15 May 2019.
15. On 15 May 2019, the Complainant made a complaint to the ARB. On 21 May 2019, the ARB wrote to the Respondent to give him the opportunity to contact the Complainant directly to deal with matters. The ARB allowed the Respondent 28 days to respond.
16. The Complainant emailed the Respondent on 28 May 2019 noting she had not heard further and seeking an update on the CIL payment. The Complainant then spoke to the Respondent on 12 June 2019 and followed the call with an email. The Complainant did not hear further from the Respondent.
17. On 19 August 2019, the Respondent emailed the ARB advising that he had paid the outstanding CIL payment to the Council.
18. The Respondent accepts that he did not provide adequate terms of engagement at the outset of the contract or throughout. The Respondent admits that he had a professional obligation to provide the Complainant with adequate terms of engagement. Further, the Respondent accepts that he ought to have provided updated and full terms of engagement at the point at which the scope of the project changed and was clear; he accepts that he did not do this.
19. The Respondent accepts that he did not carry out work in accordance with the terms of engagement and/or agreed instructions in that he did not deal with the CIL matter appropriately and that he missed the deadline for completing the necessary paperwork.
20. The Respondent accepts that he did not adequately deal with the complaint/dispute appropriately, as he did not deal with the matter promptly. Although the CIL was subsequently paid on 19 August 2019 this was after a complaint had been raised with the ARB and months of chasing from the Complainant. The Respondent submits that he feels “most unhappy” that this situation occurred and that he took his “eye off the ball”.
Statement as to Unacceptable Professional Conduct
21. In light of the admissions above, the Respondent further admits that this matter amounts to Unacceptable Professional Conduct.
22. Standard 4.4 of the Architects Code 2017 states that an Architect is expected to ensure that they enter into a written agreement with the client which adequately covers a number of matters including the scope of the work, who will be responsible for what and details of fees and/or the method of calculating fees. The Architect is expected to enter into this written agreement with the client prior to undertaking any professional work. The full requirements set out in Standard 4.4 require that adequate terms of engagement include details of:
I. The contracting parties;
II. The scope of the work;
III. The fee or method of calculating it;
IV. Who will be responsible for what;
V. Any constraints of limitations on the responsibilities of the parties;
VI. The provisions for suspension or termination of the agreement;
VII. A statement that the Respondent had adequate and appropriate insurance cover as specified by the ARB;
VIII. Any complaints-handling procedure, including details of any special arrangements for resolving disputes.
23. The Respondent accepts that it was necessary for him to provide adequate written terms of engagement for the project, as required under standard 4.4 of the Architects Code. The lack of documentation confirming the full extent and scope of the Respondent’s instruction and involvement in the project led to confusion; the Complainant understood the Respondent’s role to be greater than that which the Respondent appears to have believed. Had full and clear terms of engagement been provided at the outset or when the scope of the project was clear, then the parties would have been aware of who was responsible for what and the full extent of the Respondent’s role in the project.
24. Standard 6.1 of the Code requires an architect to carry out their work with skill and care and in accordance with their terms of engagement. The Respondent agreed to deal with the CIL paperwork and the Complainant reasonably believed that this had therefore been done. However, the Respondent had not dealt with this and had not notified the Complainant of this; it was only when the Complainant contacted the Council that the issues came to light. Whilst the email of 21 November 2017 was after the Respondent’s initial email of terms in July 2017, it is clear that he was taking responsibility for this aspect of the project.
25. Standard 6.2 of the Code requires an architect to carry out their professional work without undue delay. The Respondent did not adequately communicate without delay to resolve the CIL issue, despite his instructions to do so. He had to be repeatedly chased and the Complainant had to have extensive dialogue with the Council to try and resolve matters. The Respondent’s failure to adequately deal with this caused an on-going delay to completion of the project and the requirement for a significant payment to be made to the Council. Furthermore, as there was an outstanding payment the Council would not issue a postal address. Accordingly, the Complainant’s parents could not move into the new property and this was stressful for the Complainant who attempted to shield her parents from most of these issues.
26. The Respondent accepts that he did not deal with the CIL matter appropriately as per his agreed terms of engagement. He also accepts that he missed the later deadlines set by the Council for payment of the CIL.
27. Standard 10 of the Code requires an architect to deal with a complaint and/or dispute promptly at every stage. Whilst no formal letter of complaint was sent to the Respondent, the content and tone of the Complainant’s numerous emails showed her frustrations and concerns with the issues that had arisen. The Complainant was unable to obtain a postal address until the CIL issue had been resolved and thus no one was able to live in the Property for a considerable period of time after its completion. The Respondent would delay responding to the concerns raised, and continued to delay responding to the concerns even after intervention from his regulator. A professional person would be expected to respond and adequately deal with any complaints or concerns about their practice or service and to do so in a timely manner. Although the Respondent agreed to deal with the CIL matter in November 2017, the matter took almost 10 months to resolve. The Respondent accepts that he did not deal adequately with the complaint.
The Consent Order Panel of the Professional Conduct Committee, with the consent of the parties and having taken account of its responsibilities to protect the public and maintain the reputation of the profession, makes the following disciplinary order:
28. In all of the circumstances the Respondent agrees to a penalty order in the sum of £1,000.
29. The Respondent has demonstrated some insight into his failings and regret in terms of the situation that occurred. He has taken corrective steps in terms of instructing his insurers to pay the £5,000 CIL fee and this has been paid.
30. The Respondent has a previously good disciplinary history. He has engaged in the regulatory process and has admitted the factual allegation. He has also admitted that this amounts to Unacceptable Professional Conduct.
31. The admitted allegation has the potential to diminish both the Respondent’s reputation and that of the profession generally and therefore the parties agree that the Respondent’s conduct was sufficiently serious to require the imposition of a disciplinary order. In light of the above considerations, the parties agree that a penalty order in the sum of £1,000 is an appropriate and proportionate disciplinary order to impose.