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Serious concerns about architects are rare. On the limited occasions they do occur, as the UK regulator we are here to ensure standards, and therefore trust, in the profession is maintained. We hope the information published about conduct and competence decisions provides useful learning points for others.

A hearing of ARB’s Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) held on 12 and 13 May 2020 concluded with a £1,500 fine issued to architect Alan James Sheerin of Haddington, East Lothian, following a finding of serious professional incompetence (SPI). The hearing was carried out by video link, with the consent of all parties.

Mr Sheerin had been instructed by the owner of a plot of land to prepare drawings for a house so it could be sold with planning consent. After the planning permission was obtained, the property was sold to the client with a view to build the house designed by Mr Sheerin. The client complained to ARB in December 2018 after the builder measured the site and found it was not possible to build the house within the space available on the plot.

It was alleged that Mr Sheerin had produced a design for a house with incorrect measurements for the size of the plot and to the wrong scale, contrary to Standards 2.1 and 6.1 of the Architects Code.

Mr Sheerin did not attend the hearing though his solicitors had confirmed he had no objection to the Committee proceeding in his absence. In his written submissions, Mr Sheerin accepted he made an error in transposing the plan and that this constitutes SPI.

The PCC found the allegation proven and concluded it was the process Mr Sheerin followed that produced the flawed planning application he used. It highlighted that Mr Sheerin was aware the plot would be purchased with the intention to build the house he had designed. It was therefore his responsibility to ensure the design was feasible.

When considering sanction, the PCC noted Mr Sheerin had no previous adverse regulatory findings. The PCC also took into account his expressions of regret within his submissions, and that there is a minimal risk of repetition as Mr Sheerin is now retired. The PCC concluded a penalty order of £1,500 would be the appropriate sanction given the seriousness of his failings and the harm caused to his clients, who were unable to build the home they were hoping for.

A copy of the decision can be found here.

—ENDS—

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Notes for Editors

• The Architects Registration Board (ARB) is the statutory body established by Parliament under the Architects Act 1997 to regulate the UK architects’ profession in the public interest.

Among other duties, the Act requires ARB to:
– Maintain the Architects Register
– Prescribe the UK qualifications needed to become an architect in the UK
– Issue a code laying down the standards of professional conduct and practice expected of architects
– Investigate allegations of unacceptable professional conduct or serious professional incompetence
– Investigate and where appropriate prosecute unregistered individuals who unlawfully call themselves an architect
– Act as the UK’s Competent Authority for architects

• ARB has a Board of 11 members all appointed by the Privy Council. This includes one lay, non-executive Chair and ten non-executive Board members made up of five members of the public and five architects.

• The PCC is established under Schedule 1, Part II of the Architects Act and is required to consider any report referred to it. The PCC determines whether an architect is guilty of unacceptable professional conduct or serious professional incompetence.

Where a guilty finding is made, the PCC will consider whether to make a disciplinary order, which means:
– a reprimand
– a penalty order
– a suspension order (to a maximum of 2 years); or
– an erasure order

• Money raised by fines imposed by the Professional Conduct Committee is paid to HM Treasury.

For further information please contact Kate Howlett (ARB Communications Manager) by email at KateH@arb.or.uk or 020 7580 5861.

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