At a hearing of ARB’s Professional Conduct Committee (PCC), which concluded on 17 January 2019, Mr Peter Bell of Peter Bell & Partners, London, was reprimanded following a finding of unacceptable professional conduct (UPC).
The PCC heard that Mr Bell was engaged in connection with the refurbishment of a Victorian property within a conservation area. It was alleged that Mr Bell had provided his client with incorrect and/or inadequate advice regarding planning and the removal of asbestos at the property. It was also alleged that he did not enter into a written agreement with the client which adequately covered the expectations of standard 4.4 of the Architects Code. Mr Bell denied all of the allegations.
Having considered the evidence, the PCC found that while the advice given by the architect in relation to the planning application and the removal of asbestos was inadequate, the failings were not so serious as to amount to UPC. It noted that Mr Bell accepted some failures and that he had learned from the experience.
In considering the allegation regarding terms of engagement, the PCC noted that while Mr Bell had provided his client with a number of documents before starting work, they did not meet the requirements of the Architects Code and were misleading in that they included out of date information concerning fee scales. Given the importance of providing accurate and comprehensive terms, it represented a standard of conduct which fell short of that expected of an architect, and amounted to UPC.
In considering sanction the PCC noted a number of mitigating factors including Mr Bell’s good disciplinary history, his engagement, insight and the remedial steps he had taken, although noting that it had taken until the hearing for him to recognise the deficiencies in his terms of engagement. The PCC agreed that a reprimand was the appropriate sanction.
A copy of the decision can be found here.
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 qualifications needed to become an architect
- 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
ARB has a Board of 11 members all appointed by the Privy Council. This includes one independent, 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 Committee determines whether an architect is guilty of unacceptable professional conduct or serious professional incompetence. Where a guilty finding is made, the Committee 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
Under ARB’s rules, where an architect admits all of the allegations and the sanction proposed by ARB, they can opt to have the case considered on the papers by the PCC, rather than at a hearing. The final decision on both guilt and sanction will always rest with the PCC, which is not bound by the proposals.
Money raised by fines imposed by the Professional Conduct Committee is paid to HM Treasury.
Where an architect admits unacceptable professional conduct or serious professional incompetence and the proposed disciplinary sanction, the PCC can impose that penalty by consent, and without the need for a hearing.
For further information, please contact Kate Howlett, Communications Lead on 020 7580 5861 or by email at Kateh@arb.org.uk.