In November 2020, the Government launched a consultation on plans to amend the Architects Act 1997 (AA 1997) to allow the Architects Registration Board (ARB) to regularly examine architects and remove practitioners that do not meet required standards.
This follows the Grenfell Tower tragedy and Dame Judith Hackitt’s review of building safety. In her final report, she proposed :
“Government and the Architects Registration Board, working with partners, should consider current and future competence levels of those architects on the Register of Architects, and those joining the Register, in relation to the fire safety design issues specifically relating to those architects involved in designing HRRBs [higher-risk residential buildings].”
In its Executive Summary on the Consultation, the Government commented :
“The Grenfell Tower fire was a national tragedy that resulted in the greatest loss of life in a residential fire since the Second World War. Following the tragedy, the government commissioned the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, led by Dame Judith Hackitt. The Independent Review found that the system for ensuring fire and structural safety for high-rise residential buildings is not fit for purpose.
The government is determined to learn the lessons from the Grenfell Tower fire and make sure that people are safe, and feel safe, in the buildings they inhabit. It accepted all the Independent Review’s findings and recommendations and is bringing forward fundamental reforms of the entire regulatory system through the draft Building Safety Bill, which includes proposed changes to the Architects Act 1997.”
The Government also states that the timing of the consultation is also in line with the UK formally leaving the European Union, which provides an opportunity to “review and amend its regulatory systems in relation to the recognition of international qualifications for the purposes of registration as an architect.”
Architects who do not meet the requirements will be entitled to an extension (the period of which will be decided by the ARB) to pass the test; however, they may be removed from the registry if they fail a second time. It is proposed that the information available on the register would be updated to include the listings of disciplinary actions against a particular architect.
Can decisions be appealed?
The Government is also examining using existing powers under the AA 1997 to create an appeals process for practitioners who are dissatisfied with a decision of the ARB or its committees relating to competency. This is likely to be through the creation of an independent committee within the ARB, made up of independent panel members.
Alan Jones, president of the RIBA commented on the consultation :
“This milestone consultation outlines significant changes that seek to enhance the competence of UK architects and create a unified process for the recognition of architects’ qualifications internationally. It’s therefore vital that our whole profession responds, from architects within mainstream practice, to those within client bodies, contractors, future architects and their educators.
“There’s no doubt that the requirements of our profession need to reflect the challenges facing our industry and society, from climate change to building safety, as the RIBA’s own new education and professional development framework – The Way Ahead – makes clear.”
If you are considering appealing an ARB decision, it is crucial to obtain expert legal advice at the earliest opportunity. A solicitor for architects will ensure that your appeal is lodged on time and a robust case is put forward in your favour.
In addition to considering ongoing testing for professional competence, the Consultation Paper is also examining an approach to the acknowledgement of professional qualifications from other countries through a system independent from EU law. Currently, the ARB is the competent authority for architects under the EU’s Mutual Recognition of Professional Qualifications Directive 2005 (2005/36/EC). Brexit is seen as an opportunity to adopt a unified approach for the recognition of architect qualifications from both EU and other countries.
As with every profession, the next year or so will be one of significant change, challenge, and opportunities for architects. We will continue to keep you up-to-date with ongoing developments.
Having been instructed by the ARB for approximately 20 years in relation to prosecutions, we are now available to provide advice and assistance to Architects facing disciplinary and regulatory investigation and hearings before the Professional Conduct Committee. Please call us on 0151 909 2380 or complete our Free Online Enquiry.