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Mr Milan Babic

THE ARCHITECTS REGISTRATION BOARD

PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT COMMITTEE

In the matter of

Mr Milan Babic (057523B)

———-

Emma Boothroyd (Chair)
Roger Wilson (PCC Architect Member)
Jules Griffiths (PCC Lay Member)

———–

In respect of the charges against Milan Babic (‘the Respondent’):

Milan Babic:

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 out below;
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 the Respondent in the terms set out below:

The Allegation

An allegation of Unacceptable Professional Conduct has been brought by the ARB against the Respondent. The ARB has particularised the allegation as follows:
‘In respect of a planning application submitted to Westminster City Council dated 11 January 2017, the Respondent did not ensure that the junior member of staff was adequately supervised when preparing and submitting the application’

Statement of agreed facts

1. The Respondent is a registered architect and runs his own practice Milan Babic Architects (‘the Practice’).

2. The allegation arose following planning applications which were made for proposals to develop 23-25 Mortimer Street (‘the Property’). The Property had a penthouse on its roof on the fifth floor known as Flat 10. The penthouse was owned by Mr and Mrs B (‘the Complainants’).

3. In March 2016, the Complainant submitted two applications for planning permission. The first application was for a single story extension at the rear fifth floor level in place of an existing terrace. The second application was to erect a single storey extension at the front of the property at sixth floor level with an associated terrace for use as residential accommodation in connection with the penthouse. These applications were granted on 23 May 2016 and 8 July 2016. The applications did not identify that Mortimer London Limited (‘Mortimer’) was the freehold owner of the Property.

4. Mortimer learned of the planning applications after they had been submitted in or around May 2016. NU, consultant to Mortimer, and the Respondent, appointed as agent for the freeholder, met with the Complainants to discuss ownership of the airspace and the way forward; either to negotiate a purchase price of airspace rights from Mortimer or for a joint application to be made by the Complainants and Mortimer for a self-contained flat above the Penthouse. The applications did not proceed further and no work was carried out.

5. The Respondent was subsequently instructed by Mortimer to prepare drawings for a development of the Property outside the demise of Flat 10. An application was submitted in August 2016 by the Practice. That application was subsequently withdrawn on account of design issues. The Respondent was not involved in the completion of this form but it was completed by MK, an architectural student employed at the Practice.

6. On 12 January 2017, the Council received a new application from the Respondent’s firm in respect of the Penthouse. The application included a ‘Certificate of Ownership-Certificate A’. Certificate A is completed to confirm that the applicant or their agent:

‘Certifies that on 21 days before the date of the application nobody except myself/the Applicant was the owner (owner is a person with a freehold interest or leasehold interest with at least 7 years left to run) of any part of the land to which the application relates, and that none of the land to which the application relates is, or is part of, an agricultural holding….’

7. The Respondent’s name was inserted on the declaration required for Certificate A and dated as being given on 11 January 2017.

8. The application form should not have included Certificate A as NU was not the sole owner of the land and nor was Mortimer. Furthermore, the form contained the following mistakes:

i. NU was stated as the ‘Applicant’, but he did not own the Penthouse, nor did he own the freehold owned by Mortimer;
ii. The Applicant’s address was that of the Penthouse; which was incorrect as neither NU or Mortimer’s address was the Penthouse;
iii. The address itself- which read ‘Flat 10’– was incorrect and should have read ‘airspace above Flat 10’;

9. Westminster County Council (‘the Council’) did not serve the Complainants with notice of the application and granted planning permission on 5 April 2017. Upon discovering the application had been granted, the Complainants instigated judicial review proceedings against the Council in respect of the planning permission and in doing so, relied on the mistakes within the application. The outcome of the legal proceedings was that the planning application was quashed.

10. Following the proceedings, the Respondent attended a PACE interview with the Council under Section 65 of the Town and Country Planning Act (1990) on 5 July 2018. The Respondent explained that the errors in the planning application were due to it being prepared and submitted by MK, an architectural student who was still completing his training. The Council subsequently withdrew their case and the prosecution did not proceed.

Admissions

11. The Respondent accepts that he did not provide adequate supervision to MK when he prepared and submitted the planning application. The Respondent admits that he had a professional obligation to ensure adequate supervision was in place.

12. The Respondent acknowledges there were errors in the application concerning the site address, applicant and applicant address. He has offered his apologies for these mistakes and explained he had overestimated MK’s capability and/or understanding of the application form. He accepts that he did not have sight of the form before it was submitted and that he should have checked it.

Statement as to unacceptable professional conduct

13. In light of the admission above, the Respondent further admits that this matter amounts to Unacceptable Professional Conduct.

14. Standard 2.1 of the Architects Code 2017 states that if an Architect engages others to carry out professional work, they should be adequately supervised.

15. A failure to provide adequate supervision is serious because, as in this case, it resulted in the Council granting planning permission based on incorrect information. The errors in the form itself were basic and would be readily identifiable had the Respondent reviewed the form himself. There is a clear onus on the Respondent to check that planning applications which are completed by junior members of staff are accurate; particularly when they are being sent out in his name. Moreover, the errors in the Application were a contributing factor to the commencement of the Judicial Review proceedings against the Council.

Disciplinary Order

16. 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:

17. In all of the circumstances, the Respondent agrees to a penalty order of a reprimand.

18. The Respondent has engaged in the regulatory process and has admitted the factual allegation. He has also admitted that this amounts to Unacceptable Professional Conduct.

19. The admitted allegation has the potential to diminish both the Respondent’s reputation and that of the profession generally. Therefore, the parties agree that the Respondent’s conduct is sufficiently serious to require the imposition of a disciplinary order. In light of the low risk of repetition, the parties agree that a reprimand is an appropriate and proportionate disciplinary order to impose.