Mr Nicholas Harding Helm
THE ARCHITECTS REGISTRATION BOARD
PROFESSIONAL CONDUCT COMMITTEE
In the matter of
Nicholas Harding Helm (047798B)
Andrew Webster KC (Chair)
David Kann (PCC Architect Member)
Jules Griffiths (PCC Lay Member)
In respect of the charges against Nicholas Helm (“the Registered Person”):
The Registered Person:
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; and
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 has foregone his right 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 Registered Person in the terms set out below.
An allegation of Unacceptable Professional Conduct (“UPC”) has been brought by the ARB against the Registered Person. The ARB has particularised the allegation as follows:
(1) The Registered Person did not provide adequate terms of engagement contrary to Standard 4.4 of the Architects Code.
Statement of agreed facts
- The Registered Person is a registered architect and the Principal Managing Partner at Helm Architecture.
- The Referrer has two key sites which it inhabits but it does not necessarily own. There is the Church itself which includes the churchyard and a school building. Approximately 300 metres away from the Church there is land where the Vicarage is located, a large room used as a church hall and several offices.
- In around March 2019, there were discussions about plans to develop the Church, involving two Churchwardens and the Treasurer. These discussions were a brainstorming exercise with a view to presenting the incoming vicar with some ideas. There was a ‘Fabric Committee’ which assisted with advising the Church, made up of members of the parish council and professionals, all of whom were volunteers. The Registered Person was one of the members of the Fabric Committee.
- It was agreed at a Fabric Committee meeting on 26 March 2019 to establish an informal working group that would think about how the Church could be developed. The Churchwardens and the Treasurer and were all part of the working group. This instruction was for a strategic planning and design exercise to consider if the planning conditions previously set could be met, and what replacement designs and the development design for the top site would look like as a first serious iteration.
- There was an understanding that the initial work to be undertaken by the Registered Person would be at no initial cost / outlay with the caveat that should the work be adopted formally in part or in whole (even in principle) then the Registered Person would release their work on the basis of payment for office time spent on the design strategy. The Registered Person did not provide formal terms of engagement at the outset.
- The Registered Person started work in 2019.
- By March 2020, all design and strategic work had stopped due to Lockdown 1. A report was prepared by the Registered Person during Lockdown 1 and completed in early 2021.
- The Referrer, the Treasurer and the Registered Person met informally in early July 2021 at the behest of the Treasurer to discuss the way forward.
- The Registered Person emailed the Referrer on 16 July 2021 and referred to an attached PDF of “conditions under which HA” was engaged “to report and present a master-plan for [the Church]” , which the Registered Person states were first confirmed on 29 March 2019 and again on 19 July 2019.
- The emails of 29 March and 19 July 2019 are what the Registered Person refers to as the “conditions” under which Helm Architecture had been engaged. These emails do not detail the proposed cost of the work that the Registered Person had already done or intended to do. The Registered Person states that there were verbal updates and that a fee calculation of £72,000 was provided on 18 July 2019. The Registered Person also states that he had continued to keep the Treasurer updated verbally and in writing on the approximate quantum of cost.
- Between November and January 2022, there was further correspondence between the Registered Person and the Referrer.
- In March 2022, the Registered Person engaged a friend, [Redacted], to send a letter to the Vicar, [Redacted] seeking payment of £126,042 for the work undertaken by his company in respect of the Church.
- The Church engaged lawyers in June 2022 and there was further correspondence between both parties in July and August 2022. The dispute over fees for the work undertaken by the Registered Person has not been settled.
- The Referrer submitted a formal complaint to the ARB on 15 July 2022.
- The Registered Person accepts that he did not provide adequate written terms of engagement contrary to Standard 4.4 of the Architects Code (2017).
- The Registered Person accepts that the preliminary arrangements for the project were inadequate and that he is at fault for not setting up matters in the required structured way. He recognises that he had a professional obligation to provide his client with full and adequate terms of engagement that complied with the requirements of Standard 4.4 of the Architects Code: Standards of Professional Conduct and Practice (2017) (“the Code”). The Registered Person accepts that he omitted to provide terms of engagement that were specific to the work he had been engaged to do.
- The Registered Person accepts that the information set out in Standard 4.4 of the Code ought to have been provided to the Church at the outset in writing in accordance with the requirements of Standard 4.4 of the Code.
Statement as to Unacceptable Professional Conduct
- In light of the admissions above, the Registered Person admits that his conduct amounts to UPC.
- In respect of Standard 4.4, setting out compliant terms of engagement in writing is essential for both the architect and the client to understand their respective rights, responsibilities and obligations. The terms of the Code are clear and the Registered Person has a duty, as a registered architect, to be aware of and adhere to the Code.
- The Registered Person 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 Code. A failure to provide adequate terms is serious because, as in this case, it can lead to the potential for misunderstanding and confusion about important matters such as fees. The Registered Person accepts that without adequate written terms of engagement, it can be difficult to resolve matters without clarity as to the important matters set out in the Code.
- 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:
- In all of the circumstances, the Registered Person agrees to a disciplinary order of a reprimand.
- The Registered Person has no previous disciplinary history. He has engaged in the regulatory process and has admitted the factual allegation. He has also admitted that this amounts to UPC.
- The admitted allegation has the potential to diminish both the Registered Person’s reputation and that of the profession generally and therefore the parties agree that the Registered Person’s conduct is sufficiently serious to require the imposition of a disciplinary order. In light of the admissions and low risk of repetition, the parties agree that a reprimand is an appropriate and proportionate disciplinary order to impose.