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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.

Mr James Craigie Tannahill Thomson of Thomson Hunter Architects Ltd, Kilmarnock, has been found guilty of unacceptable professional conduct (UPC) following a hearing of ARB’s Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) on 17-21 August 2020 and 24 September 2020.

ARB alleged that Mr Thomson had produced interim and final Professional Consultant Certificates for a property when the flats within the building did not comply with Building Regulations relating to fire safety, and was not constructed in conformity with the drawings approved by Building Control.

The PCC heard that Mr Thomson had been engaged to inspect the construction of a block of residential flats in Troon, Ayrshire, and subsequently issued Professional Consultant Certificates to confirm that they had been built in general conformity with Building Regulations and approved drawings.

Purchasers of the properties relied upon those Certificates, but on occupation it became clear that there was inadequate acoustic insulation. A subsequent inspection of the property established that the walls and ceilings did not have the required layers to provide sound insulation and fire protection. In addition, fire doors were missing the required closers and seals that would slow the spread of fire and smoke.

Mr Thomson was legally represented but neither he nor his representative chose to attend the hearing. Mr Thomson however denied the allegations, stating that he was awaiting the results of an acoustic report which would have identified the issues, and that he had trusted the word of the contractor who had misled him that the building had been constructed with the proper protections and construction material in place.

The PCC did not accept this explanation, and found Mr Thomson guilty of unacceptable professional conduct. It was not appropriate for an architect to rely on the word of a contractor on such a matter without challenge, and as a result of his inadequate inspection regime had compromised the safety and wellbeing of those who live in the flats.

When considering sanction, the PCC took into account the very serious effect Mr Thomson’s failings had had on the residents, who were now living in unsafe, noisy properties they are unable to sell. The cost of remedial work will be significant. Mr Thomson had a number of opportunities to easily identify the problems but had persistently failed to do so, and had shown no evidence of remorse or insight afterwards.

In such circumstances the PCC concluded that only erasure from the Register would protect the public and uphold the reputation of the profession.

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.

• ARB has an Information Pack detailing its key messaging intended for use by the press and other stakeholders.

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

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