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ARB committee suspends architect in landmark case

The ARB found Welsh architect Llywd Edwards guilty of serious professional incompetence and unacceptable professional conduct at a Professional Conduct Committee last week. The case marks the first finding of serious professional incompetence by the ARB and means Edwards is suspended from practice for six months.

The two counts of serious professional incompetence were related to Edwards' failure to provide correct advice to his client, and his responsibility for serious technical errors. The counts of unacceptable professional conduct were due to his failure to respond to complaints from his client and approaches from the ARB.

Richard Coleman, ARB's head of regulation, said the verdict should warn architects of the perils of ignoring client correspondence. And he added: 'This case represents the first substantive finding of serious professional incompetence by the PCC. It will greatly assist the ARB's efforts to clarify to the profession and others - the meaning and extent of this disciplinary offence.'

The complaint was made by client William Ward, who engaged Edwards in January 2000 to carry out a barn conversion on his property in Gwent. The technical issues raised by the ARB's solicitor, Peter Cadman, were that Edwards failed to notice that the barn did not have a water supply or an adequate electricity supply. A window was also incorrectly positioned and the material used to waterproof a basement bedroom was not of adequate quality.

Ward also claimed that the extent to which the bedroom was below ground level was not clearly explained to him at the outset of the job. 'It was dark and dingy, like a prison cell - I couldn't let guests stay in such a room, ' said Ward. He also told the hearing that the room repeatedly flooded during construction due to the poor waterproofing.

Edwards said: 'I liked Mr Ward and I put some of my best work into that project. I was proud of some of the design elements and materials. But when it all started to go wrong, I was shattered. I was shocked when the water appeared.'

But he said that he did not intend to appeal against the decision: 'I've already changed my letterheads to 'architectural services'. It will affect my business, but I don't really have much time to dwell on this - I've just got to get on with the work I do have and hope the six months pass quickly.'

Vice chairman of ARB Owen Luder told the AJ: 'A number of issues mounted up in the case - the technical errors, failure to resolve problems, a lack of cost control - which formed a pattern of serious professional incompetence. It is simple - if errors do occur then they must be dealt with. And simply walking away is not an option.'

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