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ARB must once again be open for free debate


Those operating the ARB have developed for it a reputation as a zealous bureaucracy. To me it seems pedantic about processes, a stickler for rules (as many as possible), an adamantine guardian of the confidentiality of its own business - to the extent, it appears, of sternly requiring sealed lips from democratically elected members, even in relation to their electorate.

An outfit that might cause one to regard Trappist monks as too laid-back and talkative. How revealing, therefore, is the ARB's reaction to a legal opinion (an opinion only, by the way, not a judgement - anyone can have one, you pay a fee, ask your own chosen questions and your counsel will offer an opinion, or several) that might, initially, seem favourable to its approach to its work hitherto.

All its attributes now seem to count for little: it is like watching a retiring country uncle who has consumed an unusual substance in Soho. Abandoned is the special meeting to consider the opinion as a whole board without which the issues should not be discussed with outsiders;

dropped is the cloak of confidentiality: hasty, triumphalist press briefings are the order of the day. How principled - how convenient!

However, legal skirmishes are not the most important issues in play. It is now six years since the passing of the Act, high time for a review of its functioning. The RIBA Council lobbied for the continuance of registration after a government review recommended abolition.

Did the council achieve what it expected or was promised?

Was its decision soundly based?

What benefits has the registration machinery brought and to whom? Is there value for money (architects' registration fees, not public money)? Are there changes that could be made?

These are some of the questions that could be debated, openly: let the profession survey the wood rather than the trees.

Peter Gibbs-Kennet, Bisley, Gloucestershire

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