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ARB set to quiz profession in bid to get its priorities right

The Architects Registration Board is to run the gauntlet of the profession's opinion of its work by surveying 7,000 architects on what its priorities should be.

The plan, unveiled this week, is an attempt to find out if the strong criticisms which have plagued the regulator reflect the views of the profession and consumers at large.

'It is as though we are in a ball of cotton wool at the moment - we know there are things we should be doing but we are not sure exactly what they are, ' said ARB chief executive Robin Vaughan. 'This will give us a sense of what people think of our order of priorities. If we decide people have negative views of us, we need to address them.'

The ARB was formed in 1997 but has relied on anecdotal feedback about its performance and this is the first time market research has been carried out. One 'trenchant critic', RIBA presidential candidate Paul Hyett, said it was 'regrettable' that the ARB should find itself needing to carry out this research: 'A regulatory board shouldn't need a market research company but the early years of the ARB have been extremely controversial and they have got off to a rocky start.'

But Hyett tempered his comments with praise for Vaughan, whose arrival a year ago 'has brought a breath of fresh air to the organisation', and helped clearly distinguish between the operations of the ARB and the RIBA.

Vaughan also singled out the press as overly critical of the ARB and said that the media will be canvassed for its opinions of the regulator. 'I think we currently are in a climate where we just get kicked, ' he said.

The research will be carried out by market research firm Perry Nicholls, and will canvass opinion on all of the regulator's functions.Vaughan said he expects the ARB's disciplinary process, registration fees and the validation of schools to be the hottest issues. The findings, likely to be unveiled in May, will go into the development of a five-year strategy for the regulator.

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