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The RIBA was right to bring the Register of Architects Accredited in Building Conservation (AABC) within the institute (AJ 11.08.05).

It would have been a major strategic error not to have done so.

The current fracas shows that the profession is firing at the wrong target. Whatever the current weakness of AABC's accreditation procedures, the real villains of the piece are English Heritage, Historic Scotland and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Each of the bodies is abusing its dominant position in breach of Section 18 of the Competitions Act 1998 - an offence for which penalties can be imposed. While it is proper to require that consultants working on listed buildings have appropriate experience, the bodies cannot lawfully specify a monopolistic method of demonstrating that experience. They should state that membership of the AABC is one method of demonstrating compliance.

Furthermore, from the client and grant applicant's point of view, there is another fundamental concern with the policy adopted by the awarding bodies. Membership of AABC is by individuals, not practices. This means that if an appointment is given to a practice on the basis of an individual's membership of the AABC, and that individual leaves the practice or dies, then the appointment must be terminated. Prudent clients make ineligibility to continue work on a project in such a circumstance a ground for immediate termination of appointment. This is in the interest of neither client nor consultant.

The RIBA should itself make a complaint under the Competition Act to the OFT. Its 'special interest group' the AABC should support such a move.

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