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'Disgraceful' insurance demands trigger anger

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Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) are demanding 'anti-competitive' levels of Professional Indemnity Insurance (PII) from architects, a move that will see them reported to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT).

Leading members of the profession have warned that the demands - which require more than £10 million cover - are discriminating against 95 per cent of practices.

ARB board member and RIBA councillor Yasmin Shariff, also a member of the East of England Development Agency's (EEDA) board, said she was 'horrified' at the mandatory level.

'This is a disgrace, ' she told the AJ. 'It means that a vast proportion of architects will be unable to do work for these agencies. It is a completely unbendable rule that is extremely unfair to small practices.

'I have warned them that I am going to take this to the OFT imminently unless they change it. I am determined on this one, ' she added. Shariff also said that she believes many of Britain's RDAs have the same PII rules.

The EEDA last year sparked widespread interest from the architectural community with its Landmark East competition, which was won by seven offices from around Europe. However, many would not have the required PII to carry out the work.

The RIBA's director of practice, Richard Brindley, is in agreement with Shariff. 'PII levels required for public-sector projects by government agencies are often set at unreasonably high levels, without due consideration to the real level of risk that the project is going to be exposed to by the actions of the architects, ' he said.

'It is thought that this will give added protection to the client, but all it does is add unnecessary costs that the client will eventually have to pay and reduces the number of architectural practices available for the client to select, ' Brindley added.

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