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Architect fined £3,000 for ‘incompetence’

Oxfordshire architect Frances Morrow has been fined £3,000 after being found guilty of unacceptable professional conduct and serious professional incompetence

Morrow, of Banbury, appeared before the Architects Registration Board’s Professional Conduct Committee in relation to a residential development in Moreton-in-Marsh, Gloucestershire.

It was alleged Morrow failed to carry out her work with due skill, care and diligence when she signed a professional consultant’s certificate, as she failed to check that the installed sewage treatment unit at the development was the model she had specified.

It later emerged that an alternative model had been installed, which was unable to meet the demands of the development, causing distress to residents.

Morrow was also accused of failing to check that the clean water drainage drained to ‘soakaways’ as per her specification.

It was also alleged that she failed to ensure that a number of roof lights conformed with relevant fire safety or building control regulations. The roof lights did not provide adequate ventilation and did not allow for adequate escape in the event of a fire, it was claimed.

Morrow admitted the facts relating to the first two allegations but denied they amounted to unacceptable professional conduct or serious professional incompetence. She denied the allegation relating to the roof lights.

The committee found Morrow had failed to exercise her own professional judgment and skill and instead relied on verbal assurances.

After taking into account the mitigating factors that Morrow had displayed insight after the event and that she had a previous good record, the committee concluded that a penalty of £3,000 was appropriate.

Readers' comments (3)

  • The contractor has installed materials not in accordance with the contract and it's the Architect's fault? How could she have checked if the kit was already buried?
    Shows the value of having a good clerk of works - bet the client wouldn't pay!

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  • Kevan Shaw

    I agree that this is not what ARB should be doing. No doubt there are Professional Indemnity claims against Ms Morow the result of which are likely to cost her much more in hiked up premiums than the £3000 fine. The fault is almost certainly the contractors and I would not be surprised to see that they get off this whole business scot free! There needs to be a change in the way things work and contractors should be fully and completely liable for this kind of failure in a project, not the architects or other member of the design team where their advice has been ignored and their specifications not met completely.

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  • John Kellett

    Having read the ARB's report it appears that in the case of an 'architect's certificate' the profession's duties have become untenable. Even a 24/7 presence on site could not prevent the Contractor 'pulling a fast one'. It would be interesting to know whether the contractor, who was clearly in the wrong for cheating, suffered any penalty.
    Let's hope the legal profession do not transfer this onerous duty to the normal JCT inspections etc.
    If I believed in conspiracy theories I would say that this ruling is designed to keep architects off site and further erode our role in construction.
    The ARB must provide the profession with further explanation and perhaps guidance, although that may be beyond it's remit. It was supposed to be just a registration body! We have a perfectly capable professional body for dealing with professional conduct in the RIBA, have they been asked to consider the case? How, and why, did the ARB expand it's function to that of 'OffArch'?

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