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New legislation leads to concern over ARB's future

The RIBA is understood to be studying new consumer protection bills as alternative regulation mechanisms to the Architects Registration Board (ARB).

Both the proposed Legal Services Bill and the Consumers, Estate Agents and Redress Bill - unveiled in the Queen's speech on 15 November 2006 - will make it easier for consumers to challenge rogue professionals and will also see the merger of Energywatch, Postwatch and the National Consumer Council (NCC).

It is thought that the RIBA could potentially use the legislation to establish a new system of statutory regulation for architects, and in doing so render the ARB redundant.

However, the RIBA has emphatically denied that it is actively seeking ways to abolish the ARB for good.

Head of public affairs at the RIBA, Stephen Harding, insisted the bills were 'major' new legislation and that the RIBA was simply 'keeping an eye on them as any decent organisation would do'. 'This is being done within the context of the ARB,' he added.

Asked whether the RIBA was seeking ways of abolishing the ARB, Harding said: 'I would not go as far as saying that.'

The move comes days after an ARB election resulted in the neither the chair nor the vice-chair being an architect - a situation which has not occurred for some years ( ARB election leaves two non-architects leading the board ).

That outcome is thought to have infuriated anti-ARB campaigners who argue that the board is becoming increasingly out of touch with the profession.

by Clive Walker

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