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Architect pleads guilty to illegal listed-building work

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A Warwickshire architect has been fined £4,000 and ordered to pay £10,000 in costs after being convicted over unauthorised alterations to a grade II-listed farmhouse

Neil Shepherd, of Grafton Lane, Binton, pleaded guilty to two charges under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act relating to renovation work at Lower Farm, at Admington, near Atherstone-on-Stour.

Shepherd’s court appearance comes less than two years after he was castigated by the Architects Registration Board (ARB) for failing to provide written terms of engagement to a client (see below).

Warwick Crown Court heard that the architect had overseen a litany of unauthorised work carried out at the four-bedroom home, described in its listing as ‘a good example of an 18th Century farmhouse that had substantially retained its original form, layout and fabric’.

The rogue alterations included the installation of  timber studding, insulation material and plasterboard to internal walls without listed building consent, and the replacement of structural roof timbers – particularly two structural roof purlins of inappropriate timber and size - again without the necessary consents.

Recorder Marcus Tregilgas-Davey told Shepherd he had been instructed by the owner of the property to ensure that the necessary requirements for renovating the building were observed and had failed in that task.

‘You allowed plasterboard and timbers to be reinstated that were inappropriate and did so without proper authority,’ he said.

‘While I acknowledge you were not responsible for the removal of the plaster or roof timbers, you were responsible for the instatement of unsuitable materials and the effect was not insignificant.

‘The effect was not insignificant’

‘The works were serious, unacceptable and caused significant harm which cannot be rectified. You clearly should have known better and you knew that permission was required.’

Shepherd was warned he faced a three-month jail term if his fines and costs were not paid within six months.

The case was brought by Stratford-on-Avon District Council.

Previous story (AJ 11.07.2013)

Architect handed reprimand for contract blunder

Architect Neil Shepherd from Stratford-upon-Avon has been issued a reprimand by ARB for failing to provide terms of engagement to his client

The architect was alleged to have failed to provide adequate written terms of contract, failed to provide designs in accordance with the brief, and made errors in calculating the footprint of the house and in the measurements for the roof.

Shepherd accepted he should have provided written terms of engagement and that his designs should have been more accurate.

ARB’s Professional Conduct Committee agreed the omission amounted to unacceptable professional conduct because it fell short of the standard expected of an architect.

The architect received the reprimand at a meeting of the ARB’s PCC in London on 3 July 2013.

PCC chair Alexandra Marks said: ‘The fact is that the requirements of all professions to set out the scope of the retainer, the basis of charging, and the method of dispute resolution have become much more rigid over the years.

‘This is something every architect needs to embrace, for failure to do so is likely to lead to a situation such as this.’

While Shepherd’s failure to prepare designs in accordance with the initial brief was not deemed serious enough for a disciplinary finding, the committee ruled that errors concerning the house’s footprint and roof amounted to serious professional incompetence.

The committee noted that there was no question of impropriety in any form and decided to issue a reprimand after considering Shepherd’s sincere regret and unblemished career of 40 years.

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