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Architect vows to fight ruling after ARB misconduct wrap

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Geoffrey Tournoff, a sole practitioner from Farnham, Surrey, has been fined £800 by the Architects Registration Board (ARB) for lying to a client and failing to work to a written contract.

The ARB's professional conduct committee last week heard that Tournoff had told a domestic client that he had lodged a planning appeal three months before he actually did. It found him guilty of unacceptable professional conduct.

Tournoff, 59, was appointed by Liz Mowatt to draw up designs for a house extension near Farnham and take it as far as planning application. After this was rejected, he agreed to pursue an appeal on her behalf and this was when he began to lie.

'I said appeals were not my forte and she should appoint a planning consultant.But she sweetly asked me to do it and I succumbed. The pressure of work and circumstances overtook me and when confronted by her, I told a lie and was found out, 'Tournoff said.He admitted lying but denied failing to manage his professional work responsibly by not using a written contract on either the planning permission, for which he was to be paid £450, or the appeal, on which no fee was agreed.

But immediately after the hearing Tournoff lashed out at the committee and pledged to fight the ruling. He also called on the RIBA to take the ARB to task over its heavy-handed treatment of architects. 'Their case of me not having a formal contract is absolute rubbish and it is not in the law. It is nothing to do with the ARB the way I conduct my business, ' he said.

The local authority rejected Tournoff 's initial planning application in November 1998 and he then agreed to oversee an appeal. He told his client it had been lodged in December and that a decision was expected by early March 1999. When this time passed with no decision Mowatt contacted the local authority, only to find that no appeal had been made. She confronted the architect and following this, on 12 March, she found a package containing a copy of the appeal documents on her doorstep with a note from Tournoff saying the appeal had now been lodged. It was subsequently successful.

'The most serious aspect to this matter is the way Tournoff misled the client, ' said Peter Verdin, chairman of the disciplinary committee. 'He told the client a lie in December 1998, repeated it in January 1999 and then compounded this. We regard this as a serious matter.

Architects must not mislead their clients.' He added that Tournoff failed to follow ARB guidelines by failing to define the terms of engagement in writing and that the punishment covered both this and lying.

Tournoff has now ceased paying his ARB registration fee and is calling himself a designer.

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