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Christie's Japan expertgives architect the chop

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An antiques expert ended up substantially out of pocket after an architect failed to obtain proper planning permission for work at his home and built a kitchen to the wrong specifications, the Architects Registration Board professional standards committee was told last week.

Mark Hinton from Fulham in West London, director of the Japanese department at auctioneer Christie's, maintained that architect Charles Graham from Hammersmith was guilty of unprofessional conduct and incompetence and was not properly insured when he undertook the work. In the end, Hinton had to employ a second architect to redraw the plans and another builder to complete the work on his home.

Under questioning from his solicitor John Williams, Hinton told how he moved into the house in 1992, even though it was in a derelict state. There were immediate doubts about Graham's extension when a concrete raft built to support it was found to be of the wrong measurements. Shortly afterwards, a building inspector from Hammersmith & Fulham council found that the damp-proof membrane had been improperly installed and ordered that all existing work should be demolished and the project started again. When the new architect came in, he found it was impossible to work to the original measurements.

Hinton said he and his wife were both out working during the day and therefore unable to keep a close eye on the work in progress. For the same reason they needed adequate insurers as they were having to hand over keys. Graham said he had such a policy but this was later discovered not to be the case.

In addition it had been a stipulation of their contract that he should be a member of the riba, but it was later revealed that his membership had lapsed despite the fact that he continued to use the initials on his office notepaper.

In his defence Graham said that at the start of his agreement with Hinton the plan was to build a conservatory at the rear of the house and not a kitchen as such. But, he added , 'It is very common for people to have other thoughts as the project goes on.'

Under questioning from his solicitor David Duke-Coham, he said that he had agreed planning consent with Hammersmith and Fulham council at two meetings with officers. The consent was for a conservatory and it was only later, during the building work, that it had become clear the ultimate use of the conservatory would be as a kitchen.

On the question of the damp-proofing, Graham disputed the council's inspector when he demanded that a polythene sheet which had been punctured would have to be relaid. Graham claimed that normal practice would have been to lay another sheet on top of it and that this would have been a great deal cheaper.

Allegations about the different dimensions of the extension arose because neighbours had objected to the removal of a boundary fence to let the builders get on with their work. Hinton had claimed that the neighbours had been consulted and that there was no objection but Graham maintained they were concerned about losing plants which grew up the fence. With workers unable to complete the brickwork on that side of the extension, the original plans had to be changed to make it narrower. Costs went up over design differences and further extras.

So far as membership of the riba was concerned, Graham admitted that he had 'made a mistake'. He had not renewed his subscription because he had come to the conclusion that it was no longer fulfilling his particular professional needs.

He added that since the troubles over this project, he had undertaken further work and was to receive an award from English Heritage.

The hearing was adjourned until 11 February 11 to hear summing-up speeches from both sides before the disciplinary body delivers its verdict.

Because the complaint was made before the arb came into being, it can neither penalise nor reprimand Graham. The 'transitional provision' allows it to suspend him or erase him from the register if it so chooses, however.

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