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Consequences of restriction of title

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Now that the ARB has won its case against Baden Hellard in the High Court, so that he has been penalised for using the suffix FRIBA while not a registered architect, nor offering architectural services, we can attempt to estimate the long-term consequences for the RIBA.

The RIBA has been urging architects, in line with the strategic study, to diversify into other fields than the mainstream. Those who have branched out will now be unable to maintain their membership of the institute.

Graduates from any of the 58 overseas schools recognised by the RIBA cannot register, as there is no equivalent of Part III in other countries. They will be deterred from joining the institute as they will risk prosecution on entering the UK. So kiss goodbye to the global institute, which has recently been adopted with enthusiasm by Frank Duffy, main author of the strategic study and architect member on the ARB.

If being on the register is to carry with it the requirement to carry a minimum of £100,000 of PII, irrespective of the level of work, many small practitioners, who make up a substantial proportion of the RIBA membership, may decide they would be better off offering 'architectural services'. The ARB, it seems, is even intent on preventing a declaration of an academic award.

Even honorary fellows of the institute may find they have acquired a liability about which they had better not gossip in public.

How come that with so many vital interests to defend, our punctilious and energetic director-general did not get the date of the hearing into his diary in sufficient time to ensure he was heard, and that despite the case having been discussed under two separate items at Council on 21 January?

It would be interesting to have a poll of institute members now, on the question 'Have we paid too high a price for protection of title, in terms of the autonomy of the profession?'

The ARB working group advising the board on appropriate criteria for validation of education courses, has a 50/50 lay and architect membership. What other profession would submit to such an absurdity?

There are two possible ways to unscramble this mess. One is for the RIBA to take the case to the House of Lords, which will be costly. The other is to petition the EC to rewrite the European Directive covering architects, to prescribe the ARB's p ow e r s narrowly and precisely to those which genuinely represent a protection of the public interest.

KATE MACINTOSH Winchester, Hants

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