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'Disastrous' EU directive kills off hopes for protection of function

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British architects campaigning for the introduction of protection of architectural function have seen their hopes quashed by a new European Union ruling.

Eurocrats have signed off a new directive that outlaws the establishment of such a system, which would allow only architects to design buildings.

Campaigners on both the ARB board and the RIBA council have long-believed that the introduction of protection of function would solve the problem of low pay throughout the profession.

They have also pointed to Spain - where only qualified architects can lodge planning permissions - as an example of a country where 'the general quality of buildings is very high'.

The directive will force the Spanish government to dismantle its current system, allowing other construction professionals - including surveyors and engineers - to design buildings.

Hexham-based George Oldham, a councillor and campaigner for protection of function, said news of the EU's directive was 'terrible'.

He told the AJ: 'This is not dissimilar to when the government forced us to get rid of fee scales. It means we will never solve the low-pay problems.

'It should be part of the compact between architects and society that if we do seven years of training it is only we who do the designing.

'But this is not just about pay, ' he added. 'If protection of function were introduced it would also be about protecting the public from sharks.'

Yasmin Shariff, who sits on the ARB board and the RIBA council, echoed Oldham's comments, insisting 'it is the built environment of Europe that will suffer'.

'I have been calling for this protection for a long time, ' she said. 'If you believe that architecture can only truly be delivered by architects, which I believe has been proven, then this directive is a disaster.

'We have seen the results of people like surveyors designing buildings and we don't want that repeated too often.'

The new EU directive follows a two-year campaign by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors to see protection of function outlawed throughout the union.

The RICS's Roger Watts, chairman of the building surveying faculty, said it was 'fantastic news'. 'Competent professionals must be allowed to do their jobs from country to country, ' he said.

'The result of this directive has been restrictive practice, which excluded all non-architects though they may have the right qualifications and experience. Widening the skills pool will be better for clients and business everywhere.'

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