An Essex man has been removed from the Register of Architects after spending client money to pay his blackmailer
Glen Eldridge of Glen Eldridge Architects had billed two clients for planning application fees and one client for third-party structural engineering services.
But the clients turned to the Architects Registration Board (ARB) after discovering the money had not been spent with the right parties – and that Eldridge was not responding to their complaints.
One client told the ARB he paid £808 in planning fees to Eldridge but was reduced to repeatedly knocking on his door to try and find out what was going on.
Another said they had paid a total of £6,500 to Eldridge but received nothing of value, with £575 having been spent on a non-existent engineer and £430 handed over for planning fees, which were never paid to the council.
Eldridge told the ARB he had paid the money to an individual who was pursuing him for money with menaces and blackmailing him.
In a letter, Eldridge wrote that someone ‘was blackmailing me over family matters that I had told him in confidence a few years earlier’.
‘Upon receiving the fees from [the client] I paid a substantial sum to [the blackmailer] hoping that it would be an end to the situation, with the view of paying the planning fee when notification was received from the local authority. Unfortunately [the blackmailer] did not relent…’.
The architect said he struggled to deal with his clients’ complaints because he had been distracted by personal problems, including the death of his father and a lengthy legal case being made against him.
Although he said he intended to pay on planning fees to the council, the ARB noted that Eldridge did not claim to have repaid his clients and did not make reference to the money he took for structural engineering services.
Eldridge did not attend his hearing nor send any defence nor formal submission. The ARB’s professional conduct committee found him guilty of 10 charges relating to acting dishonestly or unprofessionally.
Individuals removed from the UK Register of Architects are generally allowed to reapply after two years. However, the ARB said Eldridge should not be allowed to reapply for at least 10 years, adding: ‘It is hard to see how dishonesty such as this can ever be remediated.’