Mayfair architect Debbie Flevotomou has been hit with a fine by the Architects Registration Board (ARB) after submitting an inaccurate planning application for a loft extension
The issue arose when the architect, working on a loft conversion and window replacement project at a family home in south London, incorrectly stated that the existing windows were timber.
Following a site visit in December 2017, the architect and client discussed attempting to change the windows to UPVC.
However in the application submitted to Lambeth Council, Flevotomou stated the client was looking to replace single-glazed timber windows when in fact the windows were aluminium with timber borders.
After the application was submitted, the council wrote to the client saying it would not accept UPVC windows and so the client emailed Flevotomou and asked for the windows to remain aluminium.
However Flevotomou’s inaccurate application meant the council issued its approval notice with planning conditions that referred to the wrong type of windows.
This meant the client had to submit a further application to vary the conditions of the planning approval to correct the error. She decided to do this herself after the architect quoted her £550 plus VAT.
According to the PCC, the client later complained about Flevotomou’s conduct but the architect said the allegations were wrong and that if the client proceeded with the dispute then she would sue her for loss of business.
The ARB said the architect’s correspondence dealing with the complaint was ‘not courteous and the immediate litigation threat was inappropriate’.
Flevotomou has since apologised for not dealing with the complaint appropriately. She also admitted Lambeth’s conditional approval was issued on the basis of the ‘incorrect information contained within the planning application’.
The architect also accepted that she did not provide adequate terms of engagement at the outset of the contract or throughout.
The PCC found these failings were ‘serious breaches’ of the architects code and had the potential to diminish both the architect’s reputation and that of the profession generally. But it took note of Flevotomou’s admissions and the fact that she had engaged fully in the regulatory process.
It considered a penalty order of £1,000 to be the appropriate and proportionate sanction.
Speaking to the AJ after the decision, Flevotomou said she respected the ARB’s decision but that it was arguable that ‘certain governances’ by the body could be ’construed as pedantic’.
She said: ‘Whilst chastened by the decision, it is important to acknowledge that perceived misdemeanours, should not impede, or discourage, the huge strides architects take not just to satisfy clients, but to inspire them, and promote their properties.
’Being an architect is like running a marathon. Although ‘checks and balances’ are absolutely necessary, let it not hamper the flow of creativity and commitment needed to finish the race.’
Flevotomou said she would be making a private contribution to the RIBA educational trust to ‘make something positive’ out of the experience.
Flevotomou’s statement in full
I respect the decision of the ARB in this case, and recognise that the body itself has been founded to regulate and promote the professionalism of architects within the UK. However it is arguable by some, that certain governances by the body, can be construed as pedantic, and can actually hinder the high levels of service expected from architects in today’s challenging environment, when more is expected for less, in uncertain times.
While chastened by the decision, it is important to acknowledge that perceived misdemeanours, should not impede, or discourage, the huge strides architects take not just to satisfy clients, but to inspire them, and promote their properties. It is important that the ARB, in its applauded aim to ensure good standards, for the benefit of the public and architects alike, do not actually undermine this effort unnecessarily. Let this not be a microcosm, of the great institute that is architecture.
We as architects help change the way the world is experienced by others. This depends on the architects’ dedication and the contexts invested in a space. Being an architect is like running a marathon. Although ‘checks and balances’ are absolutely necessary, let it not hamper the flow of creativity and commitment needed to finish the race. In this context, I would like to make something positive out of this experience and therefore I would be making a private contribution to the RIBA educational trust.