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‘There’s uncertainty for everybody,’ says departing ARB chair

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The AJ talks exclusively to Beatrice Fraenkel, the departing chair of the ARB, who will steps down this month after eight years at the helm

Beatrice Fraenkel, ARB

Fraenkel will chair her final board meeting today (14 July) before going on leave until her post officially completes at the end of the month.

What has been your biggest achievement at the ARB?

My best sense of achievement is having enhanced the way in which the ARB is regarded as a business and as a regulator. For me that’s really a good way to leave things: good strong board, good strong organisation and well regarded hopefully by the majority of the profession.

Do you think you have left the ARB in a better place?

It’s in the right place for what’s required now. Personally, you can always do better and better and better. It would be wrong in terms of chairing any organisation not to be. The main point is it’s on strong foundations.

What were your failures at ARB?

The things that are difficult are the changing nature of the environment in which we operate. The current situation is a really good example. There is uncertainty. No one likes uncertainty and it’s hard to manage. What happens next is always something that the board and I always have to reflect on so that every stage is about doing the best job you can for the here and now.

How will Brexit affect the role of the organisation?

With Brexit clearly there are uncertainties for everybody. Until any act has changed, we are bound by what we do and we keep on going. But of course for the world around us it doesn’t work quite so simplistically. It’s trying to be stable, having a good foundation to keep on working in. We don’t have answers anymore than anybody else does. We just know that it’s business as usual.

We will continue to operate on our existing statute remits until we’re told differently. Of course, we just have to keep calm and be effective and keep people informed of anything we know that they may not have picked up on in relation to the profession.

Do you fear for the ARB’s future?

I wouldn’t use words like ‘fear’ at all. If there are changes then there are changes. We will respond and take account of them. It’s not necessarily about being fearful. It’s just making sure that the nature of what we’re required to do, we do it to the best of our ability.

Do you think that architecture needs a regulator?

All the major professions are regulated. Architecture as a profession sits up there with lawyers and all the medical professions in terms of status. One of the things that regulation says is: this is a profession that’s serious. The regulator recognises that it gives it a certain status. It’s a mark of a profession that it has a regulator.

Do we still need the ARB?

Currently we need it and – it’s not a personal view – while the government require the profession to be regulated, they require a regulator. If there are any changes, it will be what the government chooses to do. It’s a question we are continually asking the department.

How did you find your time at the ARB?

I’ve enjoyed it enormously. I’ve had fantastic people to work with. The executive and Karen [Holmes] are quite phenomenal. We do have a really good board. It’s been a real pleasure working with everybody.

The new chair of the ARB will be announced on Friday evening following a vote.

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