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Get rid of the Architects Registration Board

Paul Finch
  • 6 Comments

The ARB is a useless organisation which should be axed, says Paul Finch

The ARB’s latest initiative, spending vast sums on deciding what ‘competencies’ architects need for the 21st century, raises a thumping additional issue: why does this self-important body, funded by a compulsory tithe on the architectural profession, think it is in any way qualified to investigate or determine this issue?

If it was competent, it would have undertaken this work on an ongoing basis, rather than treating it as a crisis.

In truth the ARB is a useless organisation which should be axed. If we want to get a hold on the delivery of better built environments, we need a Construction Registration Board, which would put out of business small-time cowboys at the arse-end of the industry, and incompetents at its upper levels (eg Carillion).

Why are architects whipping-boys, and these days, girls? The ARB no longer has elected architects as a significant part of its administration. Why should architects put up with taxation but no representation?

Remote operation could make decisions quicker and cheaper

The realisation that Parliament and its committees could function using technology, enabling remote voting, brings into question the assumptions behind the grotesquely expensive retrofit of the Palace of Westminster, especially when public finances will be under increasing pressure once the coronavirus crisis is behind us.

Why exactly are we wedded to the idea of creating a simulacrum of the existing chamber and its archaic voting procedures in the 21st century?

At a more prosaic level, the consequences of social distancing and remote working are raising questions about whether we might take the current opportunity to revolutionise the way we run local authority planning systems.

We now hear of planning consultants donating laptops to planning authorities so their staff can work remotely. We wonder why drone technology cannot inform the planning process in terms of site surveys. We wonder why the systems like VU.CITY cannot be deployed to keep the planning process in operation, especially since the simulation of future environments has been with us since the dawn of SimCity in the 1990s.

In short, can we use the current health crisis and its concomitant effects on public administration to advantage, rather than wailing about how impossible everything is, and how life as we know it is doomed.

As far as planning is concerned, there is no good reason why committees or subcommittees should not sit as normal, social distancing assumed, with officers’ reports delivered remotely. Meetings can be made public via social media, and who knows, perhaps applicants and their architects might be allowed to say something about what it is they want to do.

Certainly there is an economic and social imperative to encourage the planning system to support a rapid pick-up in activity once we return to the ‘new normal’, without the nutty virtue-signalling beloved of hopeless local authorities who, along with mayors like Sadiq Khan, would rather miss their housing target by a mile rather than relax their affordable housing tax on the companies who actually build homes.

Suspend affordable percentages for any housing development below 100 units for the next three year

A modest proposal for London and other areas in acute need of housing provision: suspend affordable percentages for any housing development below 100 units for the next three years.

This should be accompanied by a dirigiste public sector-led housing construction programme, an idea which may have increased traction given the new-found faith in public-sector delivery.

After three years, either the policy will have worked or not. If the latter, it will not have made much difference to the level of affordable targets missed by all three London mayors.

On the other hand, it may have had a beneficial effect on total numbers delivered. Why not give it a go, in a spirit of bipartisan politics where production for people is more important than ideological justifications for pragmatic strategies?

Why can’t we have both public and private delivery systems working side by side, as we did in the 1950s and 60s, when they matched supply to demand?

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  • 6 Comments

Readers' comments (6)

  • In the days before the creation of the ARB architects had to register with ARCUK - the Architects' Registration Council of the United Kingdom.
    I might be guilty of unjustified nostalgia for the 'good old days', but in my memory the Council kept strictly to its designated function, and just why the 'reforms' of the 1990s were necessary escapes me - but the ARB seems to be a very different animal whose compulsory fund-raising powers through the annual registration fee have enabled it to grow well beyond its remit, into a rather unaccountable organisation with delusions of grandeur.
    Hence the habit of many architects to describe themselves as members of the ARB - although, save for a handful, of course they're not.
    Could it be that many practising architects are reluctant to challenge the authority of a quasi-government establishment that has the power of professional life or death over them, regardless of their qualifications?

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  • Absolutely. This may explain the absurd desire of some architects to put the initials ARB after their name, as thought they had any choice about registering. On the other hand, being a member of the RIBA, an entirely voluntary act, includes obligations over and above anything the ARB is responsible for. it also means you have passed the examinations laid down by the RIBA, which has been promoting architectural education since the mid-19th century, unlike the cuckoo ARB, whose endless increases in the outrageous tithe it extracts from all architects might be seen as an attempt to put the RIBA out of business.

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  • ARB forever!

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  • Do tell us who you are or we might think you are an ARB stooge.

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  • Given the ARB only defends title, why just call yourselves something else and leave this anachronistic policeman to wither.
    Accidents of history 35 years ago mean I never finished qualifying, I was teaching myself by the time I gave up on architecture school so I went and learnt off many of the best and call myself an architectural designer, it’s annoying, but not as annoying as the ARB Sounds

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  • Philip Allsopp

    I agree with Paul Finch

    The stupid and costly duplication that the ARB is attempting to engage in borders on a Douglas Adams Hitchiker's Guide chapter. Why on earth the RIBA didn't protect its full scope of responsibilities during t1990s reforms is beyond me.

    I'm very much in favor of planning for the future and doing things that - hopefully - make our work and our profession better at what they do. But I, for one, think that in the same way that we should not throw out "old" tools, techniques and processes (you know..the ones that actually work) we should apply the same logic to reviving the appropriate relationship between ARCUK and the RIBA.

    Oh..and there's one other thing too. How come that a spposed independent oversight agency making sure that architects are who they say they are etc, dump people off the register for not paying fees? If architects are compelled to be on the ARB register in order to practice their profession, why do they have to pay a fee to remain on it? If ARB membership were voluntary and was a "qualification" of value to the public then sure, have a fee structure. But when it's compulsory by government decree in order to practice as an architect, what the hell is the fee for? Are these fees deductible against gross income BTW?

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