Mr Pickles is expected to decide on the future of the ARB in the next few weeks following the government’s periodic review of its purpose within the architectural industry.
The Department for Communities and Local Government has already said it is keen to look at ways of ‘simplifying the role of the regulator’ and that there ‘remained a case’ for ‘light-touch’ regulation of the sector based on protection of title.
However, former ARB board members, George Oldham and Ian Salisbury have formally lobbied for the ARB to be scrapped; with the former arguing that its remaining functions transfer to the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).
“There is no public interest in perpetuating this pointless and parasitic burden on both the public and profession,” said Oldham.
“On the contrary, there are numerous reasons why, in consequence of its abuse of its position, it should be abolished.
“The ARB costs over £3 million pounds a year as a direct charge on the architectural profession.
“There are additional costs to the schools of architecture in duplication of the RIBA’s validation procedures and restrictions on RIBA trade and influence in education and practice abroad in consequence of the ARB’s narrow interpretation of its prescription of qualification, which further damages UK Plc.”
Mr Salisbury also believes the ARB forms a dangerous subjective link between the “reputation of such an organisation and the amount of pejorative noises it makes against those it purports to be regulating”.
However, Gordon Gibb – a fellow former ARB board member – refused to agree with Oldham’s ‘interpretation of law, reading of the motivations of those who serve it, or the proposals for a replacement of an independent regulator with a membership organisation’.
“You propose a model in which the RIBA could take over all of ARB’s functions for a much lower cost than incurred by ARB, by limiting the delivery of processes to the bare essentials, and presumably by not engaging in all of the unseen activities in which ARB must engage in order to carry out those functions entrusted to it,” said Gibb.
“In order for this model of stripped-down regulation to succeed at this reduced cost, for which you provide no vouching, the replacement regulator could not engage with the Qualifications Directive or indeed Europe, with the process of prescription, with the DCLG, with changing legislation or with any effective protection of title.
“I don’t think that this would be workable, and costs would quickly rise as the RIBA, on a steep learning curve, would find that most if not all of what the ARB does it necessary to deliver ‘the basics’.
“From my own experience the RIBA and ARB actually work very well together, each is pretty good at what they do, and I would suggest that their roles are not interchangeable and they actually need each other.”