/ Home & Energy

Brief Cases: what if the ‘architect’ you hired wasn’t really an architect?

Hiring a ‘cowboy’ builder is, unfortunately, an experience common to many… but what if you hired unqualified architect?

A Which? member commissioned an architect to manage a project on their home.

They had specifically wanted a professional architect to handle the stress of the project, but found constant errors in the drawings and administration of the work.

The Architects Registration Board later confirmed that the person they had hired was not in fact an architect, and that to describe themselves as such would potentially be a criminal offence.

The dispute escalated to the small claims court, where the trader claimed for unpaid bills. The member counterclaimed with advice from Which? Legal.

Our advice

We advised the member of their rights in accordance with the Consumer Rights Act 2015, as the trader he’d hired did not demonstrate ‘reasonable care and skill’ as required by the Act.

Furthermore, they were in breach of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008, as they had failed to clarify their professional status.

When the trader issued proceedings against the member, Which? Legal advised them on how to respond to the court documents and to issue a counterclaim for breach of contract.

The trader did not attend the final hearing, and the judge decided in favour of the member for their claim of £4,864.05.

The law

The Consumer Rights Act states that a trader must provide their service with reasonable care and skill.

In addition, the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 states that it is an offence to mislead a consumer or use aggressive selling practices.

Furthermore it can lead to criminal sanctions. The law states that it’s always unfair for a trader to untruthfully claim or even imply that they are approved, endorsed or authorised by a public or private body.

These laws allowed the member to claim their losses. The court used its discretion to strike out the trader’s claim, as they failed to attend the final hearing and did not give appropriate notice to the court.

Have you ever hired an architect that didn’t live up to your expectations? What about hiring traders generally who didn’t do a good job?

Comments
Patrick Taylor says:
10 November 2018

In many countries tradesmen have to be registered and members of the public of course access the Register to see if they are legitimate. This idea seems so fundamental that I have always been amazed that Which? has not championed such a system that drives out rogue traders/builders etc.

As an example of sensible consumer pressure the building industry in the Netherlands is now subject to 5% retentions on new builds as, very like the UK, getting any snagging or repairs done after parting with the purchase price was a major time-consuming and stressful matter.

Whilst Trusted Traders as originally started by Trading Standards has languished as the Govenment has run it down the existence of any voluntary system is actually a poor substitute even if it provides income for Which? and other quasi referral companies.

You will appreciate if checking registers, Architects already have one, was to become the norm a lot of unpleasantness would be avoided.

* It should be noted that the Trusted Trader schemes are no guarantee of fair prices or necessarily good work. People should bear this in mind that whilst quality problems are a matter of visible proof and possible arbitration the price you pay is not renegotiable in the normal course of events.

Great minds think alike Patrick.

I started typing before you posted and 100% agree with you.

Traders who must be qualified are electricians and gas fitters. From our experiences in recent years, these are the only 2 groups where we have not suffered from cowboy workmanship.

Qualifications and registration work to create trust in traders.

I would like to see that all traders you can hire to work on your home must be qualified and licensed.

Architects and other traders you might hire to work on your home charge an awful lot more than the incomes of their customers. Customers who might have undergone years of education, training, gaining qualifications, working their way up the ladder, etc.

But, many of these traders hold no qualifications whatsoever. Many are also tax avoiders.

One of the problems with domestic projects, like major alterations involving a combination of changes to room layouts, extensions, new services plus kitchen and bathroom refits, is that mainstream architects don’t seem to be very interested in taking them on because it seems to be 90% project management with truculent trades people and very little actual design – just slavish adherence to building regulations and specifications with detailed cost control.

There are plenty of ‘architectural’ associates or consultants who will do this sort of work including all the preparation of drawings and specifications, submissions for planning consent and building control approval, selection of contractors, getting structural engineering reports from other consultants, contract preparation, and project management including cost and progress control, and they can be very useful in standing between the client and the builder to take off much of the stress and pressure. But making sure you get a good one is the difficult bit.

Sometimes people choose their builder first based on what they have seen locally or on personal recommendations, and the chosen builder might recommend an ‘architect’ which the lay client will probably agree to on the basis that the two professionals have worked together on many other projects and it is the best way to achieve satisfactory progress and cost-saving. This can work very well but there are also potential risks if the relationship between the two is too cosy as they each depend on each other for future contracts.

I agree with Alfa on the tradespeople. Like restaurants that offer too long a menu, people who say they can do everything [Jack of all trades . . . ] are best avoided and it is better to have a good general builder for the structural work [foundations, drains, brickwork, carpentry and roofing] but get specialists in for the finishing work [plastering, joinery, windows, tiling, plumbing, gas and electrical]. However, I too have found that the least reliable, efficient and capable trades are the plumbers and kitchen fitters although there are some excellent exceptions. I have a feeling that the best builders will generally have the best contacts in the other trades, will not accept having sub-contractors imposed upon them unless they have previously worked with them, and will organise the work competently to get the best progress and a good standard but not necessarily the lowest price.

The big problem with all this kind of work seems to be communication. The client must be informed continuously as the work progresses what is required, when things will be done, what decisions are needed, what difficulties have cropped up, and how the work is running to time and budget. The ‘architect’ or project manager plays a key role in this. The last things the client wants are surprises, ultimatums, urgent decisions, and sudden pressures. The best tradespeople also respect your home and don’t treat it like an outdoor building site or as a workshop where they can cut or stack their materials on your dining table.

Unlike most other products or services reviewed by Which? and selected by consumers, the building industry at small project level is extremely fragmented with a multitude of local firms and individuals who operate disturbingly informally at times. It is characterised by self-employment and the attitudes that go with that, and is populated by workers who are not comfortable in a structured and disciplined working environment and might have more than a touch of the maverick about them with the etiquette to suit.

Having said all that, I think most clients eventually get what they expected or wanted and are satisfied with the finished work. It has probably given rise to sleepless nights, delays, cost overruns, unanticipated complications, and occasional stand-offs and arguments, and a prudent client will factor these in at the outset. Expecting everything to go smoothly is unrealistic and has probably never ever happened. With people increasingly trying to improve their existing property rather than moving, good professionals are at a premium but the wait is probably worth it in the long run.

Another sound and well reasoned post, John. I am actually beginning this process and have gone the “architect first” route, with the intention of using them to design and then employ trusted builders. My initial approach began with an assessment of web sites, business premises, interview with the chosen chief architect and paper work outlining fees and what they were prepared to do. Having got through those with confidence, I now have plans,which are professional,and a good working relationship with those directly assigned to my project. Their advice and guidance seem to be on task and I proceed a step at a time. Fortunately, time is not a key driver since I don’t wish to commence building while it is snowing and howling blizzards rage around. Of course there will be decisions to be made and the odd impediment will get in the way, but being prepared for this will, hopefully, mean time and temperament to sort them out with advice from the team I have employed. Little things like making appointments and turning up on time, being available to discuss things and prompt answering of e-mails also helps to dispel doubt. Again my team have been exemplary. So, off to a good start and see what happens next!

” Have you ever hired an architect that didn’t live up to your expectations? ”

I worked in the construction industry for several years and never met an architect who met expectations. They’d give you drawings that were impossible to build and the toys would get thrown out of the pram if you dared tried to explain that to them. I’ve seen plans done by housewives on kitchen tables that were better than some of the offerings I’ve had from so-called professional architects. I’d be very reluctant to let one loose on my home.

A “voice from the sharp end” Phil , your right some people put them on pedestal,s but like you I dont .

One small town I lived in was devastated by the war it took about 40 years till they “re-designed ” it
and OMG what a mess they made of it , no social thinking whatsoever from a warm feeling of “I belong ” to cold -hard – boxes built to a low standard with an isolated shopping area handy for the local vandals/thieves to operate in , it is now hard to let out with shops closing constantly .
Walk round the town and its got a feeling of isolation , in the end they admitted “they got it wrong ” and are now re-re-designing it .

I never thought Prince Charles deserved to be criticised for his view on modern architecture , just speaking the truth.

Yes the architect as planner and social engineer. You’ll rarely meet anybody quite so arrogant or pretentious. Their mistakes have caused untold misery and cost the nation billions.

Read up on the Burns scheme for Glasgow if you want an extreme example.

That should of course be the Bruce scheme.

Wrong Scottish hero!

The “Bruce ” in this aspect as city planner and architect doesn’t deserve his surname.

Yes I read “The Glasgow Story ” and can only think this “educated ” gentleman ” must have been one of the original inhalers of “funny fags ” .
His idea was monstrous to say the least and would have turned Glasgow into an industrial estate .
Obviously the “City Fathers ” took in some of his views creating Drumchapel-Easterhouse and other “fine ” examples of not how to treat people .
They did in the end “see the light ” by not pulling down all the tenements otherwise Partick/etc wouldn’t exist .

Meanwhile the “intelligentsia ” lived in leafy places like Bearsden/ Milngavie and several on the south-side.

I think you both might be doing Bruce a disservice. He was the city engineer, but his plan for Glasgow’s regeneration might have worked well had it been implemented. Instead, and as so often happens with local councils, all the unpaid and unqualified councillors through they knew better and proceeded to pick and choose which bits they wanted to implement.

It’s fashionable to blame the architect for disasters, and I’m not saying they don’t make mistakes. But I’ve worked with a lot of architects, including some of the best in the world, and the good ones not only know their subject extremely well, but can create some stunning work.

Architects have to endure numerous conflicting demands; the client has one set, the building regulations and associated enforcement officials another and the construction companies doing the work another, to name but three. And the architect has to be up to date on all the new developments for materials and construction techniques – often those with which the construction companies are not.

But most smaller jobs neither need nor could use an architect, for the reasons John explains. A reputable builder will often suffice.

“Might have worked ” –what world are you living in ?- would you like the City of London to be turned into an industrial estate -flattening all those prestige London museums/ art galleries etc .

Moving all the inhabitants 10 or more miles outside the city , did you really read his views ?
Glasgow City Council-Reference-930.2001.15- copyrighted –
Quote-
Bruce proposed to demolish almost everything in the city centre and rebuild from new, removing, for example, the School of Art, the City Chambers, Central Station and all the other period buildings which add so much character to the city today. Slum tenements were to be replaced by commercial developments and the inhabitants removed to high-density housing schemes on the outskirts (but within the boundaries) of the city.

Bruce’s proposals were ultimately rejected and less radical solutions sought.

Reference: 930.2001.15

Reproduced with the permission of Glasgow City Council, Glasgow Museums

Do you think I mentioned those places that were part of this mans thinking without due thought ? Ask Glaswegians whether they “love ” living in Drumchapel -Easterhouse etc and the continual crime rate unrest etc due to lack of amenities .
Drumchapel is on the border with Clydebank its inhabitants do a lot of shopping in Clydebank which is over 7 miles from Glasgow city centre and even in Clydebank they got it wrong in the Planning dept. and have now started -regeneration MK2 .

duncan lucas says: Today 09:51

“Might have worked ” –what world are you living in ?

I don’t think there’s any need for rudeness, Duncan. Neither of us know for sure what the outcome might have been, which is why I used the modal.

But in any case, I see mutterings all the time about ‘buildings of fine architectural merit’ when they’re nothing of the sort. We tend to revere old buildings and I’ve never really understood why.

Not that far from where we live is a town which is full of those who go on all the time about the preservation of the ‘fine Victorian buildings’, as though building in the Victorian era was somehow unique and wonderful, instead of – as was often the reality – being thrown up quickly in the prevailing style.

But then – I was brought up in a Victorian house, so I know from bitter experience just how bad some of them were.

Some of the best UK architectural practices would not work with municipal authorities on comprehensive redevelopment schemes because they were the worst possible client. I think the clients have to take responsibility for a lot of the town planning disasters that occurred from the 1960’s through to the late 1980’s. Luckily we don’t have many of those nowadays and most of the horrors are commercially inspired.

It was not all bad, however. Some of the schemes brought depressed areas back to life, there was a lot of good housing provision in low-rise high-density developments that both looked good and worked well for the residents, and some of the new towns and town centre renewal schemes are architecturally quite impressive.

Anyway, back to the domestic situation. For any work that involves structural alterations or extensions from the existing footprint, or changes to the design of the front elevation, it will be necessary to have professional drawings for submission to the building control office. This work is usually outside the scope of a general builder but, as I mentioned before, they might be able to recommend a surveyor or architectural consultant who can produce the drawings and see them through to approval but is also competent to project-manage and supervise the work and the costs. Even if the person is not an RIBA-registered architect that does not mean they are not competent in the required disciplines but, obviously, they should not misrepresent their professional status. A chartered surveyor or engineer might be just as good for the work involved and might even have skills not possessed by an architect.

I commend Vynor’s approach. Going down the “architect first” route, and taking the trouble to select a practice that has the right blend of competencies within a team, should deliver a superior project and generally at no additional expense overall. Using a single professional on a complex scheme does have drawbacks since a team approach is a safeguard against errors and if there are significant elements of design in the project a team might produce more innovative or more suitable ideas rather than just a reworking of something they have done previously.

Looking at other work in the locality and seeing who did the building work and provided the professional services is a good starting point and if possible speaking to the property owners to see what their experience was during the construction phase.

One thing I have noticed is that good building firms [such as those directly employing a handful of people and sub-contracting the specialist work to other reputable firms] are jealous of their professional reputation. They tend to have lengthy waiting lists, have well-organised sites with clean and tidy working practices, put a board up with their name and address on it, have decent vehicles in their own livery, don’t need to bother with newspaper adverts or belonging to multi-trader websites, and are probably selective as to who they work for. They rely on personal recommendations and recognise that, if they upset a client, word is likely to spread among the neighbours and work in that area will dry up. In some things, having confidence that you are getting a good job done well is worth more than chiselling a few hundred pounds off the cost. And if you’re spending a six-figure sum on the work, getting the protection of a good professional to manage it for you is well worth it.

Rudeness Ian ? it hasn’t stopped you in the past .

Have you no conception of Phil,s point being thrust onto what was originally a country area with zero facilities no thought taken for the poor people and yes it was all poor people having to fork out bus fares because they worked in factories nearer Glasgow , having little choice in the limited shopping where prices were higher because of near monopolist conditions.
The loss of communal spirit -young people with nothing to entertain them so end up in gangs fighting other gangs in neighboring Clydebank ,the air might have been a touch fresher but that was all .

“The Vision ” by the city Fathers taken from Bruce,s “vision ” didn’t pan out who guess what ? lived in better conditions eleswhere.

Duncan – please forget what friction there might be between you and Ian and think of the many other visitors to this website. I was somewhat surprised by your retort to his perfectly mild and reasonable comment. I don’t think there is any excuse for antagonistic language even if you feel sorely provoked. It takes everyone of us to be careful if we are to have a politer Conversation.

While I listen to you John I have already said – why cant I reply to derogatory comments made about me ?
If I don’t reply the public will think –“he is right ” and think all the worse of me .
And if I am told-don’t reply or you will be sanctioned that is denying my legal right of reply on a public website.
It cuts both ways or not at all that is the way the Law in this country operates -justice – blindfolded not lifting the blindfold and winking to one side or another.

This country used to be looked up to because of its laws — what has changed?

duncan lucas says: Today 10:41

Have you no conception of Phil,s point being thrust onto what was originally a country area with zero facilities no thought taken for the poor people and yes it was all poor people having to fork out bus fares because they worked in factories nearer Glasgow , having little choice in the limited shopping where prices were higher because of near monopolist conditions.

I believe some of the post-war planning strategies were – in hindsight – errors, but some of those strategies were designed to give people who were living in sub-standard accommodation a fresh start in a more rural area with decent housing.

Community dislocation was the biggest consequence, but the councils at that time faced an almost impossible task; the eradication of sub-standard housing stock and creating improved environments for the populace couldn’t easily be done quickly if you couldn’t move large numbers of families.

Of course mistakes were made; on these wholescale redevelopments they would be inevitable, but a lot of issues were created through the antagonism of those being moved. And while you can argue that individual families should be grateful for what they’re given, what they lost was of greater importance – at least in their minds.

One of the biggest problems, incidentally, was the lack of any say in who could move into blocks of flats. Most people are decent, law-abiding and thoughtful, willing to help others out. But during the relocation strategies, no allowance was made for the odd, seriously dysfunctional family. Thus a single family could make an entire estate almost intolerable for the majority. It wasn’t until the Housing Associations became a reality that people were given the power to deal with problem families.

I have always thought that the museums in South Kensington were stunning examples of Victorian architecture and, currently adapted, seem to make good use of the space within. The Albert Hall, close by also appears to have got the acoustic right and it, too, has presence. The interstices below the stage, are fascinating, very Victorian and impractical, despite the cobbling that has gone on over the years. The circular nature of the building still doesn’t stop one getting lost. My Aunt’s Victorian house was also impressive with its tiled hallway, high ceilings, spacious rooms -kitchen excepted – and garden with space to wander. The Victorian W.C. in the back yard was a fascination for a youngster. I suppose if one looked to heat the place, now, with radiators, this might take some energy and the sash windows were probably draughty, but this was much more to do with the materials available than shoddy architecture. Again, like now, there were houses built for those who had money and those that provided basic accommodation that was less than desirable, with shared water and two small rooms for everything. That much of this housing stock is still here, says something for the quality of building and materials used. Buying an older house is not necessarily a bad investment. If it is still here, it is probably not going to fall down any time soon.

I just thought I would mention, Duncan, that there is no “legal right of reply on a public website”. We are here at the publisher’s discretion and Which?, as the publisher, has laid down some community guidelines for the good conduct and etiquette of the Conversation site. The editor [acting through moderators and the editorial team] has the ultimate discretion to permit or disallow anyone’s submission.

I understand your grievance at being criticised for constantly trying to contest other people’s comments on your contributions, but I think you should sometimes step back, count to ten, and move on. If visitors see this to be an argumentative site with continuous bitching and bickering over words and meanings there will be no Conversations since they will go away and stay away.

In terms of your present dispute, Ian has not made any derogatory remarks about you but he has commented on the way in which you have expressed yourself and said that there is no need for rudeness. You might not think you were being rude when you wrote ” ‘Might have worked’ – what world are you living in?“, but it’s a pretty sharp rebuke to someone who has been here a long time and who you know quite well if only from his writings, and as I said previously, I think Ian’s comment was mild and reasonable. I am not taking sides between you and Ian; seeing strong personalities in action can be enjoyable but we – those of us on the side-lines looking on – don’t need to see the gory bits. If you think that if you don’t challenge Ian’s accusation of rudeness the public will think he is right, and think all the worse of you, then you underestimate the public’s intelligence. The sort of people who come to this website are quite capable of making a judgment over such an observation without the need for a rebuttal which can in itself be provocative. I am sorry if you think the public already has a bad opinion of you and will think all the worse of you if you don’t constantly challenge any slights you perceive, because I think you have a good following here with a lot of people supporting your principled and moral stand on many subjects. There are many ways available of getting your point across, some nicer than others, so the choice is yours. The public prefer the polite ways and will show more respect to those that use them.

I lived for nearly thirty years in a large semi-detached house built in 1902. It was Edwardian by date but Victorian in conception and represented the apogee of Victorian domestic convenience and technology. I don’t suppose it ever had the imprint of an architect on its plans and was probably copied by a speculative builder from one of the many designs available in the pattern books of the time. The fact that hundreds of thousands, if not millions, were built in a similar style throughout the country is a testament to its acceptability and desirability. They could be scaled up for the grand villa or down for the urban terrace, but they had similar details across the range. And the fact that most of them are still standing while other types have come and gone – or not been repeated – proves their worth. They have proved to be eminently adaptable and even today families are investing in them and developing them with loft conversions, side-return extensions, open plan layouts, internal downstairs facilities, and improvements in heating and energy conservation, without destroying their essential character. That says a lot and is why builders and architects are in high demand.

My favourite style of domestic building, for sheer elegance and street-scene harmony, is the Georgian town house, but I have never lived in one and doubt their practicality for modern needs – there are plenty of them about, though, and they seem to be very popular.

Until recently we lived in a new-build house [2012] which, by contrast, was spacious and comfortable but supremely dull, and there wasn’t much you could do with it to make it more personal or distinctive. The modern houses have all mod cons in abundance [we had five toilets, three shower cubicles, and a utility room nearly as big as the garage] but it led to the compartmentalisation of personal activities [like using computers] in separate spaces rather than the sense of a family home. Far from being the heart of the home the large kitchen was just a sterile workspace where refreshments were prepared at three of four punctuation points during the day. It looked wonderful but it had more the air of a laboratory than a cosy domestic hub. No other house on the development was the same as ours so it was impossible to see how other families lived in the same sort of property. It was built for nine and occupied by two – perhaps that was what was wrong. There were bigger houses and I suspect they had the same characteristics however much their owners placed big ornaments around the rooms or hung up large letters spelling H O M E. There is much more to a home than an arrangement of building materials and I think the designers should look at how people actually like to live rather than how they think people should live.

Vynor: the Royal Albert Hall had dreadful acoustics when it was first built. Part of the problem lay in the curved interior, which absorbed too much sound and the ceiling – which reflected too much, so an audible and annoying echo was created. The ‘flying saucers’ suspended from the ceiling were introduced to eradicate the echo and leave the hall with a pleasant decay, rather than a ringing echo. They were introduced in the ’60s. I didn’t notice the echo when I played there in the mid-’60s, but apparently it was obvious to those in certain seats.

You think not John ?
Defamation of character on a public website is breaking the laws of this country which overrule any “get out clauses ” on a website .

Read more-quote-
Think before you tweet
It’s easy to post an opinion or joke online. But that one tweet or Facebook status can reach an audience far beyond what was expected, or intended. And if you say the wrong thing, you could face severe legal consequences.

Libel: According to research for law firm Wiggin, 46% of 18- to 24-year-olds were unaware that they could be sued for tweeting an unsubstantiated rumour about another person.
But if a false statement causes “serious harm” to a person’s reputation, it may be libellous under the Defamation Act 2013

And deleting the post does not prevent a claim as it may have been carried elsewhere on the social media stream; the length of time the post was visible for will only affect the amount of damages payable-end of quote.

But even more seriously what you are saying is that somebody can defaim me on Which ? and I have no legal course of action nor be given the opportunity to defend myself ??

IF that is what you are implying/saying please say it in clear unambiguous terms because this is very serious .
I know the law of the land and if you think any judge in an English court would uphold the dictatorial “right ” to defaim a poster and block the same poster trying to clear his/her name put it in straightforward legal terms .

Duncan – What I wrote was that there was no legal right of reply on a public website. I thought that was clear and unambiguous.

I agree with you that everyone has the right to sue for defamation through the courts but that is not the same as having a right of reply in what is in effect a correspondence column.

As I said before, it was mildly, and in my opinion reasonably, suggested by Ian that you had used rudeness in retorting to his comment.

People are entitled to state something that they genuinely believe to be true. To succeed in a defamation claim such a statement must have caused, or would be likely to cause, serious harm to the claimant’s reputation.

Of course, to be defamed a person has to have a perfectly unblemished reputation in the first place and the court will consider all the evidence presented.

This Conversation was introduced by Which? Legal and I am sure they will be keeping an eye on its contents to deal with any potential illegality.

john-In that case if that is a stated legal point I “should ” be able to reply in kind to any adverse comments directed at me , its not me that starts this off you know .

Thats my whole point nobody complains when I am put down but as soon as I reply I am the one in the wrong in what world is that justice ?

You don’t have a right to reply, Duncan, but this site allows you to do so as long as you comply with the community guidelines. So far as I can see nothing you have written in this thread has been subjected to moderation.

The basic elements of this ding-dong are as follows –

1. Ian made a reasonable comment.
2. You took exception and rebuked him.
3. Ian said there was no need for rudeness.
4. You retorted “Rudeness, Ian? it hasn’t stopped you in the past”.

Was not No. 4 your exercise of a “right of reply”?

If I were in your shoes I would quit while I was winning.

I shall not be drawn on who starts these spats as grown-ups should be above that sort of defence.

You will have to come to your own conclusions in respect of your final sentence.

This has been over a long period of time John not today I dont accept one way remarks on myself on a public website without being given the opportunity to reply thats not natural justice .

In real life I have been in many physical fights as allowing somebody to dictate to you and control your life is completely-totally unacceptable to me, I refuse to live with phobias built up by others not in my nature -never will be.

Obeying the laws of the land is one thing but being dictated to through arrogance etc is something I completely rebel against.

Patrick Taylor says:
12 November 2018

Interesting observations. And |I agree with them! I have spent some years in a 1907 semi-detached which was a trifle difficult on bathroom size …. But then there was also an outside toilet under the house.

We now have a French house built in the 1700’s I think but very likely rebuilt from earlier times as it is adjacent to a 12th century Church. It appears on the Napoleonic map of 1835. It may not be Georgian but it is a nice equivalent.

Room sizes and number are fine but the big draw is the 260 sq metre old barn which allows for plenty of activities without impinging on the house. The running costs of such a place would be more significant but we spend the cold months in an adjoining small building 80 sq. mtrs. which is heavily insulated and with wooden shutters even the 2mm glassed windows are reasonably effective at retaining the warmth from the two radiant heaters on the ground floor.

As to modern designed properties there is a Ordinary Member of the charity who has raised the matter of poor design and poor build with Which? but to no effect. As a building industry insider he is better placed than many to notice the tricks of the trade.

I can recall seeing “bedrooms” that were furnished with undersized beds. I can also remember a very expensive luxury house where the first floor patio had a stone wall where the view was across the Bristol Channel and glass panels looking to the side views …. astonishing. It was also noticeable for having the cheapest small gas hob in the kitchen. I understand upselling kitchens is now a way to abstract more money by the builder from the purchaser.

Whether the new CEO, Anabel Hoult, will grasp the thorny question of how Which? has avoided casting a critical eye over industry practices that disadvantage consumers in their largest purchase we shall see.

As an example this one of 196 entries at Trustpilot


Terrible service

Terrible service, not interested in making your neighborhood and community a pleasant place to live within, only interested in money and to perform as little maintenance they can get away with.
~50% of raised income is lost in admin / profit
Never able to show quarterly estate audits, when repeatably asked for, which implies they never take place. Always blames the local contractors, which is unfair as they select them and monitor them.
All their role should be is to manage maintenance, collect fees and work closely within each community to ensure a good days pay for a good days work.
This company isnt transparent and bullies it’s customers with strongly worded worst case scenario statements for payments that have been known to be inaccurate at best. They rely on busy middle class people not having time to complain, this is a service company at its worse. They impact families all throughout the UK not just the odd local estate, please take time to read the similar themes within trustpilot and a wider reach by searching in Google. The complaints against them arent just by the one or two disgruntled customers. The press is starting to pick up on the poor level of maintenance and the elevated prises. All the issues noted have been occuring for 10 years and should be easy for a company to rectify and be transparent. A simple local management plan for each estate that is agreed to, published, adhered to and discussed with the community would be a great start but there is no motivation to do so with the current leadership and so nothing is going to change any time soon. Which is a missed opportunity as it could be a great company. It’s a shame seeing the company started from a local government service with people and community as it’s founding principles.

It’s also interesting that rather than improving upon the poor comments and less than one 🌟 rating in trustpilot they try and fight them to get them removed. They need to stop, think and take a look at what they do from a customer’s point of view from root to branch. They start and finish from a “we know best” little person patronising point of view. You can’t rewrite history but you can improve the future. Treat your customers with respect Greenbelt and they will respect you back. This is the whole point of general public reviews.

Poor service, high fees increasing above the terms of reference, unwilling to improve, hides behind flakey legal standpoints and isn’t on your side to maintain the surroundings you live within.”

Hi Duncan, as others have suggested, can we please stay on topic and keep the tone constructive and welcoming? The discussion between yourself and Ian on Glasgow was very interesting to begin with, including your differing points of view — so can we try to strive for this kind of constructive discussion please 🙂

It seems to me that, in Glasgow, the client [Glasgow Corporation] might have picked the wrong person to plan and design the comprehensive redevelopment that they desired. The city engineer was possibly given a poor brief by his employers and tried to make the best of a bad job. Luckily, the authority scaled back some of the original proposals – but was that because they were inherently ‘wrong’ – or because they couldn’t afford them? Some municipal authorities were oppressively dictatorial [as well as being aesthetically and socially ignorant]. It’s probably a good job they rarely have the chance to undertake such massive schemes these days.

Indeed; councils around the UK have long records of misspending on ‘projects’ which were, in the main, poorly thought through, planned and executed. It’s the main purpose of the civil service in Government to act as specialist and reasoned mediators on national projects to moderate the sometimes unrealistic ambitions of ministers.

The Glasgow case is interesting, in that a specialist conceived the original idea which was then ‘changed’ by a lot of councillors whose knowledge of architectural renewal was likely to have been inconsiderable. We cannot know for sure how Glasgow would have looked, now, but perhaps all new buildings might have been things of beauty and majesty, with (almost certainly) better fire precautions.

Many of the North’s town planners have faced the same extremely difficult tasks; some of the cities, such as Liverpool, were heavily bombed during WWII and the funds that ought to have been forthcoming to aid the regeneration were used, instead, to fund our defences in the Cold War.

In Liverpool it took the gifted and prescient Heseltine to save the city from financial collapse in the ’80s, for which he was made a Freeman of the City in 2012 – a rarity for a city so committed to Labour – and Liverpool, moving from the International Garden Festival base, moved from strength to strength in re-imagining the city, attracting investment and making it a place people wanted to live.

But for years Liverpool lived with derelict bomb sites; even in the early ’70s nothing had been done with so many of them, such was the level of in-fighting among councillors and the dearth of central government cash. Interestingly, some of the errors made were elementary: in Lee Park on the city outskirts, a new set of five, multi-story flats were created, with stunning views. But given the money spent on the flats no one thought to enclose the area with a wall and a single gated entrance, manned by security 24/7, so the lifts were swiftly vandalised, the tenants were unable at that time to get rid of the odd, troublesome family, and the council chose to house families with very young children on top floors.

Eventually, an entire council estate called Netherley – just across the road from Lee Park – was demolished, owing to the total failure to ensure the security of the tenants. The cost of the entire exercise must have been eye-wateringly high, but councils – it seems – rarely learn.

Good architects – and there are many – could make a difference, but regeneration has to be removed from the hands of local councils. As does Education, really.