Planning permission was obtained for a small building. The building owner wants to press ahead with a larger building without further reference to Planning. The architect knows that the Planning Department would refuse the large building out of hand. Should the architect continue to do the drawings and administer the contract on site?
It is the architect’s duty to advise the client on all aspects of the building process about which the architect professes expertise. Obviously, town planning is one area where the architect should have expertise – not the expertise of a town planner or of an expert planning consultant or of a lawyer skilled in this area of the law, but certainly the ordinary aspects of town planning that one would normally expect the architect to know as part of the general architectural skills.
In this case, planning permission had been obtained for a particular building. The client had clearly had a change of mind and wanted a bigger building on the same site. There is nothing wrong with that, but architects have a duty to advise the client about seeking planning permission again in such circumstances. If intending to press ahead without obtaining planning permission, the client is going to do something unlawful and the architect has a duty to make that crystal clear. In addition, if the architect knows for certain that making a planning submission would be pointless, there is an added duty to convey this to the client in the strongest terms.
The architect is being asked to finish the drawings for the larger building that would not gain planning approval even if application were made. The architect knows that the purpose for which the drawings are intended is the unlawful construction of a building. Architects placed in this position should flatly refuse to have anything further to do with the project. This would not amount to repudiation at law, much less be in breach of any part of the professional Code of Conduct. Quite the contrary: the larger building is not something for which the architect was engaged. In other words, it is not part of the terms of engagement (for the smaller building for which planning permission has been obtained) and, therefore, the architect cannot be in breach by refusing to do the work.
For an architect to collaborate with the client in enabling the construction of a building for which it is known that planning permission would be refused is an unlawful act and one that is contrary to the Code of Conduct. If the architect did not know that planning permission was not to be sought or that it could not be obtained, there would be no wrongful behaviour until the architect knew, or should have known, the true situation. On becoming aware of the true situation, if advice to the client fell on deaf ears, the architect would have no option but to stop work.