Architects behind the controversial Park Quadrant development are being investigated over complaints they acted unethically by encouraging staff to lodge planning submissions in support of the scheme to exaggerate its popularity.
The Architects’ Registration Board (ARB) and the Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE) are looking into complaints that Holmes Miller Architects, consulting engineers Woolgar Hunter and environmental design consultants and engineers Atelier Ten colluded to mislead Glasgow City Council’s planning committee over the proposal for the A-listed area.
It is alleged more than two dozen staff, including the Managing Director of Woolgar Hunter and several directors of Atelier Ten, wrote to the council praising the scheme without making clear they had a financial interest in the project succeeding.
The alarm was raised by local residents suspicious of the high number of submissions from supporters of the development from outside of the local area, many of which had similar or identical wording.
The council, which stands to net £6.2million from the sale of the land, has received more than 200 formal objections to the £40million proposed development by Leeds-based Expresso Property Ltd.
Among the objectors is the Goethe Institute in neighbouring Park Circus, Germany’s cultural institute in Scotland, which occupies and manages a building owned by the Government in Berlin. It runs language courses for hundreds of students every year as well as lectures, exhibitions and other cultural functions.
A spokesman for the Park and Woodlands Heritage Trust said: “This is a blatant and underhand attempt by these companies to overstate the popularity of this proposed development.
“Woolgar Hunter’s staff have submitted numerous supporting comments on the pretence of being members of the public.
“Their supporting letters make no reference to their commercial link to their employers or the applicants and we believe they’re deliberately misrepresenting themselves in an attempt to corrupt the perception of public opinion to the planning department.”
The spokesman added: “While they may consider themselves to be the ‘public’ out with work, none of the staff concerned live anywhere near the development and it would be disingenuous to suggest their support is anything other than as a result of their employers’ attempts to have the development approved for their own financial gain.”
The ACE confirmed in an email to residents that it would investigate the matter under its normal complaints procedure.
In a letter to residents, the ARB confirmed that it was investigating allegations against 11 named individuals on the basis that they failed to declare a conflict of interest when they lodged submissions.
The letter states: “Architects are expected to follow the Standards in the Architects Code of Conduct and Practice in their professional lives and we will ask the individuals to provide a response after considering in particular Standard 1 (be honest and act with integrity).
“ARB can only investigate matters where it appears that the architect may be guilty of unacceptable professional conduct and/or serious professional incompetence.”
Councillors are due to decide on the issue at a meeting of the planning committee next month. PAWH has submitted an alternative proposal for public gardens and a pavilion on the Park Quadrant site which, members claim, is more in keeping with local architecture that will provide a public benefit and enhance the council’s vision of the area as a Cultural Quarter.
The Charles Wilson Pavilion and Gardens, named after the 19th Century architect who designed the area, has the support of the local community council.
It is, according to members, ‘driven by a desire to reclaim for the community, outdoor space and facilities’ and will allow it ‘to exhibit pride in its surroundings while safeguarding green space and trees and preserving and refurbishing the original Victorian gardens’.