Norwich architect fined after bitter planning dispute over carport
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A Norwich architect has been fined £2,000 after she sent abusive text messages following a dispute with neighbours over a carport.
A remote Architects Registration Board (ARB) professional conduct committee hearing heard how registered architect Karin Elliott, of St Leonards Road, Norwich, had sent a string of messages to her neighbour in January 2018.
The dispute began after her neighbour received planning permission in February 2017 to demolish a side boundary wall to construct a carport.
The argument escalated and resulted in Ms Elliott claiming there had been breaches of planning permission.
ARB's disciplinary panel heard at a hearing between March 1 and 4 that Ms Elliott accused her neighbour of "theft" of her land and even compared them to "Nazis".
The personal conduct committee was informed that one message read: "You can’t just take someone else’s land or other property because you rather like the look of it. It’s plain theft, and still illegal in England.
"We are not in 1930s Germany, we are not Jewish, we don’t wear yellow stars and you won’t crush us... Apologise and rebuild our wall exactly as it was, straight away, or we will make sure that you face the consequences of your hateful actions."
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The hearing was presented with a sample of 23 messages that the ARB believed Ms Elliott had sent to the neighbour which supported the allegation she had been offensive.
In others she called them "fascist pigs", "racist thugs" and branded them "malicious" and "greedy".
In one outburst, she said: "You may think it’s ok to harass us because you’re rich or English or dummies – I don’t know why you’re doing it…..dump your filthy garbage somewhere else – not at my gate you pigs."
In July 2019, the board became aware that Ms Elliott was subject to a restraining order imposed by Norwich Magistrates' Court in that month.
The terms of the order prevented Ms Elliott from having any direct or indirect contact with her neighbours, the hearing was told.
Ms Elliott's legal representative submitted that she had an unblemished record and that ARB's investigation had provided ample time for all necessary enquiries to be made.
Ms Elliott alleged she had been threatened with a hammer and chainsaw, and claimed a neighbour had wrongfully parked on her property and restricted access to her home.
She accepted her own language was abusive and offensive.
Ms Elliott's statement of reflection dated March 4, 2021, said: “My messages were a desperate ploy to save my home, and to secure my family’s safety…. I certainly did not adequately consider the effects that my messages would have on readers.
"It would have been a shock to read them, since they extended well beyond the topic in question into personal matters that were none of my business.
"It has taken me some time to learn the lessons I needed to learn from this. The text messages were ill advised.”
The panel decided to impose a £2,000 penalty order which must be paid within 28 days.
Both Ms Elliott and her neighbours did not wish to comment further on the outcome when approached on Wednesday.
Norwich City Council said: "The council investigated the allegations made by Ms Elliott and found that no breach of planning control had occurred."
The ARB said, as a regulator for the profession, its code of professional conduct applies to architects' professional conduct as well as their private lives, should their actions affect their fitness to practise.