The First 27 Years - A Brief History

By the 1980s there was a realisation that not only was there a need for additional suitably qualified chartered surveyors who were able to take appointments as arbitrators, but that there should be a suitable training programme for existing and would be arbitrators. One of the key initiatives of the RICS saw the setting up of training courses for new arbitrators and “refresher courses” for those already accepting appointments.

The Arbrix Club was born out of the common interest, camaraderie and friendships formed by those attending the early refresher courses and who, together, had the desire to continue their education in the “art” of arbitration.

The prime movers at the time were Clifford Dann, Bill Nutley, David Green and George Grover who, at the inaugural meeting in 1986, were elected as principal officers in the new organisation. At that meeting Ronald Bernstein and Kirk Reynolds were unanimously elected as Honorary Members in recognition of the unstinting help they had both given in the establishment of the arbitrator training programme. In 1987 Lord Justice Mustill was elected as an Honorary Member in recognition of his considerable help and support. This close link to the legal profession was, and continues to be, a significant factor in the success of Arbrix.

The inaugural meeting saw the approval of a constitution that was admirable in its brevity – fitting easily on to an A5 sheet of paper – and which included a succinct definition of the aims and objects of Arbrix. This was to “to provide a forum for Chartered Surveyors (and others on the Lord Chancellor’s Panel for agricultural cases) experienced as arbitrators to discuss from time to time current problems and experiences, and formal and informal meetings shall be arranged as may be decided”.

The Arbrix Club was an immediate success and drew into its membership all those who had gone through the training programmes and who had been accepted by the President as being suitable to take arbitration appointments. The increase in membership led to the realisation that meetings could not properly cover all aspects of arbitration and, in 1991, the Construction Group was founded to deal with issues specific to that industry. In 1992 the Rural Group was founded to deal with agricultural matters. However, both remained an integral part of Arbrix.

1996 saw the passing of the Arbitration Act 1996 and the introduction of an entirely new arbitration code. Training on the new procedures was intense, with a special one day conference in London in January 1997 dealing specifically with the new Act.

During the 1990’s there was a growing interest in Alternative Dispute Resolution, with the creation by the RICS of a panel of mediators and the introduction of the PACT scheme in 1997. Arbrix embraced these innovative projects, providing a forum where those involved could discuss matters specific to those disciplines. One significant benefit of the PACT scheme was that it brought members of the legal profession into Arbrix and who have all made a material contribution to rent review and expert conferences.

In 1998 The Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act came into effect – introducing adjudication as a method of dispute resolution. The introduction of this Act saw membership of the Construction Group triple to approximately 150.

By the end of the decade there was a realisation that membership had increased to such an extent that the then structure of the Club was inadequate. As a consequence it was agreed that Arbrix should be incorporated as a company limited by guarantee and that there should be a separate vehicle for the management of conferences. These changes did not alter the underlying ethos of Arbrix. The first objective set out in the Memorandum of Association states that the aim is to “provide a forum for members to discuss from time to time current problems and experiences relating to arbitration and dispute resolution and to hold meetings to further those objectives.”

In 2002 Arbrix merged with INDEX, a previously independent group that had been established to provide training and continuing education for surveyors acting as Independent Experts. As a sub-group under the Arbrix umbrella INDEX continues to provide one conference a year to deal with issues specific to expert appointments and its members (many of whom are also arbitrators) also attend the arbitration conferences - particularly the annual November Conference where the programme is designed to cover both arbitration and independent expert issues.

The 1996 Act places great emphasis on the concept of party autonomy in arbitrations and Arbrix has been equally conscious of the need to ensure that the needs of the consumers are met by those making awards. To assist in the process of dialogue between parties and arbitrators, Arbrix has organised two Open Conferences, in 2002 and 2005, where representatives of government, major landlords and tenants and rent review surveyors were invited. Both events were regarded as highly successful and helped to provide better understanding of the processes involved.

Throughout the 20 years since the inaugural meeting the principal objective of Arbrix has remained the same – to seek to promote best practice in the arbitration process. To that end there has been a pattern of regular conferences dealing with matters of concern or interest to the groups concerned. These conferences are held in locations designed to ensure that as many members as possible are able to attend and to participate.

Without doubt the success of the conferences has reflected the high quality of speakers, with prominent members of the surveying and legal profession willingly participating at these events. The close relationship with Falcon Chambers – and the two decades of continuous support of Kirk Reynolds – has enlivened many a rent review conference. While it is not possible to mention, in this short note, all those who have helped over the past twenty years, special thanks are due to Nick Dowding, Lesley Webber, Frances Kirkham, Peter Bowsher, Rupert Jackson and Peter Short - all of whom have been made Honorary Members of Arbrix in recognition of their service to the organisation. In recognition of their special contribution to the setting up of Arbrix twenty years ago - and their continued involvement in Arbrix - Clifford Dann was elected as Life Patron and David Green as Life Fellow.

Thanks are also due to the help and support given to Arbrix by the secretariat of the RICS and all the Presidents appointed since the club was formed. Arbrix has also benefited from the attendance of the appointment team from Coventry – adding to the camaraderie and humour of the event.

The first twenty seven years of Arbrix has seen membership grow from 160 in 1986 to 685 in 2006. As we enter the third decade of Arbrix, the current committee are dedicated to continuing the work started in 1986. In particular emphasis will be placed on providing a forum for members to discuss issues and to continue to promote best practice in the field of arbitration. The conferences will continue to be designed to address particular issues that concern the membership or which arise through changes in statute or the interpretation of the law. The Arbrix website will continue to be developed to provide an enhanced service to members – including updates on relevant cases, the ability to download conference papers and to participate in “on-line” discussion and debate.