In 2012, the House of Commons and House of Lords commissioned a pre-feasibility study on the condition of the Palace. The study indicated that unless significant restoration work is undertaken, major, irreversible damage may be done to the building.
There has been significant under-investment in the Palace for decades. Parts of the building, including the House of Commons chamber, were renovated following bomb damage during the Second World War. Other areas have not undergone appropriate renovation since the Palace was built in the mid-1800s.
Currently, the speed at which the work can be carried out is slower than the rate at which the building is deteriorating, therefore the backlog of essential repairs, and in turn the risk of system failure, is growing significantly over time. These challenges are compounded by the presence of asbestos throughout the building and fitting work around sittings of Parliament.
The current piecemeal approach of repairing only those areas at highest risk of failure to ensure the work of Parliament remains uninterrupted is no longer sustainable and we have now reached the stage where a substantial renovation is needed.
What are the benefits of the Restoration and Renewal Programme?
The Programme is designed to protect the Palace and its historic legacy for future generations, while ensuring value for money for the taxpayer. A further anticipated long-term benefit is a more open, accessible Parliament for all, including significant improvements to disabled access.
The costs of a planned, large-scale restoration programme will be significant but on completion, the benefits could include:
- An asbestos-free building providing safe access for maintenance.
- Increased energy efficiency, with lower maintenance and running costs and a significantly reduced carbon footprint.
- A considerable reduction in the current requirement for high cost emergency repairs.
- Improved visitor and disabled access to the building.
- Reduced risk of major disruption to the work of Parliament caused by service failure. At the moment only essential maintenance and repairs are being carried out in order to keep the building functioning.
What will the Restoration and Renewal Programme involve?
Major elements of the proposed Restoration and Renewal Programme are likely to include:
- Replacing antiquated heating, ventilation, electrical, water and drainage systems.
- Installation of fire safety systems to minimise the risk of fire damage to the building.
- Safe removal of significant amounts of asbestos which has limited the ability to undertake conservation and renovation work in the past.
- Repair and enhancement of the approximately 4,000 bronze and other windows in the Palace.
- Extensive external and internal conservation and renewal of stonework.
- Repairs and conservation work to the historic interiors of international significance.
- Installing information and communications technology necessary for a 21st century Parliament.
- Completing major restoration works on the cast iron roofs, ensuring the Palace is watertight and preventing further damage to the integrity of the building.
Palace of Westminster
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