The renovation of the Palace of Westminster is set to begin in 2027 and includes both the House of Commons and House of Lords. The Restoration and Renewal Sponsor Body was established in 2019 to oversee the project, with MPs, peers, historians and infrastructure experts on its board.
A refurbishment of the Palace of Westminster, home to the UK Houses of Parliament, slated to begin in 2027, could cost £14 billion ($18,7 bln) and force MPs out for two decades, reported The Telegraph.
Estimates in 2018 had suggested the restoration would require about £4 billion, with MPs at the time voting to support a “full decant” proposal. In line with that, they would move into Richmond House in Whitehall for about six years. The price tag was later revised to about £7 billion.
However, now, according to a government source cited by the outlet, “one estimate that has been discussed” was that cost of repairs could reach a whopping £14 billion.
“MPs will have to vote on these plans and they will have to be able to justify such a project to their constituents. MPs from across the House will be incredibly concerned by these suggested costs and timescales,” added the insider.
Ahead of their vote in 2018 some MPs had argued the case for rebuilding to go ahead while they remained inside the UNESCO World Heritage site.
But that was dismissed as non-viable after a survey of the required building work carried out by the Restoration & Renewal Sponsor Body, comprising MPs, peers, historians and infrastructure experts, concluded that it would drag out the process for over 30 years.
Accordingly, among several options mulled is one that will require MPs to relocate out of Westminster Palace for 20 years. However, the insiders are cited as suggesting this is a worst-case scenario. A more favoured option would ostensibly require the MPs and peers to leave the building for between 12 and 15 years.
The debate on viable options for the renovation come as maintenance of the deteriorating building of Westminster Palace is costing an annual £127 million and rising, experts are cited as saying.
Ex-speaker of the House of Lords, Lord Fowler, wrote to House of Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle to urge the renovation plans to include relocating MPS otherwise the costs would spiral.
Another problem threatening to delay restoration work is a shortage of skilled craftsmen, such as stonemasons, plasterers, etc. A survey of contractors in the heritage sector discovered that it would be a challenge to drum up the required experts in furniture, textile and painting restoration, stained glass conservation and clock making in the UK.
Furthermore, some of the heritage sector crafts that would be needed for the project have either become “extinct” or “critically endangered”.
All the assessments come amid warnings that the building, erected in 1840, is decaying faster than it can be repaired.
A ten-year-old feasibility report, entitled Restoration And Renewal Of The Palace Of Westminster, warned of so many fire risks, leaking roofs and asbestos hazards that if it “were not a listed building of the highest heritage value, its owners would probably be advised to demolish and rebuild”.