The internationally recognised building that is The Palace of Westminster may be a common feature on our television screens, however the reality is far from the images portrayed, with the Palace facing an impending crisis which can no longer be ignored.
The majority of The Palace of Westminster was constructed between 1840 and 1870 and has since then never been renovated. Much of the vast network of pipes, cables and machinery that supply essential services around the Grade I listed building date back to the Victorian era or around 1940 when some of the Palace was rebuilt after it was bombed in World War II. This has led to around 60 small fires breaking out in the last 10 years, due to tangles of protruding high voltage wires and Victorian steam pipes running next to gas mains. Although only small incidents have occurred so far, there is substantial and growing risk of either a single, catastrophic event, such as a major fire, or a succession of incremental failures in essential systems.
Although the overall structure is still stable, the stonework is eroded and water damaged, the original cast iron roofs have rusted which has resulted in leaks and flooding becoming all too common. Another major issue is that the building is riddled with asbestos, which poses major safety concerns, due to the fact that the building isn’t in ideal condition and the removal of asbestos is complex and potentially a dangerous process.
What are the options?
Deloitte Real Estate carried out a detailed survey on the Palace, and has put forward three main options, which are:
A full decant, which would involve the Palace being fully vacated for roughly six years, and is predicted to cost £3.52bn.
A partial decant, where MPs and then peers would move out temporarily to other locations; this is predicted to take 11 years and cost £4.4bn.
A series of rolling repairs, which would be carried out while MPs and peers would continue to use the Palace, however this is predicted to take 32 years and cost £5.7bn.
The full decant option has been recommended by the committee, although a number of MPs are against it, stating ‘Delays will turn into years and years’, or the fear that ‘the Palace will just be turned into a museum and a new Parliament will be built elsewhere’. However, Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom and Lords Leader Baroness Evans of Bowes Park have reassured both MPs and peers that once the works were finished they would return to Westminster.
What happens next?
On 31st January 2018 MPs voted to move out for six years to allow the restoration projection to take place. The move is expected to be within the next decade, after the 2020 election. It is likely that MPs will work out of Richmond House on Whitehall, and Peers meanwhile will be elsewhere such as in the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre on Westminster Square.
Fortunately, JCF Property Management do not have the same problems as MP’s as we occupy a sound and well-maintained building, as you would expect from a firm that manages properties of all types and ages, including Grade II listed.
To learn more about the management of your listed building or any other building, contact JCF Property Management today.