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mps' £250m building 'value for money' says report

A long-awaited report on Michael Hopkins and Partners' Portcullis House has been published with an official and uncomfortable breakdown of spiralling costs.

Northcroft qs's report, leaked earlier this year (aj 25.3.99), puts the current cost at just under £250 million. When the project was launched in 1993 the cost was put at £125 million. The report blames £60 million of the rise on inflation and delays by London Underground in handing over the site for the new building which is to provide rooms for 200 mps and 200 support staff.

But though costs have jumped, the report said the project would finish on time and would have a design life of around 200 years, compared with the usual 20 to 40 year span. 'The building will be a superb addition to the national heritage and Parliament had the vision to insist on the highest quality design,' it said.

A House of Commons commission chaired by Betty Boothroyd, the Speaker, asked for the report as a mid-term review to check that the house was continuing to get good value for money and that the project was under control.

Secretary of the commission, Dr Malcolm Jack, said the two biggest issues were value for money and fees. 'There are some queries about the way costs have arisen in terms of professional charges by architects and the contractor,' he said.

'It seems there have been question marks over the method of inflation- linking costs. However other people say to have given a lump sum settlement at that time in 1993 would have had its pitfalls and dangers. No doubt the sum would have been too high.'

He added: 'The report has indicated it is value for money, in that mps are getting a building of more than 125 years' design life. The house was getting what it wanted. Nobody ever thought this was going to be cheap, it's a major heritage site and nobody employs Hopkins to produce a cheap building.'

Earlier this year Westminster's only architect mp, Sydney Chapman, added to the debate on expense. ' Windows and blinds cost £2800 per mp not £5800, and chairs are £550 budget price, not £980,' said the Tory, referring to some of the media speculation which preceded the report.

It worked out at £1.4 million per mp, but that included conference and staff rooms, a library and cafe, he said. It was expensive because the building was over one of the biggest 'holes' in Europe, the station, and opposite one of the most famous buildings - the Houses of Parliament.

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