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MPs vote to leave Palace of Westminster while BDP refurb takes place

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MPs have voted to leave the Palace of Westminster while a huge programme of works, designed by BDP, is carried out at the building

In a tight vote last night, those in favour of a temporary decant triumphed by 236 to 220.

According to an independent options appraisal drawn up by HOK in 2015, the cheapest and quickest way for the dilapidated Westminster building to be restored is for MPs and peers to work elsewhere for six years.

The programme would still cost up to £3.9 billion, the report said, but this would be significantly less than the £5.7 billion needed for a rolling programme of renovations carried out ‘around continued occupation of the Palace’ over 32 years.

Last night’s vote means MPs will now be looking for a temporary home elsewhere. The motion passed called on a guarantee in legislation that both the Commons and Lords would return to their traditional chambers ‘as soon as possible’.

It also stipulates that ‘a sponsor board and delivery authority be established by legislation to develop a business case and costed programme for the work to be approved by both houses of Parliament, and to commission and oversee the work required’.

Last year BDP beat Foster + Partners, Allies and Morrison and HOK to win the design contract for the restoration. The practice will work with Donald Insall Associates, which has a long history of conservation work at the Palace of Westminster.

CH2M was chosen to deliver programme, project and cost management services on the scheme.

Conservative MP Damian Green set out the need for the project during the debate in Parliament last night.

‘It might be an exaggeration to say that Parliament is a death trap, but it would not be a wild exaggeration,’ he said.

’Anyone who has taken the tour of the basement will have seen the full horror of the current arrangements. We have already heard about the regular fires that break out. Chunks of masonry have fallen off high parts of the building. We are lucky that no one has been killed so far because of this.

’It is not remotely conceivable that people would be allowed to work here if this were a normal building, let alone that thousands of tourists would be allowed to visit it.’

Meanwhile Historic England warned MPs that the iconic Parliament building could become endangered. It said the Palace of Westminster, Westminster Abbey and Saint Margaret’s Church was inscribed as World Heritage Site (WHS) in 1987.

’The Unesco World Heritage Committee is already concerned about the impact of the development of tall buildings on the heritage values of the WHS and if clear and convincing action to arrest the deterioration of the Palace is not taken this could result in the committee placing Westminster on the list of World Heritage in Danger,’ it warned. 

Rebuilt in the mid-19th Century after a fire, the Palace of Westminster is ’an outstanding example of neo-Gothic style’ according to Historic England.

Architect Michael Hopkins last year said MPs could use the atrium of his 2001 Portcullis House as a temporary chamber while the Houses of Parliament were being restored. Meanwhile Studio Octopi, marine engineer Beckett Rankine and structural engineer Expedition have proposed stripping back and reusing three soon-to-be decommissioned Woolwich ferries as temporary chambers for both houses.

Paul Finch last month warned that a lack of expertise was hampering attempts to work out a strategy for the refurbishment project.


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