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£3billion repair bill: Houses of Parliament could close for five years

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The historic Palace of Westminster may have to shut for five years to allow a £3billion overhaul to be carried out

According to reports at the weekend, the House of Commons may have to temporarily move from the Grade I-listed Charles Barry-designed landmark into Powell Moya & Partners’s nearby Queen Elizabeth II conference centre (1986) while refurbishment is underway.

There have also been suggestions that a replica chamber may be built for MPs during the refit.

Although there is an ongoing programme of repairs at the Houses of Parliament, it is understood an in-depth study has been commissioned into the long-term upkeep of the ‘tired’ building which was mainly built in the 1840s and 1850s and features interiors by Augustus W N Pugin.

However among the more serious problems allegedly discovered already are ‘chronic subsidence, electrical problems, fire risks, plumbing leaks’ and problems with asbestos.

Earlier this year the BBC claimed that cracks had appeared in the Gothic, Thamesside icon and that the 1859 clock tower housing the Big Ben bell had started to lean by upto 18 inches.

Actual plans remain at a ‘very early stage’, but it is thought that Commons officials want a cheaper, temporary move rather than a more probelmatic and lengthy programme scheduled around parliamentary recesses.

Any work will not begin until the next parliament in 2015.

A round-up of the rumour mill

The Daily Mail
‘The worst problems are linked to subsidence caused by decades of Tube trains rattling past the foundations and work on the underground car park.These have caused Big Ben’s bell tower to tilt 18in from the vertical – enough for tourists to start noticing. Cracks have also started to appear in the walls of the Palace.The problem is so severe that MPs are even being asked to consider the radical proposal of selling off the historic building and moving into newly built offices – a move that could net £500million for the Exchequer.’

The Huffington Post
‘The building is known for its rodent problem and leaky toilets. Theresa May has had to deal with suspicious liquid dripping down from the ceiling, whilst senior Tory official Iain Corby told the Times ‘a waterfall’ poured into the parliamentary Labour Party office last year.
Despite that a number of MPs have criticised the moving of parliament, with Greg Hands Conservative MP for Chelsea and Fulham calling it an “absurd proposal”
‘Nadine Dorries claimed that in the Houses of Parliament ‘what we have is unique and passionate’ but admitted that ‘rodents were a problem’.’

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