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Overseers vow to keep tight rein on BDP’s £4bn Palace of Westminster refurb

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Key figures overseeing BDP’s £4 billion revamp of London’s Parliamentary buildings have warned they will maintain a relentless focus on time and cost as the highly scrutinised scheme develops

Liz Peace, chair of the shadow sponsor board of the Restoration and Renewal of the Palace of Westminster, told MPs she was determined to keep the mammoth project on schedule.

And shadow board director Tom Healey said at the same hearing last week of the Draft Parliamentary Buildings (Restoration and Renewal) Bill Committee that the client was keeping a tight grip of the budget.

‘The business case is a process,’ Healey told MPs. ‘We don’t do the design and then produce a business case that justifies it. The business case team are there now, working with the design team, challenging them on whether different aspects of the design represent value for money.

‘What’s the least we could do to keep this building functioning? There is an irreducible minimum of maybe 75 or 80 per cent of the total expenditure that is non-negotiable. For anything more than that, can we show there is a clear benefit, not just a nice-to-have outcome, to justify the expenditure?’

Peace reassured MPs that the project would not be allowed to drift while the politicians were working elsewhere – in a temporary debating chamber in the 1980s Grade II-listed Richmond House on Whitehall, which is being designed by AHMM.

Asked by MP Edward Leigh to confirm she was determined to keep the decant as short as possible and ‘not allow builders, surveyors and architects to see this as a money feast’, Peace replied: ‘Absolutely.’

She added: ‘I can give you my categoric personal assurance. We have a broad timetable which we will flesh out. We will set the scope and once we have done that we have to stick to it – barring an irrepressible need for a particular change.

‘We have to be very clear about what we are doing, how long it is going to take and how much it is going to cost. The reason big projects go wrong is because people allow the scope to creep.’

Peace added that the current desire was to start the work on an empty Palace of Westminster in 2025 and have the MPs back in by 2033.

BDP beat Foster + Partners, Allies and Morrison and HOK to win the design contract for the restoration in 2017. MPs last year voted narrowly in favour of leaving the Palace of Westminster while the huge programme of works is carried out.

In October 2018, ministers brought forward a preliminary version of the Parliamentary Buildings (Restoration and Renewal) Bill, which would establish Olympic-style bodies to oversee the huge scheme.

Peace told the MPs she’d like to see the shadow board remain in place for the delivery phase.

‘The only weakness at the moment is the degree of uncertainty about our status as we progress from a shadow to the substantive board as the bill progresses through parliament,’ she said. 

‘The role and position of the people on the shadow sponsor board ought to be clarified. It would be an unwise thing to do to run a public competition to reappoint everybody. You might lose the necessary continuity. We’ve all been appointed after a thorough, exhaustive public competition.’

Peace was formerly chief executive of the British Property Federation and since 2017 has chaired the Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation, supervising the major west London redevelopment project.


Readers' comments (3)

  • The suspiciously round figure of £4 billion is a headline sum with all the ambiguities of the London Olympics programme. Does it include professional fees? Does it include VAT? Does it allow for inflation? How much as a contingency has been set aside? Clarity on these matters would give a sense of confidence that the number isn't a convenient invention. However, what is truly critical is the competence and continuity of the client body. The best thing that could happen would be confirmation that the board already appointed will become permanent, with additions if necessary, but not wholesale replacements.

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  • MacKenzie Architects

    She thinks the MPs and Civil Servants can stick to the brief????
    Never in the history of government I suspect, have those who aren't paying for it been able to keep their sticky noses off the case.

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  • MacKenzie Architects

    They are always surprised when they have to add VAT. That's usually the first sign that the number is of course, not the number.

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