Working with the parliamentary community and public is paramount to the success of the Restoration and Renewal
We’re particularly keen to hear views about issues such as accessibility and inclusion and making the best use of the available space within Westminster Palace.
Like any major programme, restoring and renewing Parliament will be hugely challenging. Anyone who has carried out even minor refurbishment work knows it is disruptive. Imagine the disruption in a Victorian building with more than 1100 rooms, miles of corridors and typically more than 3000 people visiting and working there every day.
It’s more like refurbishing a neighbourhood of hundreds of homes all sharing a hodge-podge of outdated electrics, sewers, gas, and all reliant on each other. If the electrics fail in one house, they fail in hundreds. If a pipe bursts, everyone could be without water.
The restoration of the Palace of Westminster is even more complex. The building is 150 years-old and some systems haven’t changed in that time, so we need to properly plan the restoration to understand exactly what’s needed, how much it will cost, how long it will take, and how much disruption Parliament is prepared to tolerate.
As we get on with the job of developing a detailed and costed restoration and renewal plan to be considered by Parliament in 2023, we want to hear views from Members, Parliamentary staff, the public, and the thousands who typically use the Palace each day.
Working with the parliamentary community is paramount. Members, staff and users of the estate have already had opportunities to give their views on Restoration and Renewal and will have many more chances to engage over the course of our work, including this summer, as we seek opinions on various aspects of the functions the Palace needs to have in future.
It’s vital we understand the views of everyone that uses the Palace now, to inform the restoration and renewal plan including the design options which are currently being developed.
We have a duty to involve all four nations and together shape the future of one of the world’s great landmarks
At this point, as well as being available to provide updates and information about our work, we’re particularly keen to hear views about issues such as accessibility and inclusion and making the best use of the available space within the Palace. We’ll follow this with more opportunities for everyone who uses the Palace to tell us what they think about other issues later in the year.
There will be opportunities for the public to get involved too, with a national online conversation launching this week that will seek people’s views on issues including how we support the economy by creating jobs and training opportunities across the UK, how welcoming and accessible the building is, the outstanding heritage benefits of the building, and the environmental footprint of the building.
This isn’t the first time a hugely complex construction project has been carried out at Parliament. Sir Charles Barry, the architect who rebuilt Parliament after it burned down in 1834, overcame enormous obstacles. His vision and relentless drive built a global landmark, a symbol of the United Kingdom, and an extension of our national identity.
Fast forward 150 years and protecting Parliament is again critical. This time though, we can restore and renew the building before it meets the same fate as its predecessor, while learning the lessons of Barry’s endeavours.
When Parliament voted in 2018 to restore and renew the Palace, it voted to set up independent organisations to oversee, design and deliver the work. Acting as the single client, accountable to and working hand-in-hand with Parliament, is the Sponsor Body. It oversees a Delivery Authority, executing the work. This set up, similar to the London Olympics, ensures the programme has a clear vision, objectives and strategy as well as the skills and expertise to deliver such a major construction project. It also ensures transparency on costs, with both organisations committed to minimising costs by focusing on the necessary essential work.
As we restore and renew this icon of the United Kingdom, we have a duty to involve all four nations and together shape the future of one of the world’s great landmarks. We’ve already started recruiting apprentices and interns from ‘social mobility coldspots’ around the UK, working with the Social Mobility Foundation, and are establishing an approach to procurement which will bring in craftspeople and businesses of all sizes from towns, cities and communities throughout the country. This will be a programme for the whole of the United Kingdom.
As well as including all the future functions Parliament requires, our detailed plan will be based on more than 100 surveys and investigations and will for the first time include accurate cost and timescale estimates. It will focus on the essential work that’s needed and have value for money at its heart.
The UK's role on the global stage is as important now as it has ever been. We must protect and restore the iconic Palace of Westminster, a source of national pride and international renown, as a symbol for our nation for generations to come.
Sarah Johnson is the chief executive of the Houses of Parliament Restoration and Renewal Programme shadow Sponsor Body.
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