The design solution
Exploring options for the Northern Estate
Of all the options considered within London, only the Northern Estate can deliver the spatial requirements for the House of Commons to operate within a single, safe and secure site.
Fitting a temporary House of Commons Chamber with its associated facilities and workspace for MPs and their staff into the Northern Estate is a significant challenge, given it is a constrained and already occupied site, full of listed buildings. Considerable thought has gone into balancing critical functional requirements, heritage and value for money.
The original option of locating the temporary Chamber within the courtyard of Richmond House, when properly tested, was found to create a number of issues. Critically, accommodating both the Chamber and the adjacent division (voting) lobbies required the partial demolition of Richmond House.
Further masterplan options were therefore developed to consider how space across the whole Northern Estate could be maximised to deliver the requirements.
From an initial long list, three principal options were developed for consideration – spreading the impact across the Northern Estate; utilising temporary buildings; and focusing the intervention on Richmond House.
1. Spreading the impact across the Northern Estate still required the partial demolition and redevelopment of Richmond House while also needing significant interventions to almost all other buildings within the Northern Estate in order to accommodate the additional spaces required. This approach was unlikely to be supportable given the level of harm created to a range of listed buildings across the Estate.
2. The use of temporary buildings, to be demolished later, was assessed but found to be unsuitable, not least because the security requirements mean that they would need to be built to a similar standard as permanent buildings. The Public Accounts Committee when reviewing this option agreed that such an approach should be dismissed as it would represent poor value for money for the taxpayer.
3. Focussing the intervention on Richmond House, which is the approach being proposed, allows the creation of an exceptional and flexible new building at Richmond House to meet the accommodation requirements of the House of Commons. This includes new basement levels for site-wide infrastructure, including an energy centre to help achieve zero carbon emissions by 2050, whilst conserving and sensitively enhancing multiple listed buildings across the Northern Estate. This approach also delivers the strongest legacy benefits.