The need for the restoration and renewal of the Palace of Westminster
The Restoration and Renewal Programme has been established to tackle the essential work that needs to be done to protect the heritage of the Palace of Westminster (the Houses of Parliament) and ensure it can continue to serve as home to the UK Parliament in the 21st century and beyond.
There has been significant under-investment in the Palace since the 1940s, when parts of it were renovated following bomb damage during the Second World War. Despite being one of the most iconic buildings in the world, since its construction in the mid-1800s, many parts have never undergone major renovation.
The heating, ventilation, water, drainage and electrical systems are now antiquated with asbestos needing to be removed and improvements to fire safety required. There is extensive decay to the stonework, roofs are leaking and gutters and downpipes are corroded. The plumbing regularly fails, causing visible and sometimes irreversible damage to the Palace’s carved stonework ceilings and Pugin-designed historic interiors.
The building is deteriorating faster than it can be repaired. The longer this essential work is left, the greater the risk that it will suffer a sudden failure that makes it uninhabitable and brings a sudden stop to the work of Parliament. Because of the size and layout of the Palace, it is thought to be the biggest and most complex renovation programme of any single building this country has known.
Some essential work is already being undertaken, including at Westminster Hall and to the Elizabeth Tower (popularly known as ‘Big Ben’).
Fire safety systems are antiquated and fire safety officers are required to patrol the Palace 24 hours a day to spot signs of fire.
The Palace was built using Anston limestone which quickly began to decay and very little was done to prevent its decline during the 19th century.
Some of the essential mechanical and electrical services are up to 130 years old, such as heating, drainage, lighting, water, ventilation and communications.
Asbestos, which was used extensively during the post-war rebuilding period, is present throughout the building.
Repairs are needed to preserve Victoria Tower, home to the Parliamentary Archives which collects, preserves and makes accessible the four million records of UK Parliament.
The vast majority of the Palace’s 4,000 bronze windows do not close properly, letting water in and heat out and many of the most historically significant parts of the Palace are at risk.