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Houses of Parliament restoration to be overseen by independent expert


09 April 2020

The organisation which will lead the UK’s biggest heritage renovation project, the restoration and renewal of the Palace of Westminster, has today been launched as an independent body separate from Parliament.  

The Houses of Parliament Restoration and Renewal Sponsor Body has been set up to tackle the work needed to protect the Palace, ensuring it can continue to serve as the home of the UK Parliament in the 21st century and beyond.   

The Sponsor Body will set the scope, budget and timescale for the project. It will oversee a Delivery Authority, which will be established in the coming weeks and will be responsible for procuring contractors and executing the work.    

The two-tier approach, which was used successfully for the 2012 London Olympics, was endorsed by both Houses of Parliament in a resolution in 2018, and passed into law in October 2019.  Both the Sponsor Body and Delivery Authority will ensure value for money at every stage. 

The Sponsor Body Executive Team is led by Chief Executive Sarah Johnson and advised by a Board chaired by Liz Peace CBE. 

Chief Executive Sarah Johnson said:

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to protect and renew one of the most recognisable buildings in the world. This programme will support thousands of jobs in communities across the country and ensure the Palace of Westminster can continue to be a safe, working home for Parliament for generations to come. “

The challenge 

The Palace is an enormous building with a floorplate the size of 16 football pitches with 1,100 rooms, 100 staircases, three miles of passageways, four floors and 65 different levels.   

It is a huge challenge. The Palace has been neglected for decades and is falling apart faster than it can be fixed. 

The patch and mend approach to maintenance is no longer sustainable. The costs of keeping the building safe for staff and visitors increased by 60% to £123m over the last four years.  

These are some of the key challenges: 

  • The Palace is at high risk of sudden failure from major fire, flood or dangerous stone fall.   

  • The heating, ventilation, water, and electrical systems are out-dated and steam pipes run alongside electrical cables throughout the building.  

  • The sewage ejector system installed in 1888 is still in use today.  

  • Hundreds of miles of cabling need replacing and more than 1,000 spaces contain asbestos.   

  • Thousands of ventilation shafts need upgrading to protect the building against a major fire.   

Ways of working 

From today the Sponsor Body, which has existed in shadow form since the summer of 2018, will formally assume responsibility for R&R, at arm’s length from Parliament, as set out in the Act passed last year.   

COVID-19 has affected all aspects of parliamentary business, including maintenance work and R&R surveys on the estate. However, planning and design work on R&R continues, including the setting up of the new governing bodies.       

The R&R Programme will also continue to work very closely with Parliament, and colleagues from across both Houses. The broad principles of how the organisations will work together are set out in a  Parliamentary Relationship Agreement (PRA), which will be published soon.  

The Sponsor Body will act as the client for the work but will remain accountable to Parliament. One its most important tasks is to prepare an Outline Business Case for decision by both Houses in 2022.   

The R&R programme will carry out rigorous reviews of options and cost, in line with best practice established by the Infrastructure and Projects Authority. It will also be subject to external review by the National Audit Office.  

Economic benefits  

The R&R programme will benefit small and medium-sized enterprises and create training opportunities all over the country. It will support thousands of jobs in construction, engineering, design, and IT, as well as attracting those with specialist skills in carpentry, stonemasonry, metalwork, heritage conservation and more.   

For more details on the governance of the Programme, please visit the 'About us' section on this website.