Parliament restoration experts join Thangam Debbonaire MP at Bristol Beacon
Parliament restoration experts join Thangam Debbonaire MP at Bristol Beacon to learn about restoration of historic theatre as 17 businesses from across the south west meet Parliament restoration team.
23rd June 2023
Parliament restoration experts met Bristol West MP Thangam Debbonaire as well as 17 businesses from across the South West, in series of visits to speak to suppliers and learn more from restoration of local historic buildings such as the Bristol Beacon, Gloucester Cathedral and the Royal West of England Academy.
17 businesses specialising in everything from engineering and architecture to skills and further education shared their expertise and experience, and heard from the team at the Houses of Parliament Restoration and Renewal Programme about how the major project to restore the Palace of Westminster can support jobs around the region.
Following the business event, experts from R&R examined the long-term conservation work of the world-famous 14th century Cloister at Gloucester Cathedral and the reconstruction of the Victorian concert hall at Bristol Beacon, which will create one of the best and most accessible performance and music education venues in Europe.
The Bristol Beacon is in the constituency of Bristol West MP Thangam Debbonaire, who is shadow leader of the House of Commons and a key member of Parliament’s Restoration and Renewal Client Board which makes the critical decisions on the way forward for restoration of the Palace of Westminster. The Bristol West MP joined the team behind the restoration of the iconic venue in a discussion about applying the lessons they’d learned to Parliament’s project.
Nigel Evans, Deputy Speaker of the Commons and Chair of Parliament’s R&R Programme Board said:
“When any major event happens in our democracy, it’s the Palace of Westminster at its very heart. We want to make sure that heart is still beating in 100 years’ time.
“The public want to see the Palace of Westminster renewed, and there is great potential for new business, skills and opportunities throughout the UK from the works.”
Thangam Debbonaire, MP for Bristol West, Shadow Leader of the House of Commons and member of Parliament’s Restoration and Renewal Client Board commented:
“The Bristol Beacon is at the heart of our cultural landscape. When the refurbishment is complete it will transform our city centre. I can’t wait to see it reopen.”
“As an MP also working on the Restoration and Renewal of the Palace of Westminster it’s been great to learn the lessons from the Beacon’s refurbishment.”
“Both buildings hold a special place in people’s hearts. They are of huge historical and cultural significance. It’s right that action is taken to save them.”
There are already dozens of small to medium sized companies involved in the effort to restore the Palace of Westminster. Last year, seven contracts worth £4m for building investigations were awarded to suppliers nationwide with five out of seven contract winners being classed as a small or medium enterprise (SME).
David Goldstone, CEO of the Houses of Parliament Restoration and Renewal Delivery Authority, said:
“We’re travelling around the country to make sure that small businesses across the nation are aware of future opportunities from the works to restore and renew the Houses of Parliament.
“The South West has so much to offer, and we were keen to learn lessons from the restoration of the ancient cloister at Gloucester Cathedral and the Victorian music hall at Bristol Beacon, both of which had important lessons to share for us in relation to the complex restoration of the Houses of Parliament which is a mix of both ancient and Victorian architecture.”
Phil Smith, Managing Director, Business West said:
“We are delighted to host the Houses of Parliament Restoration and Renewal Roundtable focusing on the most complex building restoration project undertaken in the UK.
“With a skills shortage gripping the nation and the South West region, this programme will support jobs and apprenticeships, requiring a variety of specialist skills in building conservation and heritage trades.
“The roundtable was an invaluable opportunity for attendees to shape the procurement process and explore the potential for regional growth.”
Both Houses of Parliament are committed to preserving the Palace for future generations. The Palace is enormous and complex – the size of 16 football pitches, with the whole building sharing the same water, electric, sewage and gas system. Many of these services are 50+ years old and have reached the end of their lifespan. Hundreds of miles of pipes and cables need replacing. The scale of the challenge means more extensive restoration and renewal is needed as part of the overall plan for the Parliamentary buildings.
Currently there are dozens of major projects underway to repair and restore key parliamentary buildings by parliamentary teams with which the Restoration and Renewal programme will work closely to learn from and build the lessons into the overall restoration plans for the Palace.
In July 2022 Members of both Houses agreed there needs to be a more aligned and integrated approach to future restoration, prioritising safety critical work before the formal go-ahead and options for the overall restoration are confirmed.
In November 2022, news of the possible discovery of the medieval Thames River wall underneath the Houses of Parliament was revealed by the extensive programme of building investigations by restoration teams last year. Specialists spent 4,850 hours examining 160 rooms and drilling boreholes up to 70 metres deep to assess ground conditions around the Palace of Westminster. The surveys are helping restoration teams develop the most detailed ever record of the Palace of Westminster to inform decisions about essential restoration work.
At Easter, R&R revealed that a milestone 7,500 hours of specialist intrusive and disruptive surveying work has been completed since July 2022. This work, in addition to the tens of thousands of hours of planning and visual inspection research completed since 2018 will inform decisions about essential restoration work of the historic Palace of Westminster.
These surveys inform a set of options, developed by the Restoration and Renewal Delivery Authority, for how significant elements of the restoration work will be delivered and the level of ambition for restoration work. This includes variations on the time and extent to which Members and staff are asked to move out of the Palace to allow complex construction work to take place.
The volume and future scope of the main restoration works are not yet certain until approval is given by Members of both Houses to costed proposals, and in advance of this Members will be asked to approve the way forward by the end of 2023.