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Exclusive: Parliament restoration report delayed until autumn at earliest

A crucial report on the Palace of Westminster’s multi-billion-pound restoration project has been delayed to an unspecified date, Construction News has learned.

The Grade-I listed building, which forms part of a Unesco world heritage site, needs urgent repairs and building work to safeguard it from fire, water damage, security threats and dilapidation.

But a parliamentary committee report recommending a way forward – expected in “early 2016” – has been delayed until at least the autumn and there is no date scheduled for its publication.

A spokesperson from the joint committee on the Palace of Westminster confirmed that it would not be published before the summer recess, which started on Thursday [21 June].

She said she was unaware of rumours that prime minister Theresa May had ordered the report to be shelved altogether.

The joint committee has been consulting since last November on the scope of the work needed, and whether parliament should be relocated elsewhere for a period of time.

An independent options appraisal, published last June, said the work could cost up to £5.7bn and take up to 40 years to complete.

Deloitte Real Estate, Aecom and HOK, which contributed to the appraisal, said at the time of its launch: “The joint committee is expected to make its recommendations early in 2016 with an anticipated decision in principle by members of both Houses in spring 2016.”

The appraisal said a spring 2016 decision was needed if work was to start by 2020. Each year that a decision was delayed would add an extra £60m-£85m to capital costs in tender price inflation, it warned.

Delaying a decision by a five-year parliamentary term would cost up to £444m, it added.

At the time, the restoration and renewal project’s programme director Richard Ware was already voicing doubts about the 2020 start date.

In the meantime, construction firms have been shortlisted for advisory services deals connected to the scheme.

Nine bidders were named last December for architectural / building design programme / project / cost management services deals worth £30m. They included CH2M, Arcadis and a joint venture between Aecom and Mace.

Contracts were expected to be awarded at the end of June, but have also been delayed.

A spokeswoman said: “Contracts are expected to be awarded later in the year. The exact size, scope and duration for these services has yet to be defined.”

Parliament is due to return on 7 September.

The 1,100-room Palace of Westminster dates from the mid-1800s. Contractors are currently doing piecemeal repairs to buildings where the risk of “catastrophic breakdown” is “uncomfortably high”, according to a 2013 report.

In 2012, a parliamentary document stated: “The Palace of Westminster is reaching the point where its condition is deteriorating, risks are growing and partial patching and mending interventions are no longer sufficient. Fundamental renovation can no longer be avoided.”

The joint committee spokeswoman said the delays would not affect the £500m Northern Estates programme to refurbish MPs’ offices.

Earlier this week a report, commissioned by House of Common speaker John Bercow, said the restoration and renewal of parliament was an opportunity to make it more representative.

Examples included making it more wheelchair-accessible, expanding the chamber, building new facilities for babies and children, and providing additional unisex toilets.

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