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Parliament restoration director: 'No doubt' cost will rise

The programme director for Parliament’s restoration has said costs will rise amid continuing delay to a decision on the multi-billion-pound scheme – and revealed that key contracts have been ready to hand out for almost a year.

Tom Healey told Construction News that the selection process for deals to provide architectural and building design services as well as programme, project and cost management services concluded last summer.

Five options for restoring the worn down but iconic Palace of Westminster building were set out in June 2015 by a consortium comprising consultant Aecom, structures specialist Hok and financial giant Deloitte.

Nine companies and joint ventures were then shortlisted in December 2015 for two contracts covering architectural / building design and programme / project / cost management services.

“Those contracts are ready to let when we get the go-ahead from the two houses,” Mr Healey said.

Speaking before the terror attack at Westminster of 22 March, Mr Healey added: “We’re hoping for a decision before Easter.”

One source told Construction News a debate had been scheduled on the restoration works for mid-April. It is unknown whether this date will be affected by the attack.

A decision is awaited on whether MPs will move out of the palace fully or partially, or whether they will remain.

The public accounts committee’s Delivering Restoration and Renewal report this month said a full decant was the most economical, effective and efficient way to carry out the restoration of the “mother of all parliaments”. 

The committee added that the best value for money would be achieved by “getting on with” the project.

Recommendations were made by the joint committee on the Palace of Westminster six months ago that MPs should fully vacate while works take place.

Mr Healey said the delay over a final decision was adding to the already hefty cost of the huge project.

“We were hoping to have a decision by now, but that hasn’t happened,” he said.

“The longer we delay, the more we’ll have to pay in the interim on temporary works when a much longer solution is needed.”

Mr Healey said he hoped a delivery authority would be in place by 2019 with contractors likely to be appointed in 2020.

The shortlist for the programme, project and cost management services contract is: Aecom / Mace; Capita Property Infrastructure / Gleeds Cost Management; CH2M; Arcadis; and Turner & Townsend.

Meanwhile Foster & Partners, Hok UK, BDP and Allies and Morrison were shortlisted for the design and architecture deal. 

Mr Healey said there was “no doubt” the scheme would grow in cost.

The 2015 options appraisal found that both houses fully vacating the Palace would enable the project to be completed within six years for a shade under £4bn in 2014 prices.

“I would have thought that inflation – in particular, tender price inflation – will mean it will go up rather than down because it always does,” Mr Healey said.

He added there would be “loads of opportunities” for contractors on the project.

He said the engineering works contract, which will account for about three-quarters of the budget, is “most likely” going to go to bigger engineering companies.

Most of the heritage works, which account for a quarter of the budget, will probably go to SMEs, he added.

Some MPs have spoken out against the joint committee’s recommendations for a full decant to occur.

If MPs choose to move out of the Palace, it will have to be decided where the Houses of Commons and Lords will be moved to.

The joint committee report recommended Richmond House and the QEII conference centre to house MPs and peers for temporary office space.

Conservative Party MP Sir Edward Leigh said there were “weaknesses” in the business case for MPs to move out of the Palace.

“They’ve got a dotty idea to put the House of Lords in QEII,” he said. “It would mean massive refurbishment, the government would lose rental income from it and it is not in a secure zone”.

He also spoke out against recommendations to move the House of Commons into Richmond House.

“Their plan is to kick us out at a massive cost of £85m and create a replica chamber in the courtyard of Richmond House,” Mr Leigh said. “It will be a huge elephant in the room – what are we going to do with it once we move back into the real House of Commons?”

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