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Thu April 22 2021

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Parliament told to move out or have builders in for 32 years

18 Jun 15 Peers and MPs have been left with two basic choices: move out of the Palace of Westminster for at least six years or have building work going on all around them for 32 years.

The Palace of Westminster is not only rat infested but the cracks in the walls are big enough for daylight to enter
The Palace of Westminster is not only rat infested but the cracks in the walls are big enough for daylight to enter

Consultants were commissioned by the Palace of Westminster, at a cost of £2m, to explore how best to stop the Houses of Parliament completely crumbling away after decades of under-maintenance. They have now published their report.

They make no recommendations but spell out the decisions facing members of both houses. Construction work costing more than £1bn is needed and the total cost to the taxpayer of all the disruption will be £3.5bn at a very minimum.

If both chambers move out, a full repair job can be carried out in six years and cost £3.5bn (or £3.9bn if improvements are carried out at the same time).

If members are not prepared to move out, it will take 32 years for builders to work around them, bit by bit, and cost £5.7bn.

A compromise to be considered is for one house to move out at a time. This would mean 11 years of work in total, and cost up to £4.4bn.

Whatever is decided, the restoration programme is unlikely to start before 2020/21.

The Independent Options Appraisal (IOA) has been produced by a team led by Deloitte Real Estate with Aecom and HOK.

The report was commissioned in 2013 following publication of a study which showed that, unless significant restoration work is undertaken, major, irreversible damage may be done to the Palace. In October 2012, the authorities of the House of Commons and the House of Lords affirmed their belief that the Palace should remain the home of Parliament and agreed that doing nothing was not an option. This led to the commissioning of the IOA.

Deloitte Real Estate partner Alex Bell, who led the IOA, said: “Our analysis indicates that the restoration and renewal of the UK’s most famous building will be a challenging and potentially expensive exercise, but that it could also generate significant benefits to Parliament and the UK more widely.

“Members and Peers face unenviable decisions, although recent mega-project success stories such as the Olympics and Crossrail demonstrates the UK’s capability to deliver such projects successfully.”

The decision on what to do next will be taken by a joint committee of both houses, which is expected to make its recommendations early in 2016 with an anticipated decision in principle by members of both houses in spring 2016.

Programme director Richard Ware said:  “It is clear from this report that Parliament is faced with some difficult choices.  The Palace of Westminster is a building of huge national and international importance and we face a massive challenge in securing its future. Parliament will now consider the recommendations of the IOA and will do everything possible to secure value for money and ensure transparency throughout the process.”

John Hicks, UK head of government & public sector at Aecom, said: “The report intentionally does not contain recommendations on which scenario to choose. As technical lead for the consortium team, Aecom has focused on helping define the ‘what’ in terms of scenarios and the ‘how’, as well as ‘when’ the project could be delivered. This focus, together with both capital and life cost, and robust analysis of the engineering challenges from replacement services to environmental issues, have been principal ingredients of the IOA report.”

Larry Malcic, design principal of HOK, added: “Few landmarks can rival the enormous historic, cultural and political significance of the Palace of Westminster. The challenges involved in its restoration and renewal are unique. Our extensive understanding of the building’s architectural heritage, underpinned by our two decades of experience working at the Palace and across Whitehall, has informed the report’s findings on what each scenario would aim to achieve and how to manage such a complex design project.”

The Independent Options Appraisal Report

The IOA details five scenarios, ranging from a ‘do minimum’ gradual approach, to making significant improvements in a single phase project. These five combinations of delivery option (how the work is done) and outcome level (what is done) were selected by the consultants as being potentially able to meet the programme objectives.

Three potential delivery options (how the work will be carried out) were identified:

1) Rolling programme. A rolling programme of works done around continued occupation of the Palace which would take a prolonged period

2) Partial move out. A programme of works conducted over a shorter period of time, during which each House would in turn move out to a temporary location.

3) Full move out. A programme of works undertaken over a more concentrated period of time, during which the Palace would be fully vacated.

The key findings

1.       The report indicates that undertaking the minimum work with Parliament remaining in occupation (ie delivery option 1), would take around 32 years.  The Palace would be divided into 12 zones, each to be renovated in turn. Both Chambers would have to be closed for between two-four years, at different times, but sittings could potentially be relocated to a temporary structure elsewhere in or around the Palace. This approach is dependent on the installation of significant temporary services in the early years. Users of the Palace would have to tolerate high levels of disruption and disturbance over a long period and there would be a higher level of risk to business continuity. This option is also the least predictable in terms of duration and cost and offers the least opportunity to improve amenities.

2.       The work could be carried out more quickly if first the Commons, then the Lords, were to move to temporary accommodation outside the Palace. Again, this approach depends on the installation of temporary services. Security and nuisance issues would have to be managed at the boundary between the two zones. This approach would take approximately 11 years, whichever outcome level is adopted.

3.       A full move out of the Palace by both Houses would take the least time and would avoid disruption to parliament from construction works. Risks to business continuity would be greatly reduced, assuming that the challenge of securing sufficient temporary accommodation can be overcome. This approach would take approximately six years, whichever outcome level is adopted.

The choice of delivery option has a significantly greater impact on cost and timescale than the choice of outcome level.


All costs are provisional estimates at this early stage and include significant provision for risk and uncertainty. Once a preferred way forward has been identified, the scope will be firmed up and more specific costs will be developed.  The report should not be regarded as a bid for funding in the immediate future. All costs are based on a notional start date of 2020 and therefore investment funding would be required after this date and would be subject to a full business case evaluation taking value for money and affordability into account.


(all figures rounded to two significant figures)

Estimated construction & delivery costs only

Estimated capital expenditure (inc. construction and delivery, temporary accommodation, fees, inflation and VAT at 20%)

E1A: Rolling programme – minimum outcome (32 years)



2A: Partial move out  – minimum outcome (11 years)



2B: Partial move out – some improvements (11 years)



3B: Full move out – some improvements (6 years)



3C: Full move out – significant improvements (6 years)



All calculations assume that temporary accommodation is relinquished once the programme is complete. VAT has been included because Parliament is distinct from Government as an accounting entity.

The full independent appraisal of options (together with two volumes of detailed supporting materials) is available on the Parliament website at:

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