The sponsor body behind the multibillion revamp of the Houses of Parliament is to be wound up and replaced by a new delivery authority
It was announced earlier this month that the existing Restoration & Renewal Sponsor Body will be stood down and its role taken on by a new body working directly for both the House of Commons Commission and House of Lords Commission.
It is unclear what impact this move will have on proposals, led by BDP, to relocate hundreds of MPs and parliamentary staff from the Palace of Westminster to the neighbouring Northern Estate. However the practice will continue to oversee the ongoing, in-depth series of surveys into the condition of the existing Parliament buildings.
A decision notice posted by the House of Commons Commission said that the new delivery department should be asked to draw up plans for a ‘more rapid prioritisation of critical work on the palace and reduce the need for a complete or nearly-complete decant of the palace’.
In January last year work was paused on BDP’s masterplan to convert a clutch of Grade I and Grade II-listed buildings next to the palace into temporary homes for MPs. That project has a budget of £500 million and included AHMM’s controversial plans to gut Whitfield Partners’ Grade II*-listed Richmond House and install a Commons chamber there.
Any planned works on Richmond House will be led by the House of Commons and are not the responsibility of the Houses of Parliament Restoration and Renewal Sponsor Body or delivery authority.
The Architects Journal understands the cost of the entire Restoration & Renewal programme, together with the decant, had ballooned from the original £4 billion estimate to £14 billion and was set to take up to 17 years to complete.
Heritage group SAVE described the decision to scrap the sponsor body as a ‘splendid outcome’ for its campaign to save Richmon House. The organisation has strongly argued against its near demolition and rebuilding, claiming there were ‘quicker, cheaper and better means of managing the urgent works of repair and renewing’ to the Palace of Westminster.
On Tuesday (8 February), the House of Lords Commission agreed to back moves to scrap the sponsor body, though not ‘until further consideration had taken place’ about ‘what should replace it, based on independent advice and assurance’.
It added: ‘In the meantime, the sponsor body should pare down its activities to focus solely on essential work … [and that] the delivery authority should focus on intrusive surveys and other necessary work’.
Under these proposals, the sponsorship function for the programme would change from being an independent organisation to being a new Parliamentary in-house department. The delivery authority would report to this new sponsor department, and its own overall status would not change. However, the programme will be asked to develop plans around revised objectives and scope for the restoration.
A spokesperson for the Restoration and Renewal Programme Sponsor Body said: ‘BDP continues to be the key architecture and design partner for the Restoration and Renewal Delivery Authority, including supporting the programme of surveys being carried out to create the most detailed understanding of the condition of the Parliament buildings ever created.’
Source: Architects Journal