The second reading of the Parliamentary Buildings (Restoration and Renewal) Bill has taken place in the House of Lords, with the Government now committing to bring forward a heritage-linked amendment ‘that strikes a balance between the preservation and protection of the Palace’s heritage, while delivering the renovations and accessibility modifications that we all want to improve the functionality of the Palace’ – i.e. a conservation strategy – with the bill to go to the next committee stage on 22 July.
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As part of the debate, Lord Inglewood highlighted the need for conservation-specific skills on the sponsor body. He observed that while the former chief executive of English Heritage is on that body, as a Chief Executive he would only have ‘an overview of projects. A conservation architect is involved, every day, in the nuts and bolts of the details—sometimes tricky details—of what is entailed. Given that this is a world heritage site and an important listed building, the conservation aspects are paramount to the thing as a whole….’. He concluded that ‘it is a pity there is no specific conservation architect on the sponsor board’.
Lord Inglewood noted also that it would ‘significantly underpin public confidence in the future of this building and the project… if the Government also drew up a long-term detailed maintenance plan, which would be in the public domain and regularly monitored.’
The sponsor body is made up of parliamentarians representing both Houses and includes experts in running similar large-scale projects such as the Olympic Games, and, in terms of heritage, includes the former chief executive of Historic England. The delivery authority will be made up of architects, engineers and individuals with programme management, commercial and contracting experience. They will formulate the designs, costs and timings of the works, with proposals brought forward to Parliament for approval in 2021. We are confident that the arrangements being put in place will deliver the necessary restoration works and at the same time provide reassurance that taxpayers’ money will be protected. (Col 1629)
‘… a couple of matters were raised on Report which the Government agreed to consider further in this House. First, Members in the other place considered ?whether the sponsor body should have regard to the need to conserve and sustain the architectural and historical significance of the Palace of Westminster, including the outstanding universal value of the world heritage site. The Government are absolutely committed that the work undertaken will ensure that the architectural, archaeological and historical significance of the Palace of Westminster is preserved for future generations, but we have been of the view that the best way to achieve this is through existing planning processes….’
‘We have also been mindful of including the UNESCO heritage status of the Palace of Westminster in the Bill, given that it also covers Westminster Abbey and St. Margaret’s Church. We must be careful that, as the Joint Committee that undertook pre-legislative scrutiny said, explicit provision which aims to protect the heritage of the Palace does not, ‘override opportunities to renew and enhance its purpose’’.
The Government will therefore bring forward an amendment that strikes a balance between the preservation and protection of the Palace’s heritage, while delivering the renovations and accessibility modifications that we all want to improve the functionality of the Palace. (Col 1630)…
Lord Kerr of Kinlochard (CB)
This may be a question to which everybody else in the House knows the answer. Can the Minister tell us why neither the delivery authority nor the sponsor body will have a duty to have regard to heritage and preserving the fabric of the building?
Baroness Evans of Bowes Park
I hope I made clear earlier that we have agreed that we will bring forward an amendment in this House that will look at putting heritage in the Bill. As I also mentioned, we need to balance that with making sure that any renewal and restoration of the building takes into account modernisation and things that other noble Lords are ?keen on—for instance, improving disability access and ensuring that it is open and available to the public who want to come. We will bring forward an amendment in this House during the passage of the Bill to achieve, I hope, that balance. On that note, I beg to move…. (Col 1632)
Lord Inglewood (Non-Afl)
… As an aside, it is a pity there is no specific conservation architect on the sponsor board. I know that Simon Thurley, the well-known and respected former chief executive of English Heritage, is a member, but there is a difference between being an executive and a non-executive in an activity. The chief executive of English Heritage has an overview of projects. A conservation architect is involved, every day, in the ?nuts and bolts of the details—sometimes tricky details—of what is entailed. Given that this is a world heritage site and an important listed building, the conservation aspects are paramount to the thing as a whole. That does not mean you cannot adapt and adjust properly as you go, but it is important there is absolute clarity about this, and I look forward to seeing the Government’s amendment about it.
It is often forgotten that buildings are wasting assets. I believe it would significantly underpin public confidence in the future of this building and the project we are discussing this afternoon if the Government also drew up a long-term detailed maintenance plan, which would be in the public domain and regularly monitored. The wider public could see what was going on and that we are not going to repeat the mistakes of the past. There is a good case for this to be put in the Bill—or, if not this Bill, another—so that it provides a long-term guarantee of the sustainability of what we are embarking on. (Col 1666)
For more background see the IHBC NewsBlog
See the Bill stages