Redevelopment case Westminster – the oldest parliament in the world crumbles

Parliament renovations in Lodon continue to be postponed. Now there is an infestation of mice and rats, falling masonry and no fire protection.

Ever since Boris Johnson resigned as head of the conservative Tory party, political London has been waiting to see who will take over this role and the office of British prime minister from the scandal-ridden populist. But not only the British government is in need of restructuring.

London’s Palace of Westminster enjoys a reputation as the seat of the “Mother of Parliaments”. But behind the imposing facade, the Houses of Parliament have been crumbling in favor like the Tories for some time. While the mills of democracy grind slowly, rats, cracked ceilings and water damage gnaw at its building substance.

Andrew Black
“People who work in the palace expose themselves to physical danger,” a study warned

Most of the neo-Gothic construction was built in 1840-1876 after a fire that destroyed the original palace. A Parliament website boasts that it is “one of the most recognizable buildings in the world” but also stresses: “Today it is falling into disrepair faster than it can be repaired. The longer essential work is missing, the greater the risk of a catastrophic failure.”

Wie Notre-Dame

Tory MP Andrea Leadsom even warned in May of a new major fire like the one that severely damaged Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris in 2019. “Parliament could burn down today, or tomorrow, or any day,” she sounded the alarm.

“As early as 2000, a study of the palace’s basement found that the infrastructure should be replaced within five to ten years,” explains Dr. Alexandra Meakin, lecturer in politics at Leeds University, the COURIER. “The warning went away. A major refurbishment project only started in 2012.”

Nonetheless, controversy and headlines abound, as did video of a mouse in a House restaurant. “Nearly £2,000 a week is spent on a losing battle against rodents, moths and seagulls,” wrote the Daily Mirror in 2017, noting 1,755 mouse and 128 rat traps.

Many debates later, the target was set to vote on an estimate in 2023. But in February, estimates angered many Tories in particular. The renovation would take 19-28 years, parliamentarians would have to leave the hallowed halls for 12-20 years, it was said. Cost point: 7-13 billion pounds (8.4-15.5 billion euros). Among the essential interventions were asbestos removal, improved fire protection and new electricity, heating, water and sewage infrastructure.

loss of tradition

“The main objections are the cost and the temporary move, especially in the House of Commons,” where the Tories have a majority, says Meakin. “The Lords in the House of Lords are ready to move out. But some in the House of Commons fear their careers could end before they return to the green benches. Others fear a loss of tradition.”

Without an alternative location, the government rejected a conference center not far from Parliament, according to experts, the renovation could even turn the palace into a construction site for 46 to 76 years and increase the costs to up to 22 billion pounds (26.3 billion euros).

Before the parliamentary summer recess, a committee warned of further delays and pointed to 25 fire incidents and 13 cases of falling masonry since 2016 alone.

Caroline Lucas, the only Green Party MP, blames a decline in political culture. “Our problems don’t end with Boris Johnson,” she said recently. “The Palace of Westminster – gothic, rat-infested and crumbling into the Thames – has become a powerful symbol of political decay, a political system utterly broken.”

Parliament conversion in Austria almost complete

Not everything went smoothly with the general refurbishment of the Parliament in Vienna. The work that started in 2017 was also delayed due to the pandemic. The original completion date was 2021, with a two-year delay, meetings should now be possible again in 2023.

But not only the schedule could not be met. An additional 70 million euros had to be approved for the conversion. That is around 20 percent more than the originally planned EUR 352 million. Finally, the acoustics also caused problems. However, these should be resolved by autumn so that the swearing-in of the Federal President can take place in Parliament on January 26th.

By Editor

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