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Kent businesses plan opportunities for working on Palace of Westminster restoration

Kent businesses plan opportunities for working on Palace of Westminster restoration

A group of a dozen leading businesses and representatives from across the region recently attended a supplier event at Ashford, Kent (27 April) to meet the team delivering Parliament’s Restoration and Renewal Programme (R&R) and discuss how the complex work can support jobs and opportunities across the region.

There are already dozens of companies involved in the restoration effort. Small to medium sized businesses across the country are already benefitting from the work. Last year, seven contracts worth £4m for Palace of Westminster building investigations were awarded to suppliers nationwide with five out of seven contract winners being classed as a small or medium enterprise (SME).

Leading local experts in everything from architecture to further education attended the event to share their skills and experience, and to hear from the team at the Houses of Parliament Restoration and Renewal Programme about the approach to getting local businesses involved in the major project to restore the Palace of Westminster.

Following the business event, experts from R&R examined restoration work at Dover Town Hall and visited the National Pugin Centre in Ramsgate, South Thanet, where Augustus Pugin, designer of the Palace of Westminster lived and worked from 1844-52.

Andy Haynes, Commercial Director at the Houses of Parliament Restoration and Renewal Delivery Authority, said:

“We’re travelling around the country to make sure that small businesses across the nation are aware of future opportunities from the works to restore and renew the Houses of Parliament.

“Kent has a special connection to the Palace of Westminster as the designer of the interior of the building - Augustus Pugin - lived in Ramsgate so it’s great to involve a new generation of local people and businesses involved in this important project to restore the building for future generations.”

Craig Mackinlay MP for South Thanet commented:

"The Palace of Westminster's Restoration and Renewal Team have been touring the country as an effective supply chain of materials and skills need to be lined up for the most extensive restoration project in Europe.

“No final decisions have been taken as to the final scheme nor the cost, which will be substantial, but it was essential that the team came to see the works and final resting place of the great man."

Richard Lavender, President, Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce said:

"On behalf of the Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce we fully appreciated being a part of the Houses of Parliament project. With such an iconic building that must be preserved for the nation, and being involved either directly with our Kent businesses having an opportunity to be part of the process, to being part of the communication link to keep public and businesses abreast of the development as it takes place.

Our contribution at the round table event gave Kent businesses a sense of excitement at making their contribution and are looking forward to a future visit or further opportunities to contribute to this enormous and iconic project."

Augustus Pugin was one of the most important designers and architects of the nineteenth century and from 1846 he worked with architect Charles Barry to produce thousands of detailed designs for the new Palace of Westminster.

Both Houses of Parliament are committed to preserving the Palace for future generations. 

The Palace is enormous and complex – the size of 16 football pitches, with the whole building sharing the same water, electric, sewage and gas system. Many of these services are 50+ years old and have reached the end of their lifespan. Hundreds of miles of pipes and cables need replacing. The scale of the challenge means more extensive restoration and renewal is needed as part of the overall plan for the Parliamentary buildings. Currently there are dozens of major projects underway to repair and restore key parliamentary buildings by parliamentary teams with which the Restoration and Renewal programme will work closely to learn from and build the lessons into the overall restoration plans for the Palace.

In July 2022 Members of both Houses agreed there needs to be a more aligned and integrated approach to future restoration, prioritising safety critical work before the formal go-ahead and options for the overall restoration are confirmed.

In November 2022, news of the possible discovery of the medieval Thames River wall underneath the Houses of Parliament was revealed by the extensive programme of building investigations by restoration teams last year. Specialists spent 4850 hours examining 160 rooms and drilling boreholes up to 70 metres deep to assess ground conditions around the Palace of Westminster. The surveys are helping restoration teams develop the most detailed ever record of the Palace of Westminster to inform decisions about essential restoration work.

At Easter, R&R revealed that a milestone 7,500 hours of specialist intrusive and disruptive surveying work has been completed since July 2022. This work, in addition to the tens of thousands of hours of planning and visual inspection research completed since 2018 will inform decisions about essential restoration work of the historic Palace of Westminster.

These surveys will inform a set of options, being developed by the Restoration and Renewal Delivery Authority, for how significant elements of the restoration work will be delivered and the level of ambition for restoration work. This will include variations on the time and extent to which Members and staff are asked to move out of the Palace to allow complex construction work to take place.

The volume and future scope of the main restoration works are not yet certain until approval is given by Members of both Houses to costed proposals, and in advance of this Members will be asked to vote on the way forward by the end of 2023

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