Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament face £3 billion restoration plan

One of London’s biggest tourist attractions – the Houses of Parliament – must be restored regardless of the £3 billion cost, according to one of Britain’s top historians.

Chronic subsidence of the Houses of Parliament is one of the major headaches facing politicians with renovation work expected to cost in excess of £3 billion

Chronic subsidence of the Houses of Parliament is one of the major headaches facing politicians with renovation work expected to cost in excess of £3 billion Image by Nikoretro / CC BY 2.0

Dan Cruickshank insists that the work must be done although it will mean evicting politicians for up to five years from the normal parliamentary surroundings.

The Sunday Express reports that extensive repair work is now needed on the Grade One-listed building. It says the worst problems facing the London buildings are chronic subsidence as a result of years of tube trains vibrating past their foundations – a situation which means Big Ben has tilted 18 inches off its vertical line in that time.

Big Ben has tilted by 18 inches from the vertical over the past number of decades

Big Ben has tilted by 18 inches from the vertical over the past number of decades Image by Lee Dyer / CC BY 2.0

Other difficulties facing the overseers of the Houses are electrical problems, plumbing leaks, fire risks and the fact that it is full of asbestos. Three years ago, a detailed study warned that if major restoration was not carried out, there could be irreversible damage done to the structure. This will put extra pressure on MPs this week when they sit down to consider repair work choices and also where the best option might be for relocation of the politicians during the renovations.

While the Speaker of the House, John Bercow believes locations outside of the capital should be considered, there is a lot of support for the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre, which is opposite the present parliament buildings.

As MPs consider the options, Mr Cruickshank has urged them not to make decisions based solely on cost. The ‘One Foot In The Past’ television presenter stressed that with the building having such historic, architectural and symbolic significance, it must be preserved and given a secure future. He said it would send out an extraordinary message to the world if Parliament was unwilling to look after such a magnificent Grade-One listed Palace.

The chief executive of tourism trade group UK Inbound, Deirdre Wells, said that as the Houses of Parliament were one of the most iconic buildings in London, it was critical for many tourists to take selfies with Big Ben in the background

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