Businesses and suppliers in North West England could soon be playing an even greater part in restoring the Palace of Westminster.
A group of 18 leading businesses and representatives from across the region attended a consultation event at the Museum of Liverpool. Local businesses and suppliers met the team delivering Parliament’s restoration programme to discuss how the complex work can support jobs and opportunities across the North West.
Small to medium sized businesses are already benefiting from the work to restore the Palace of Westminster. Last year, seven contracts worth £4m for Palace of Westminster building investigations were awarded to suppliers across the country with five out of seven contract winners being classed as a small or medium enterprise (SME). There are already dozens of companies involved in the restoration effort and supporting jobs and apprenticeships.
Leading local experts in everything from manufacturing to software, construction and engineering were in attendance at 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.
Overall, North West England is currently the leading UK region in terms of investment from Parliament restoration work. A £1.6m contract was also awarded last year to a Cumbria-based business to carry out specialised surveys of the Palace of Westminster. James Fisher Strainstall, a global leader and innovator in onshore and offshore load measurement and monitoring systems will deliver specialised monitoring of the Palace of Westminster throughout its restoration.
Andy Haynes, Commercial Director at the Houses of Parliament Restoration and Renewal Delivery Authority, said:
“Liverpool has the largest concentration of historic buildings outside London, so it was brilliant to discuss with local business leaders how they could support the restoration of the Palace of Westminster in the future. Parliament represents all peoples and regions of the country, so it’s really important that we make the most of skills here in Liverpool and the wider North West as they have a huge wealth of skills and enthusiasm that we will need to draw on as we restore the Palace.”
Paul Cherpeau, Chief Executive of Liverpool Chamber of Commerce, said:
“We have an abundance of talent in the Liverpool City Region across all manner of sectors, and it is important that those businesses have a genuine opportunity to get involved in such an exciting project.
“While the restoration of the Houses of Parliament is still in the early stages, this initial consultation event gave attendees a real insight into the scale of the programme of work and how they can potentially play their part in this national endeavour.
“There is a clear ambition to recruit the best suppliers, regardless of where they are based, spreading economic benefit across the UK and creating genuine social value.
“We will be working with the project team to provide regular updates to local businesses and we look forward to welcoming them back to Liverpool in the near future.”
The team delivering the Parliament restoration programme also viewed the Virtual Engineering Centre, at the University of Liverpool to see how new digital engineering technology and skills could be used in the complex restoration work.
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 external firms and in-house parliamentary teams which the Restoration and Renewal programme will work closely with 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.
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, in advance of this Members will be asked to vote on a strategic case by the end of 2023.