My plan for Parliament
build a new one in Whitehall
Everyone knows that the Palace of Westminster is falling apart, and that the risk of fire is so great that people are paid to walk around the place 24 hours a day, looking out for smoky wisps, just in case.
Successive governments have known the scale of the problem and failed to do much about it. Their choices have been:
- move out completely while Parliament is rebuilt (faster)
- move out partially, and rebuild it bit-by-bit (slower)
- move out permanently, to new premises, and turn the old building into something else
(What’s actually happening isn't completely clear. There’s currently something called Restoration and Renewal but that website doesn’t meet very many of my user needs, particularly the one that goes “As an interested citizen, I want to know what is actually happening to address this problem, so that I can make my blog post about it more accurate and relevant.”)
So, here’s my plan: use Whitehall, which is very long and very wide, to build a new Parliament. Turn the old place into a museum / library / venue.
In more detail, then:
- Close Whitehall to traffic.
- Put a roof over most of Whitehall, at least as far north as Horse Guards Parade but possibly further. Attach it to the buildings on either side, to create a covered open space. Probably a glass roof, because we still need a lot of daylight coming in to the windows that face the open air at the moment.
- Optionally, also cover up King Charles Street, which runs west-east between the Treasury building to the south and the Foreign Office to the north.
- Within all that roofed space, start building: new chambers for the Commons and the Lords, new office spaces for members, new admin and support spaces. There’s bags of room.
- Optionally, cover over the enormous courtyards in the centre of the Treasury and FCO buildings, and use them for something important (eg the Commons/Lords).
- Create new vehicular access to Downing Street from western end; people still need to get in and out of there.
- If we need more space, demolish the Ministry of Defence building and use some of that land; turn any remaining space into an extension of Victoria Embankment Gardens. Move the MoD somewhere else.
- Move The Cenotaph to Parliament Square.
- Move all of Parliament into this new accommodation when it’s ready, then start renovation work on the Palace.
- Turn the core bits of the old Palace into a museum of British political history. Include a library, perhaps an extra bit of the British Library, get some of that old vellum out on display so that more people can see it.
- Turn some other bits of it into things that can generate income, like a hotel, a conference and events venue, that sort of stuff. Tours up Big Ben, coffee on the former members’ terraces, etc etc.
Here’s a rough sketch of the places I’m talking about:
What do you think? Pros and cons?
I’m not an architect or an urban designer - what have I forgotten?
Filed under: notes
(24 September 2022)