Plans lodged for temporary Commons home during Parliament building revamp

Plans for a temporary home for the House of Commons during the restoration of the Palace of Westminster have been submitted to Westminster City Council.

Visualisation of the proposed temporary Commons chamber. Image by House of Commons
Visualisation of the proposed temporary Commons chamber. Image by House of Commons

The Corporate Officer of the House of Commons has submitted seven applications for the redevelopment of Parliament's northern estate, a group of buildings along Parliament Street and Whitehall that neighbour the palace, which is home to both the House of Commons and House of Lords.

Under the scheme, a temporary House of Commons Chamber would sit within a renovated Richmond House, the former Department for Health building in the northern estate that was vacated at the end of 2017. 

In addition, the applications include proposals for new MPs' offices, an education centre and visitor facilities.

A new central spine will connect the buildings to create a "campus" environment, according to a document released by the House of Commons Commission.

New security arrangements will include railings and bollards that can be removed during ceremonial occasions.

Promoters of the scheme say the new Commons chamber has been designed so it is adaptable for a range of legacy uses, such as a public debating chamber, conference facilities, an exhibition space or additional workspace.

Six of the seven applications were submitted by planning consultancy BDP on behalf of the House of Commons, while consultancy DP9 prepared the application for the redevelopment of Richmond House.

Proposals for the redevelopment of the northern estate were launched in May, with 26,000 people viewing them either online or consultation events.

The proposals have been amended following the public consultation including measures to reduce the impact of the development and increase the amount of green space.

Changes from the consultation include the removal of a temporary security pavilion due to concerns that it would obstruct views of the Whitehall façade of Richmond House.

Some roof heights have been lowered, while glazing on the press gallery above the temporary chamber has also been taken out of the plans.

Tom Brake MP, member of the House of Commons Commission, said: "Our plans deliver on a number of fronts.

"They provide for a temporary home for the House of Commons within a single security perimeter, the conservation of several listed heritage buildings, greatly improved access for people with disabilities, more sustainable and efficient buildings, significant heritage benefits and a legacy for Parliament."

Liz Peace, chair of Parliament’s Shadow Sponsor Board Restoration and Renewal Programme said the proposals "will ensure the continued functioning of British democracy while we get on with the essential restoration and renewal works at the vacated Palace".

Under the Palace of Westminster redevelopment plans, the House of Lords will be temporarily moved to the nearby QEII Conference Centre.

In September, Westminster CIty Council hit back at claims that it is behaving in an "underhand and unscrupulous" way in moving to demolish several buildings on a housing estate under permitted development rules, ahead of a full planning application for the wider scheme being submitted.

Note: this story was updated at 1pm on Monday 11 November to clarify that six of the seven applications were submitted by planning consultancy BDP on behalf of the House of Commons, while consultancy DP9 prepared the application for the redevelopment of Richmond House. DP9 did not submit all seven applications as previously stated. The updated story also added that the applicant is the Corporate Officer of the House of Commons.


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