PRESS RELEASE: Parliament roof repairs completed for £80 million are a bargain

18th January 2022

Parliament roof repairs completed today for £80 million are a bargain compared to the reported £14 billion now quoted for Parliament’s Restoration and Renewal Programme. 

No longer can it be said the Houses of Parliament are falling down faster than they can be repaired.  A press release issued today in the name of the Speakers of the Commons and the Lords has confirmed the welcome news that the roof repairs to the Palace of Westminster have been completed after a ten year programme.

In addition, SAVE Britain’s Heritage can reveal the even better news that the repairs have been completed on time and on budget.

In response to a parliamentary question put down by Simon Baynes MP at SAVE's request (see below), Parliamentary officers have confirmed that the cost of repairs during the ten year works programme was just £80 million. This is a staggering contrast to the £14 billion figure most recently quoted for Parliament's ambitious Restoration and Renewal (R&R) programme, which is three times the original estimate of £4 billion. 

Marcus Binney, executive president of SAVE Britain’s Heritage says: "We hope that MPs and Lords will take note of the excellent value the reroofing programme has provided and look carefully at the increasingly large figures being cited for the R&R programme. A sound roof is the most important feature of any historic building and with a minimum of fuss, this has been achieved."

The work has been carried out under the supervision of the Parliamentary Works committee, which has managed to reuse over 90 per cent of Barry's original fireproof cast iron tiles.

Since 2009, the Cast Iron Roofs Programme has been successfully delivering the overhaul and repair work to the cast iron roofs throughout the Palace of Westminster.  To date the programme has worked on over 30 individual roofs, with continuous work on site since 2013.

Question from Simon Baynes MP to Parliament’s In-House Services and Estates team on 16th November 2021:

Please could you give me an update on how the re-roofing programme is going across the Palace.  I understand that this has been a ten year programme and is nearing completion, including retreating and reusing 80% of the original roof tiles. I would also be interested to learn of its cost.

Response from Parliament’s In-House Services and Estates Team

Historically, one challenge associated with the cast iron roofs has been corrosion.  A form of galvanising was tried in the 1840s to protect the cast iron from corrosion, but the zinc quickly oxidised in the acidic London air and failed in its purpose.  Since then, various paint coatings and corrosion resisting compounds have been used including micaceous iron oxide, vinyl co-polymers and bituminous products.

Another challenge associated with the cast iron roofs is the ingress of water.  The roof coverings were originally fixed without any joint sealants: the upstands of the tiles and fixing arrangements were intended to form a waterproof drained system.  This design did not work, and water penetration occurred through most laps and joints.  Over the years, the joints have been filled with various compounds, ranging from lead putties in the 1850’s to bituminous compounds and modern silicone sealants.  However, some water ingress through the roof has continued to be problematic up to the present day.

In their 10 years working on the Cast Iron Roofs on the Parliamentary Estate, the contractor (Shepley Engineers) have acquired a substantial knowledge and understanding of the cast iron roof components and assembling; this, along with application of new technologies such as laser scanning of the roof tiles, has resulted in a decrease in the proportion of cast iron components requiring to be replaced.  At the beginning of the project, we were replacing circa 25-30%, while now we are down to just 10% replacement, with the remainder being refurbished and re-fitted in situ.

The project is now in its final stages.  Works on Riverfront North, Tower E, State Apartment Link Roof, Tower F, Riverfront Vent Tower, G Turret and Star Chamber Court North are due to complete in December 2021.  Works on  St. Stephen's Hall and House of Lords West Front Roof are due to complete in May 2022.  Work on the cast iron components is 96% complete.  Scaffold removal will commence imminently along the West Front North.

The project approved budget on works is £80M across the 12 years.  This is the first major spend for the repairs and renewal on these roofs since they were constructed in 1840’s – 1860’s.


Notes to editors

1. For more information and images contact Ben Oakley, conservation officer at SAVE Britain's Heritage: / 020 7253 3500.

2. SAVE Britain’s Heritage has been campaigning for historic buildings since its formation in 1975 by a group of architectural historians, writers, journalists and planners. It is a strong, independent voice in conservation, free to respond rapidly to emergencies and to speak out loud for the historic built environment.