PRESS RELEASE: House of Lords to move to dreaming spires of Oxford?

24th September 2020

The House of Lords have fiercely resisted the Prime Minister’s proposal that they should move north to York. Would they by contrast agree to move to the Divinity School in Oxford which architect Ian Ritchie shows is uncannily like the House of Lords? 

In proposals unveiled today, Ian Ritchie points out that Parliament has sat in Oxford before – under both Charles I and Charles II on four occasions – on one occasion to avoid the plague in London. 

Ritchie’s suggestion will also appeal to the Prime Minister on grounds of cost - £54 million instead of the £1 billion plus quoted for Parliament’s own solution.

This latest submission comes following Parliament's announcement in May that the new Sponsor Body in charge of the parliamentary works programme is re-examining the options for temporarily relocating all MPs and Peers while the refurbishment works to the Palace of Westminster take place. 

Under highly controversial plans currently proposed for the northern parliamentary estate by architects AHMM, grade II* listed Richmond House on Whitehall would be almost entirely demolished and re-built to provide temporary accommodation for MPs. The cost of works on the Northern Estate associated with these temporary facilities has risen hugely. Figures between £800m and £1.6bn have been quoted and may rise further. 

In Stratford-on-Avon Ian Ritchie Architects designed the Royal Shakespeare Company’s temporary home during rebuilding work, The Courtyard Theatre (2006-12). This 1,050-seat theatre was almost identical to the House of Commons in plan area, length and width. Ian Ritchie says “It cost £6 million in 2006 to deliver in less than 12 months as the RSC’s fully functioning main theatre. Professional Quantity Surveyor reports to the RSC had indicated such a project would cost a minimum of £18million. They were wrong.”  

The Courtyard Theatre was used for eight years. Two 600+ seat temporary replicas were erected for the RSC at London’s Roundhouse and at the Armory in New York. Although dismountable, the now iconic architecture remains and has been spatially transformed by Ian Ritchie Architects. It reopened in spring 2016 as The Other Place – the RSC’s ‘open’ creative hub for Research & Development with huge rehearsal rooms, costume store and a 200-seat studio theatre.  

The £54 million estimated cost of the Ian Ritchie design is close to the £56 million cost of a temporary Commons Chamber set in the courtyard of grade II * listed Richmond House, as designed by Mark Hines Architects for SAVE Britain’s Heritage. 

Marcus Binney, executive president of SAVE Britain’s Heritage says: “Both the Mark Hines and Ian Ritchie designs offer huge savings on the £1billion plus cost of demolishing and rebuilding Richmond House to provide a permanent “legacy” 3rd Chamber which may never be required."  

Henrietta Billings, director of SAVE Britain’s Heritage says: "This new scheme shows that with a more realistic brief, a temporary home for both the Commons and Lords doesn't have to cost hundreds of millions of pounds. By retaining Richmond House you also save office space so there is no need to re-provide it as per the AHMM proposals. Ian Ritchie's plans are less destructive, cheaper and more realistic given the transformed circumstances we find ourselves in since the temporary chamber proposals were first commissioned."

The Ian Ritchie proposals for temporary chambers for the Commons and the Lords can also be clad in Corten steel to provide added privacy and security.

To find out more about SAVE's campaign to save Richmond House, see our latest press release here



Note 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.
  3. See here for details on our current campaigns across the UK.