PRESS RELEASE: Slash the cost of a temporary MPs Chamber by at least £500m

28th January 2020

SAVE unveils new alternative Richmond House proposals

SAVE Britain's Heritage in collaboration with Mark Hines architects has published proposals showing that the temporary House of Commons Chamber can be constructed within the main courtyard of Richmond House, a Grade II* listed building on Parliament's Northern Estate.

Our drawings show a temporary Chamber with

- the same size and layout as the present Commons Chamber

- the same number of seats plus wheelchair provision

- public and press seating at gallery level

- circulation and lobby space

- new separate secure entrances for both MPs and the public from Whitehall

- a blast proof structure which meets security criteria

The cost of works on the Northern Estate associated with temporary facilities has risen hugely. Figures between £800m and £1.6bn have been quoted and may rise further. By contrast a temporary chamber such as we propose can be erected quickly and economically. Mark Hines' proposals have been costed by quantity surveyors and the total cost of a temporary Chamber and associated works is £56m, including fees and contingencies. That is at least £500m cheaper than the proposals currently on offer.

Mark Hines, principal at Mark Hines architects said: "In an age of climate crisis, the retrofitting of Richmond House is an extraordinary opportunity for our government to demonstrate its commitment to the country in a very public manner, what can be done by transforming one of their very own buildings into a landmark low energy building of national importance. 

Reusing buildings like Richmond House will save thousands of tonnes of carbon emissions and is crucial if we are to meet the Government’s near zero carbon target by 2050. Put simply, we can’t afford no to."

Marcus Binney, executive president of SAVE Britain's Heritage said: "The demolition of Richmond House, built just 30 years ago, is state sponsored vandalism of the first order. The location we propose for the temporary Chamber is that originally proposed by Parliament. It was then said not to fit. Our drawings, which have been security checked, show it can fit. Hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayers' money must not be wasted on the current extravagant, destructive and unnecessary scheme."

Henrietta Billings, director of SAVE Britain's Heritage said: "Destroying a modern building of the size of Richmond House has an immensely negative carbon footprint. The waste of energy in demolition and rebuilding is wholly at odds with the Government's policy of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. Even more astonishing is that these wasteful proposals are for a temporary use - the MPs will be leaving this hugely extravagant building after the Palace of Westminster is restored."

Some 1,100 people have been working in Richmond House which can meet the needs of the 197 MPs and staff displaced from the Palace of Westminster during its renovation. This is additional to the existing offices for MPs in Portcullis House, Norman Shaw and Parliament Street.

Under the plans drawn up by Parliament’s Restoration and Renewal committee Richmond House, is set to be entirely demolished apart from its Whitehall frontage to make way for a new temporary chamber for MPs while the Palace of Westminster is refurbished. It is part of a publicly funded rebuilding programme of the ‘Northern Estate.’ 

The campaign to save Richmond House has been supported by noted architects Piers Gough,  Andrew Arrol, Jonathan Louth and 11 other Cathedral architects of the Cathedral Architects Association, national heritage organisations including the Twentieth Century Society, Ancient Monuments Society, and architectural historians Andrew Saint and Roland Jeffrey. Over 1800 people have signed an online petition against the demolition, and the proposals have been covered in The Times, RIBA Journal, The Guardian, Country Life and Private Eye, as well as Architects Journal and Building Design.

The plans have been submitted to Westminster City Council - see here to view the (application refs: 19/08220/FULL & 19/08221/LBC). A decision is due on planning permission later this year.


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.