Businesses across Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire learned about how they could play a key role in restoring the Palace of Westminster at an East Midlands Chamber event.
A group of 30 East Midlands Chamber members attended a supplier event at Nottingham Trent University on 23 February to meet the team delivering Parliament’s Restoration and Renewal Programme.
They discussed how the complex work can support jobs and opportunities across the East Midlands, as well as potential challenges related to skills.
Andy Haynes, commercial director at the Houses of Parliament Restoration and Renewal Delivery Authority, said: “Nottingham and the East Midlands has a wealth of experience in new technology and construction in historic spaces, so it was brilliant to discuss with local business leaders how they could support the restoration of the Palace of Westminster in the future.
“Parliament represents all peoples and regions of the country, so it’s really important that we make the most of skills here in Nottingham and the wider East Midlands, as they have a huge range of skills and enthusiasm that we will need to draw on as we restore the palace.
“There was a palpable passion for delivering great service and developing skills, which the delivery authority would be proud to support in the coming years.”
East Midlands Chamber members share skills and experience with Parliament’s Restoration and Renewal Programme team
The roundtable discussion involved businesses with expertise in everything from cast iron to hydraulics, working in sectors such as architecture and further education.
They shared their skills and experience, and heard from the team at the Restoration and Renewal Programme about the approach to getting SMEs from UK regions involved in the project, which will take several decades to complete.
East Midlands Chamber director of partnerships David Pearson said: “We often say the East Midlands is a Centre of Trading Excellence – a place where we are experts at making things, moving them and innovating in how we do this. Our business ecosystem is a rich and diverse one, with our companies already playing a key role on important projects around the world.
“The Palace of Westminster Restoration and Renewal programme is another important supply chain opportunity for our region and one we should seek to pursue with rigour, as it can help to inspire the next generation of talent in STEM industries, create apprenticeships and upskill our existing labour market.
“However, it is clear from the discussion with our members that there are some concerns to address, including the impact a major scheme like this could have in exacerbating existing skills gaps by absorbing the limited pool of workers with the relevant skills.
“By working together closely, the business community, education sector and Government can explore how to overcome these issues and ensure the legacy of this programme is not just felt in the preservation of a historic building, but in building our future workforce.”
Businesses in the region are already benefitting from the programme to restore and renew the Palace of Westminster.
Nottingham-based managed IT services provider Littlefish partnered with Version 1, an IT company based in Redditch, to win a share of a contract worth £3.65m in year one.
Using new and enhanced project planning software and systems, the partnership will deliver IT support services that will help the restoration programme to reduce civil engineering costs, speed up delivery and improve risk management.
Last year, seven contracts worth £4m for Palace of Westminster building investigations were awarded to suppliers nationwide, with five out of seven contract winners being classed as an SME. There are already dozens of companies involved in the restoration effort.
During the visit to Nottingham, the Restoration and Renewal Programme team also viewed recent historic renovation works in Chatsworth House and the Roman Catholic Cathedral Church of St Barnabas in Nottingham, whose architect Augustus Pugin also designed the interior of the Palace of Westminster.
Background to Houses of Parliament Restoration and Renewal Programme
Both Houses of Parliament are committed to preserving the palace for future generations.
The palace is enormous and complex – the size of 16 football pitches, with the whole building sharing the same water, electric, sewage and gas system. Many of these services are at least 50 years old and have reached the end of their lifespan.
Hundreds of miles of pipes and cables need replacing. The scale of the challenge means more extensive restoration and renewal is needed as part of the overall plan for the parliamentary buildings.
Currently, there are dozens of major projects underway to repair and restore key parliamentary buildings by parliamentary teams with which the Restoration and Renewal Programme will work closely to learn from and build the lessons into the overall restoration plans for the palace.
In July 2022, members of both houses agreed there needs to be a more aligned and integrated approach to future restoration, prioritising safety-critical work before the formal go-ahead and options for the overall restoration are confirmed.
In November 2022, news of the possible discovery of the medieval Thames River wall underneath the Houses of Parliament was revealed by the extensive programme of building investigations by restoration teams last year.
Specialists spent 4,850 hours examining 160 rooms and drilling boreholes up to 70 metres deep to assess ground conditions around the Palace of Westminster.
The surveys are helping restoration teams develop the most detailed ever record of the Palace of Westminster to inform decisions about essential restoration work.
These surveys will inform a set of options, being developed by the Restoration and Renewal Delivery Authority, for how significant elements of the restoration work will be delivered and the level of ambition for restoration work.
This will include variations on the time and extent to which members and staff are asked to move out of the palace to allow complex construction work to take place.
The volume and future scope of the main restoration works are not yet certain until approval is given by members of both houses to costed proposals. In advance of this, members will be asked to vote on a strategic case by the end of 2023.