Select Committee on House of Lords Offices Seventh Report

Seventh Report from the Select Committee on the House of Lords' Offices

Tuesday 3rd November 1998


  The Committee have met and been attended by the Clerk of the Parliaments and the Gentlemen Usher of the Black Rod.

Old Palace Yard

  On 22 July the House agreed to an amendment to the Committee's 6th Report, which required that proposals to refurbish Old Palace Yard should be referred back to the Administration and Works Sub-Committee.

  The Sub-Committee have reconsidered the proposals and have had the advantage this time to hear the views of English Heritage and of Westminster City Council, who both fully support the scheme.

  The Sub-Committee have again agreed the scheme put to the House in July. This provides for:

    the replacement of the tarmac surface of the whole area, including the carriage way, with granite setts (as can now be seen in position in front of Chancellor's Gate);

    the replacement of street furniture. This will include, among other improvements, the provision of globe lamp standards and railings to designs by Sir Charles Barry, the rationalisation of the plethora of road markings and the simplification of the pedestrian crossing; and

    the elimination of car parking on the West side of Old Palace Yard, so increasing the space available to pedestrians.

  The Committee wish to emphasize that the scheme is not to enhance the House of Lords car park. Indeed, the House may in future years wish, on environmental and aesthetic grounds, to reduce substantially the number of cars now able to park in front of the Palace.

  Nor will the proposals impede access to the House. The refurbishment of Old Palace Yard is linked with, but is not dependent on, a wider scheme known as World Squares for All. This entails improvements for pedestrians and better urban design in adjoining areas such as Trafalgar Square. These improvements could have implications for traffic around Parliament, but any adverse consequences should not be attributed to the Committee's proposals, which do not affect traffic movement.

  The Committee's proposals are entirely directed to improving the environment of an historic part of London, which enjoys the status of a World Heritage Site. The cost of £2.44 million, spread over three years, should be seen in the context of the substantially greater total sum which has been spent in recent years on the exteriors of the surrounding buildings, such as Westminster Abbey, the Palace of Westminster and 6-7 Old Palace Yard. Because of the reference back to the Sub-Committee,the work cannot now begin until the summer recess 2000 and the money would therefore be spent in the financial years 2000-01, 2001-02 and 2002-03.

  The Committee recommend that the scheme to refurbish Old Palace Yard, as again endorsed by the Administration and Works Sub-Committee, should be adopted.

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