The bill to repair Parliament’s Elizabeth Tower housing Big Ben rose by £ 18.8 million to nearly £ 80 million following the discovery of asbestos, bomb damage and pollution problems.
Conservation work on the 177-year-old facility, which is expected to be completed late next year, led to discovery by the project team after intrusive investigations, parliamentary officials revealed.
The 96-meter tower, which has become a national symbol since its completion in 1856, has mostly been hidden from view since efforts to restore it in 2017.
Critics of the £ 3.5 billion restoration and refurbishment program will seize rising costs as a small example of the huge amount that will accumulate once colleagues and MPs move in four years to allow work to begin in the rest of the year. ‘building.
Ian Ailles, general manager of the House of Commons, said that the task of restoring the tower “was more complex than we could have foreseen”.
“With 12 square meters [130 sq ft] footprint and a prime location right in the middle of a busy working parliament, understanding the extent of the damage to the tower was impossible until the scaffolding was raised.
“Alongside other issues, such as the impact of the often inappropriate conservation methods used by our predecessors, the corrosive levels of pollution in the atmosphere and the discovery of asbestos in unexpected places, only now have we been able to fully understand the full investment required for this project, “he said.
The entire conservation effort, which is well on track for completion in late 2021, was only revealed when the project team was able to initiate intrusive investigations for the first time, officials said.
The commissions of the House of Commons and the House of Lords were told that to restore the tower to its former glory, the budget would have to go from £ 61.1 million to £ 79.7 million.
Both commissions felt that scrupulous examination of the tower had discovered the decay and damage of hundreds of intricate carvings, asbestos in the bell tower, extensive use of toxic lead paint, broken glass in the clock faces and the need to employ an expert. of specialized watches.
In 2017, work began to examine and repair the tower from the golden cross and sphere at the lower end of the 334-step staircase.
Many hundreds of skilled craftsmen from all over the UK are contributing to this conservation project, employing traditional crafts, including stone masonry, gilding, glass cutting and watchmaking.
If approved by the accountants of each House, a new budget of £ 79.7 million will be set for the completion of the project.
A spokesman for the House of Commons commission said that its members were “extremely disappointed” that more money was needed, but that they had been assured that it would not be asked for later.