Thursday, 12 March 2015

inventing Southminster to become a new site for Parliament?

Commons Speaker John Bercow said that it will cost around £3bn to renovate The Houses of Parliament.

Cameron recently commented in a TV show about his liking for the current format and not wanting to change it. Of course. It plays to his strengths having an adversarial boys' playground layout for the Commons.

There's much that can be improved. Here's a few easy starter thoughts:

- enough space for everyone to be seated;
- a more circular format, focused towards the speaker/chair;
- enough rooms for all MPs to have a similarly configured private office space;
- sensible modern meeting facilities including flexible configurations;
- modern electronic communications including social and video systems;
- electronic voting instead of the time wasting Aye and No lobbies;
- a more well-structured layout than the current rabbit warren of 1,100 rooms;

I'm sure there's more, but that will do for now.

So then what?

How about moving it to something more suitable?

Keep the current building with its towers and clock and have it progressively turned into something else. They did it with County Hall on the South Bank, which is now a fancy hotel.

Whoever takes it over could keep the shell and be required to keep some sections for State occasions. The rest could be reconfigured into a mix of museum, hotel, apartments or similar.

Why do this?

Value for money. Keep the heritage. Move the function to something more appropriate.

Ten minutes away on the tube, The Shard on the South Bank is 74 stories high, with a huge hotel part way up. It was built in about 4 years (2010-2014) and is completely modern including even the latest American aircraft proofing measures. All in, The Shard cost £1.2bn to build - which is less than half the cost of the renovation of The Palace of Westminster.

A site close to Westminster could be found. There's still plenty of brownfield along the South Bank, which could become known as Southminster and is only a few minutes from the current location. The Americans are already building their new embassy there.

It seems odd to me that we'd spend all that money on reconstructing a building which recreates a Parliamentary system stuck with practices from 1847.

Of course, my suggestion has already been quietly ruled out.

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