The restoration of the Houses of Parliament will require ‘hundreds’ of new heritage craftspeople and conservation specialists ahead of essential work to restore the buildings, says the programme responsible for its restoration.
The Houses of Parliament Restoration and Renewal Programme (R&R) is now calling for skilled craftspeople to join what it calls the UK’s biggest heritage restoration project.
The call out follows an examination of 2,343 rooms and spaces over the summer with experts recording thousands of issues including cracks in stonework, widespread water damage, and a complex network of outdated electrical and mechanical systems.
In some areas such as heritage plastering, its research suggests that more than a third of the specialists currently working in the UK will be needed, and the project could also require as many as 34% of all heritage window specialists in the UK.
It now plans to work with heritage and conservation organisations to encourage people into these specialist professions and contribute to the restoration. Parliament will be invited to approve the detailed restoration plan in 2023.
Through a newly established joint ‘Heritage Client Group’ (including Historic England, CADW, Historic Environment Scotland and others), the Houses of Parliament Restoration and Renewal Programme will work with heritage and conservation organisations to explore a range of initiatives to encourage more people into high-demand professions.
It said future initiatives could include funding bursaries to support people from disadvantaged and under-represented backgrounds to start careers in the heritage sector and working with centres of excellence across the UK to train people in traditional heritage and conservation skills.
A first group of apprentices has already joined the existing restoration teams, and an internship partnership with the Social Mobility Foundation is ongoing.
Specialists from across the UK are already involved with the extensive programme of surveys which have been taking place since the summer to build a detailed understanding of the buildings as the detailed and costed restoration plan is developed.
Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive at Historic England, said: “The Restoration and Renewal of the Houses of Parliament presents an unprecedented opportunity to address long-standing heritage skills construction shortages in England and the wider UK, focussing on areas of greatest need, such as plastering and joinery.
“The Hamish Ogston Foundation Heritage Building Skills Programme managed by Historic England is already training people in these skills in the North of England, but there is need for even greater investment across the whole of the country.”