The story circulating about the Palace of Westminster needing to be shut for 5 years to be fully refurbished is not a surprise. The Houses of Parliament almost certainly do need upgrading to meet the 21st century. It would be a major project and such a job should be done without the presence of intrusive awkward Parliamentarians. So a 5 year home elsewhere would be a sensible approach – but where…?
Obviously the standard approach will be somewhere else in central London or else as close to Central London as possible.
Well surely we should use this opportunity to do something radically different and combine this with other ideas to make the most of this opportunity. We could design and build a temporary home that could actually bring the public in and make the work of Parliament more open and accessible to the whole electorate.
Obviously the first point to do that would be to move Parliament to the heart of the country – and that would be in the area of Birmingham, Solihull or Coventry, at the heart of the national rail and road networks. Perhaps though this might be too convenient and most people would like it too much and make a strong lobby for retaining Parliament in the heart of the country permanently!!
Office space and redevelopment land is plentiful around the West Midlands. This is exactly the sort of the project that could fundamentally transform a region that has been in the economic doldrums for quite some time. Why does it not deserve this sort of benefit from the country as so many other areas have received? The West Midlands has fantastic transport links by motorway and main roads, by rail, by coach, and not forgetting Birmingham Airport.
Rents are cheap in Birmingham and city centre land is available and developable. A temporary purpose designed and built home could easily be reused after Parliament has spent 5 years up here – the ingenuity of Brummies could make Parliament at home in a radical 21st century solution quite the opposite of Westminster, making a refreshing change for Parliament and all those who work and visit. The Eastside of Central Birmingham has space to create a home, or perhaps around Broad Street, or else over on the Southside, or the Jewellery Quarter, or indeed the Gun Quarter??
For the opportunity to become the temporary home of the Mother of Parliaments, Birmingham could pull together the land, the facilities, the services, the accessibility, the workers, the plans, the ideas and the opportunities to make such a project work to excellent time and budget.
So what is Parliament waiting for? Come to the West Midlands for the next term from 2015 to 2020…