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Tuesday, April 16, 2019

How can we secure the future of our historic buildings after Notre Dame fire?

I was in shock last night as I watched video of the magnificent spire of Notre Dame Cathedral plunge to the ground during the terrible fire that has devastated the 850-year-old gothic masterpiece. The spire reportedly took 200 years to build.

From news reports, as well as the spire, a number of the wonderful stained glass windows have been destroyed, although early reports on Twitter suggest that the north rose window may have survived. The others (including the earliest one from 1225) are reportedly gone. These windows were created by skilled artisans who coloured the glass with minute amounts of cobalt (for blue), gold (red or violet) and copper oxides (greens).

Notre Dame is just the latest historic building to suffer a disastrous fire. Others include York Minister, Windsor Castle, the National Library of Wales and, closer to home, Gwyn Hall in Neath. I am sure that there are other examples as well.

These fires raise the question as to what precautions we are taking to protect our heritage, and how effective are they?

One building we do need assurances on is the Houses of Parliament. These premises are due for an extensive renovation, just to stop them falling down, but MPs are so far refusing to bite the bullet and get on with the work.

Rhondda MP, Chris Bryant is clearly frustrated by the delay. As the Telegraph reports, he believes that it has taken “far too long” to put improved fire safety measures in place at the Palace of Westminster. He told the paper that “every fire precaution” must now be taken when a major programme of restoration is started on the Houses of Parliament in order to avoid similar scenes to the French cathedral:

The devastation at the Paris landmark came after David Lidington warned that the risk of a “catastrophic fire” decimating Parliament was growing and it was only down to chance nobody has been badly hurt by falling masonry.

Theresa May’s deputy said it was “very lucky no one has been seriously injured” by the crumbling Palace of Westminster as he stressed the importance of urgently restoring the Unesco World Heritage Site.

The paper adds that Parliament’s Restoration and Renewal Programme is due to get under way in the mid-2020s at the very earliest. But falling masonry, leaking plumbing and exposed wiring have prompted growing concerns about how long it will take to start and finish the work:

Mr Lidington, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, said a recent burst water pipe which forced the House of Commons to close early for the day “highlighted the need for Parliament to press ahead with plans for a fundamental overhaul”.

Writing in a letter to his local paper earlier this week, the Bucks Free Press, Mr Lidington said: “Several times in the last year, chunks of masonry have fallen off buildings.

“We’ve been very lucky no one has been seriously injured.

“Worse, the electrical, plumbing, heating and sewerage systems are well beyond their expected working life span and in a dilapidated state.

“With each year that passes, the risk of a catastrophic fire grows.”

It is time that MPs vacated the Palace of Westminster so that this work can get underway sooner rather than later.
A building should be built more central to the country with links to London cos of its importance. Renovate the building and use it as a tourist sight. It is a part of our history but surely the country should be entering the modern age. Remember the past but move forward into the future..
We need a Parliament building that is not a 1950s copy of a Victorian imagining of what a medieval Gothic parliament building would have looked like. I rather wish that Parliament had accepted the offer from William IV to move Parliament into Buckingham Palace. I suppose that it is a bit late to take up that offer.
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