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Richmond Terrace, Whitehall

Volume 488: debated on Thursday 2 July 1987

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3.25 p.m.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what progress has been made towards the completion of the restoration of Richmond Terrace, Whitehall.

My Lords, rebuilding of the terrace forms part of a larger development, which also comprises the construction of a major new building on the Richmond Yard site immediately behind the terrace and work to restore the adjacent buildings facing on to Parliament Street. The development as a whole is expected to be completed later this year.

My Lords, may I take this opportunity of thanking my noble friend for that encouraging answer and congratulating the Government on concluding what has been a long-term and long-standing conservation project? Can he say why it has taken such a very long time? Has the reason been budgetary or some other consideration?

My Lords, initially the decision to proceed was taken but unfortunately financial constraints prevented the project going ahead at the time. Subsequently, the size of the project was increased. However, I am glad to say that it is soon to be completed.

My Lords, may I ask the Minister whether he is aware that on 2nd August 1978 my right honourable friend the then Secretary of State for the Environment announced that the Government had decided to go ahead with plans prepared by William Whitfield, the consultant architect, for restoration of the fine interiors of Richmond Terrace to make the most effective use of an attractive listed building and to preserve the existing character and appearance of Whitehall, at a cost of £8½ million? Why then have only five of the fine rooms that were put in store been reinstated, against the advice of the consultant architect? As a result, the buildings have lost their historic integrity and are no longer buildings from which one can learn about that period.

Secondly, can the Minister tell the House what the present estimate of the cost is? On 9th November 1982 Sir George Young in another place announced that the development was expected to be completed at a cost of £28 million in 1986. Does the Minister have the latest estimate of cost?

My Lords, in answer to the question by the noble Baroness concerning the cost, the current estimate of the cost of construction and the fitting out of the whole development is £36 million.

My Lords, can my noble friend say why the restoration of Richmond Terrace could not have been achieved earlier, before the development of the yard on the other side?

My Lords, the terrace is an integral part of the development. It is joined to the new Richmond Yard building. Services for the restored rooms of the terrace—for example, heating and lifts—are now in the new building. There would have been a risk of deterioration and damage to the interiors if they had been restored before they could be put into proper use and while the major building operations were still under way elsewhere on the site.

My Lords, may I declare an interest, in that I was born in Richmond Terrace? Can the noble Lord tell me whether when the work is completed it will be possible for those of us who are interested in the result to be invited to come to have a look at it? I should like to see the old home again.

My Lords, I should consider it an honour to return to the department to inquire whether that request can be carried out as soon as possible.