Queen Elizabeth may have to leave Buckingham Palace

Royal officials say Queen Elizabeth may have to move out of Buckingham Palace during much-needed renovations to the residence, which has not been redecorated since she took the throne in 1952.

Palace needs new plumbing and wiring, and asbestos removal

The Red Arrows make a flypast during the Trooping The Colour parade at Buckingham Palace, in London on June 13, 2015. Officials say the Queen may have to leave the palace while it undergoes repairs. (Tim Ireland/Associated Press)

Queen Elizabeth may have to move out of Buckingham Palace during much-needed renovations to the residence, which has not been substantially redecorated since she took the throne in 1952, royal officials said Wednesday.

Officials say the palace needs an estimated 150 million pounds ($291 million Cdn) of renovation and upgrades, including replacing old plumbing and wiring and removing asbestos. Having her move out during the work is one option being considered.

The queen has several other residences but spends about a third of her time in the London palace, which was first used by her ancestor Queen Victoria. It is the site of summer garden parties and scores of ceremonial events each year.

Keeper of the Privy Purse Alan Reid said maintenance on aging royal buildings, "and in particular Buckingham Palace, will present a significant financial challenge" in the next few years.

Annual accounts published Wednesday showed that the monarchy costs taxpayers 35.7 million pounds ($69.3 million Cdn) in the year to March 31, the equivalent of 56 pence per person. That was unchanged from the year before.

Almost half the money, 18.7 million pounds, was spent on payroll costs, while property maintenance cost 11.7 million pounds ($36.3 million Cdn) and 5.1 million pounds ($9.9 million Cdn) was spent on official travel. The most expensive trip was an eight-day visit to Colombia and Mexico by Prince Charles and his wife Camilla, which cost almost 450,000 pounds ($874,000 Cdn)

The queen, who turned 89 in April, has cut back on her public duties but still undertook 196 public engagements during the year. She's in Berlin on Wednesday, along with Prince Philip, at the start of a three-day state visit to Germany.

Parliament in need too

The palace isn't the only iconic building in London in need of work. A report published last week said  the 19th-century Houses of Parliament complex beside the River Thames needs repairs that could take three decades and cost up to 7 billion pounds ($13.59 billion Cdn).  The report, commissioned by parliamentary officials and conducted by consultants led by Deloitte Real Estate, said the building has not undergone major restoration since 1950.

This May 2011 photo shows the U.K. Houses of Parliament in London. (Eddie Keogh/Reuters)

Consultants have laid out several options. They said that if lawmakers and peers agree to move out during restoration — what the report terms "a full decant" — work could take six years and cost about 3.5 billion pounds ($6.79 billion Cdn).

If politicians and staff remain, the most expensive option foresees work taking 32 years at a cost of 5.7 billion pounds ($11.07 billion Cdn), possibly rising to 7.1 billion pounds ($13.78 billion Cdn). A parliamentary committee will examine the report, and any work is unlikely to begin before 2020.

Most of the Parliament complex was built after a major fire razed its predecessor in 1834, though the oldest section, Westminster Hall, is 900 years old.

The Palace of Westminster, as the buildings are officially known, has been designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. But its maze of corridors, leaky roofs and antiquated plumbing make it a challenging workplace for some 2,000 politicians and staff, and the stonework on its neo-Gothic exterior is crumbling.


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