The repair bill to fix the Elizabeth Tower, which houses the famous Big Ben bell, has risen by £18.6m after the discovery of asbestos, second world war bomb damage and pollution problems. The project team first discovered the need for more money during a survey of the 177-year-old structure in central London. The conservation work of the tower is supposed to be completed at the end of the next year.
Along with other problems, bomb damage inflicted on the tower during World War II is more extensive than first believed. The 96-meter tower which is a national symbol has been mostly hidden from view since efforts to restore it began in 2007.
Ian Ailles, the Director-General of the House of Commons, said the task of restoring the tower “had been more complex than we could have anticipated”.
“With a 12 sq metres [130 sq ft] footprint and a prime location right in the middle of a busy working parliament, understanding the full extent of the damage to the tower was impossible until the scaffolding was up.
“Alongside other issues, such as the impact of often inappropriate conservation methods used by our predecessors, the corrosive levels of pollution in the atmosphere and the discovery of asbestos in unexpected places, we have only now been able to fully understand the full investment required for this project,” he added.
The tower anyhow survived the bombing but its roof and dials were badly damaged in an air raid in May 1941 which destroyed the main House of Commons chamber. The House of Commons and House of Lords commissions were told that to restore the tower to its previous splendour, the budget would need to rise from £61.1m to £79.7m.