The area around the Palace of Westminster, especially Parliament Square, is the constitutional heart of the UK. It should be one of the world’s great civic spaces - but currently it can be confusing and unwelcoming. This 2011 report set out radical ideas for a more coherent vision for the area, to provide an enriched experience for all those drawn to it.
The conjunction around Parliament Square of the Palace of Westminster, Westminster Abbey, the Supreme Court and Whitehall represents the constitutional heart and history of the UK. The area brings together a collection of the country’s most iconic national symbols. It should be a place of national pride - a public space that reflects, shapes and sustains the UK’s national identity and democratic culture.
But, instead, this landmark area is a national disgrace, in which the public appears only to be tolerated rather than welcomed. The site needs to be opened up, both physically and intellectually.
This 2011 report put forward radical ideas to upgrade the role of Parliament Square and its surroundings in national life, and significantly enhance the experience of those visiting the area. Proposals in the report covered traffic management, pedestrianisation and signage; the creation of tourist walking routes; the provision of hard copy, human and digital sources of information, both fixed and portable; the creation of a new website for the World Heritage Site, integrating ‘heritage’ pages from Parliament’s current website; improved online access to historical and artistic artefacts in the parliamentary collection; the use of Parliament Square and Victoria Tower Gardens for public events on democracy-related themes; and the governance of Parliament Square, the World Heritage Site, and Parliament’s visitor-facing commercial activities.
Ideas for the use of specific buildings in the area included the movement of Parliament’s Education Centre into the rooms off Westminster Hall; the conversion of the Parliamentary Bookshop on the corner of Bridge Street into an Information Centre; the establishment of a visitor facility in Victoria Tower Gardens; and the creation of a Visitors’ Centre for the whole of the World Heritage Site in the Elizabeth II Conference Centre.
Since the report’s publication in 2011, its underlying purpose has become more urgent. Now that the decision has been taken to proceed with the Restoration and Renewal of the Palace of Westminster, including a full decant of MPs and Peers from the mid-2020s while the work takes place, it is vital that this one-off opportunity is seized and the renewal of the Palace integrated into a more ambitious and creative re-think of the purpose of its surrounding area.
Table of contents
- Chapter 1: The Study Area: Context and History
- Chapter 2: Access, Information and Interpretation
- Chapter 3: Rethinking the Use of Public Space
- Chapter 4: Exhibition Facilities and a Visitors’ Centre
- Chapter 5: Harnessing the Digital Realm
- Chapter 6: The Business Case
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