It’s estimated that the cost to refurbish Buckingham Palace and remove the high levels of asbestos in the building could reach £150 million. Only two years ago the predicted figure was £50 million, and even that was said by many to be too much when there are so many other buildings in the UK that still contain the dangerous substance.
Hospitals and other public buildings constructed prior to the asbestos ban in 1999 pose a risk to anyone visiting or working there, and the extensive presence of asbestos in our schools is a topic for debate in its own right.
No redecoration for 60 years
It’s reported to be 60 years since the palace underwent redecoration, and the safe removal of asbestos there will take some planning and organisation. Buildings whose condition has been allowed to degrade excessively can be the most expensive to refurbish, particularly when asbestos is present in so many areas.
It is expected that the Queen and Prince Philip will move temporarily into Windsor Castle whilst the refurbishment takes place, but there have been calls for the palace to be vacated permanently, and for it to be converted into a museum to attract tourism.
Graham Smith of campaign group, Republic, is in favour of using the palace to bring in more income from tourism:
“It’s now being suggested the Queen will move out temporarily, so the taxpayer can start spending millions on repairs. Well if the taxpayer is footing the bill the taxpayer should reap the reward.”
Calls to eradicate asbestos
Only last month, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Occupational Safety and Health produced a report in favour of the complete eradication of asbestos in workplaces throughout the UK.
The steps suggested include surveying all commercial premises to establish whether or not asbestos is present, and if it is, to identify its whereabouts and condition. A further recommendation involved a plan to safely remove of asbestos by 2025 at the latest, and in the case of buildings open to the public, schools and colleges, by 2018.
Workplace inspections have been called for, including the identification and clear marking of all asbestos-containing materials so that workers are aware of where the dangers lie. Chairperson of the group, Ian Lavery, reiterated what the driving force was for producing the report:
“We believe that the Government needs to start now on developing a programme to ensure that asbestos is safely removed from every workplace and public place so that we can end, once and for all this dreadful legacy which has killed so many people, and will continue to kill until asbestos is eradicated.”
Whether or not the refurbishment of Buckingham Palace eventually costs £150 million, the lasting legacy of asbestos use in this country continues to claim lives, some more than five decades after the initial exposure.
Famous buildings such as the Palace and the House of Commons, where asbestos has been a specific problem, show that all of us can be affected by its deadly legacy.