Big Ben is one of the world’s most photographed buildings but Londoners and tourists have seen it covered with scaffolding for the past four years. The magnificent Big Ben, housed in the iconic Elizabeth Tower at Westminster Palace, is undergoing a huge £79 million facelift.
The name Big Ben, of course, really refers to the giant 13.7-tonne bell inside the tower but most of us also use it to describe the huge clock and tower.
Because of the pandemic, the time has had to wait for Big Ben as Covid has put months on the work at the biggest conservation project ever embarked on there. The work means the iconic clock has been silenced since August 2017, apart from special occasions.
It’s now expected we won’t hear Big Ben again until 2022, but it is going to be special! Also, it is heard that the clock being restored 11 storeys off the ground.
When it comes to the repair bill, Big Ben’s home Elizabeth Tower is set to rise by millions of pounds, it has been revealed. There could be a cost increase of £18.6 million, parliamentary authorities were told in February 2020. If the latest estimates are correct, it would see the new budget increased by almost a third from £61.1 million to £79.7 million. To put it in context, the extra £18.6 million needed to complete the works is almost as much as the £20 million the government has pledged to fight coronavirus. The discovery of asbestos and extensive World War II bomb damage to the 177-year-old Elizabeth Tower are among the reasons for the bigger bill.
Renovation is still underway however, an additional £18.6 million has been requested from the public purse to complete the works. The repair works started in 2017 and were due to end in 2021. The completion date does not appear to have been extended.
Ian Ailles, Director-General of the House of Commons, said the works are proving “more complex than we could have anticipated”. The full extent of the damage to the Tower was impossible until the scaffolding was up, he said.
Mr Ailles said: “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.”