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Lords press area revamp proposed

Journalists would be less likely to fall from their seats on to the House of Lords debating floor under revamp proposals costing up to £130,000, parliamentary documents say.

Officials want to remove a booth built in the first floor press gallery that has allowed broadcasters to commentate on proceedings without disturbing peers while they speak or the Queen when she outlines the Government's plans in the Queen's Speech.

The press gallery would then be restored to a style similar to its post-war design before the broadcast box was installed in 1976, including extra desks and seating with new cushions to fill the space taken by the booth, according to plans put before Westminster City Council.

An ornate brass railing would also be reinstated at the front to "reduce the risk of falling from the press gallery", which is considered to be "necessary in order to improve building safety", the proposals add.

Of three options considered for the work, the Lords authorities have selected what they recognise in planning documents as "potentially the most expensive option".

This returns the gallery to its historic form and "reduces risk of falling from aisle and front bench, by providing additional guarding", the paperwork outlines.

The plans reveal one proposal was rejected as it did not reduce the risk of people falling from the gallery.

They add another rejected idea would have left journalists sitting in the front row still at risk of toppling over and would have also created "risk of falling", while reporters leaving the front bench of the gallery would "disturb" fellow journalists and "potentially cause disturbance" to peers.

The press gallery in the Lords is rarely full, with exceptions including the Queen's Speech.

Outlining why the work has been proposed, plans submitted by the Corporate Officers of the House of Commons and House of Lords state: "The broadcasting box causes harm to the press gallery and north elevation of the Lords chamber, and thus harms the significance of the Grade I-listed building.

"It is unlikely that the broadcasting box would receive listed building consent if proposed today.

"Due to developments in broadcasting technology, the broadcasting box is now redundant. The area will better serve building use as additional seating."

It adds: "Opportunity will be taken to reinstate the ornate brass railing visible in historic images (including a 1897 and 1945 photograph).

"This will also reduce the risk of falling from the press gallery, and is therefore considered to be necessary in order to improve building safety."

A notice on which outlines the 10-week project - and advertises for a contractor to carry it out - puts the cost of the work between £100,000 and £130,000.

New cushions for the extended press bench, carpet, new speakers, potential asbestos removal plus stripping out cables and removing electrical items linked to the broadcast box are among the works listed for the project.

Benches and notepad stands thought to have been raised in height to allow reporters to watch proceedings over the broadcast box would also be lowered.

The restoration works are scheduled to place during the summer recess, with the Lords rising on July 30.


From Belfast Telegraph