The exclusion of historians and archaeologists from the Westminster Hall repair project does not bode well for the rest of the Palace of Westminster, say Mike Pitts and Tim Tatton-Brown. Sell it off and move, suggests Christine Mottram
Charlotte Higgins has nailed the dilemma of the Palace of Westminster (The Houses of Parliament are falling down, 2 December). Politicians are the last people who should be managing such a complex and precious estate on their own. Those who oversaw Augustus Pugin and Charles Barry, as they struggled to build the thing in the 19th century, have been described as “probably the worst clients in Britain”, and their successors have ever since strived to live up to that dictum. But the palace is nonetheless valuable, as a work of art, a symbol and a location with a richer, and more enriching, history than any other in the UK. We should encourage parliament to know that making the building safe, accessible and sustainable, while restoring and respecting its architectural heritage, is a project of international significance that, done well, would display courage and vision and earn the nation's respect.
Sadly, proceedings in Westminster Hall are not encouraging. The roof is being fixed, but historians and archaeologists have been excluded from the project, with a baseless argument about cost. Without archaeologists on board, one of the great wonders of the medieval world – and the greatest treasure in this world heritage site – is at risk of compromise. We have asked, but have been given no convincing reasons for this situation. It seems parliament lags far behind the country's appreciation of our heritage.
Editor, British Archaeology