The discovery of deteriorating concrete, a problem that has already led to the shutting down of over 100 schools, has also emerged within the renowned Palace of Westminster. The concrete identified is the reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (Raac), which over time, has a tendency to become faulty and less stable. Despite its discovery, a representative has allayed fears by stating that there is no immediate threat posed by the material.
The faulty concrete was discovered during a routine investigation, and it has been stipulated that appropriate mitigative measures will be instituted wherever necessary. The ongoing school closures have ignited a wave of concern about the potential occurrence of Raac in other state-owned buildings and infrastructural setups.
The safety of the Parliament estate has been a longstanding concern, especially with recurring postponements of the necessary restoration and refurbishment of the globally recognized site. Fire threats and asbestos occurrences have been recurrent warnings that the estate has received over recent years. The total cost of fully restoring the palace is estimated to be between £4bn and £14bn.
Raac, which was widely used in school constructions from the 1950s up until the mid-1990s, tends to become vulnerable and prone to collapse with age.
The questioning of Department for Education’s permanent secretary Susan Acland-Hood and chief operating officer Jane Cunliffe by a committee of MPs elicited evasive responses. When the committee’s chair, Dame Meg Hillier, inquired about the school count awaiting a survey, the duo refrained from providing direct figures. Cunliffe mentioned that the situation is rapidly evolving and reassured that dozens of surveys are being conducted every day.