A proposal to renovate and refurbish Britain's iconic Buckingham Palace could involve temporarily relocating Queen Elizabeth and possibly affect the country's tourism industry briefly, according to reports. The repairs will include installing new plumbing, removing asbestos, and rewiring and redecorating the structure originally built in the eighteenth century.
If the palace decides to go ahead with the one-time repairs, estimated to cost 150 million pounds ($236 million), the monarch and her husband, Prince Philip, will move into Windsor Castle. The refurbishment, the cost of which is estimated by external surveyors, is also expected to have a temporary effect on the country’s tourism as about half of all travelers visit the landmark palace.
“One option is for the palace to be vacated; we’re getting experts to look at these scenarios and cost them for us,” a palace official said, according to the Guardian, adding: “The initial estimate for the refurbishment of Buckingham Palace looks like £150m.”
The Crown Estate, which handles the property for the queen, returned record profits of 285 million pounds to the taxpayer last year, the BBC reported Tuesday, adding that the public funding for the queen is expected to increase by 2 million pounds next year.
The royal household spent 2.1 million pounds last year on refurbishment but a proper overhaul has not happened at the queen's residence since 1952, and an in-house team has also reportedly proposed a 10-year maintenance plan for the palace.
Buckingham Palace has 775 rooms in total, including 19 state rooms, 52 royal and guest bedrooms, 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices and 78 bathrooms, the Daily Express reported. The queen reportedly lives "above the shop" for work purposes.
"You have to remember it's not the Queen's home. She only lives in nine rooms," a royal source told the Daily Express. The work will be paid for through the through the Sovereign Grant, which is the money annually paid to the monarch by the British government.
However, more funds may be required to carry out the repairs, the Daily Express reported, and some have criticized the proposed exercise. Republic, a campaign group, stated that Buckingham Palace is “treated like a private home occupied by a rogue tenant,” and that the profits from the palace should ideally go back to the taxpayer, according to the Guardian.
“If the taxpayer is footing the bill, the taxpayer should reap the reward,” Graham Smith, CEO of the group, said, according to the Guardian, adding: “Years of failure on the part of the royals have left the buildings in desperate need of repair.
“MPs and campaigners have long called on the palace to be opened up to tourists all year round, to pay for costs of maintenance. The royals have refused. So it’s time they moved out and the palace turned into a world-class museum and art gallery,” Smith added.
Meanwhile, British newspapers also reported Tuesday that Scotland may cut 2.2 million pounds a year in funding if a devolution happens, triggering concerns of a shortfall in revenues for the royals. However, the claim was refuted by authorities.
"Scotland will continue to make the same financial contribution to the monarchy as at present - there will be no reduction in the sovereign grant as a result of devolution of the Crown Estate," a government spokeswoman said, according to the Huffington Post.