24 Jan 2012

London's Big Ben leaning

11:42 pm on 24 January 2012

Renovation work on the Palace of Westminster will not begin until at least 2020, British MPs have decided.

The decision came after surveyors found that Parliament's Clock Tower - better known as Big Ben - is leaning. The tilt is just visible to observers on the Westminster Bridge, the BBC reports.

The House of Commons Commission said officials would conduct an investigation into how repairs could be carried out, but no decisions would be taken until the next Parliament However, it stressed that the Palace remained "structurally sound".

The Clock Tower, housing the bell which is called Big Ben, was completed in 1859. Since then a five-storey car park and the Jubilee underground line have been constructed.

In October last year, Professor John Burland, a construction expert from Imperial College London who oversaw the building of the car park, said the tower was leaning, but it would not be a major concern for at least 10,000 years.

The Palace of Westminster is also suffering from cracking.

Professor Burland told the BBC on Monday the tower was "moving incredibly slowly and always has done so and there really is no immediate danger at all".

At its monthly meeting, the House of Commons Commission agreed that officials from both Houses should conduct an initial study, lasting about a year, into the necessary renovations.

Any subsequent work agreed upon after the next general election in 2015 would not begin before 2020 at the earliest.