Buckingham Palace needs renovations

LONDON (AP) — Buckingham Palace needs a taxpayer-funded face-lift if it’s to remain fit for the queen.

The London home of Queen Elizabeth II hasn’t been upgraded since just after World War II, and needs urgent infrastructure work to fix plumbing, electrical cables and heating, palace officials said Friday.

The work will cost some 369 million pounds ($459 million) over 10 years and is considered critical to safeguarding the building from fire or flood damage. If the work goes as planned, the palace won’t need another renovation until 2067, when Prince William would be 85, or five years younger than the current monarch.

Palace officials acknowledge that the sum is vast, but hope the public will accept the expenditure for a building that symbolizes a nation.

“We take the responsibility that comes with receiving these public funds extremely seriously indeed,” said Tony Johnstone-Burt, the official in charge of administering the royal family’s affairs. “Equally, we are convinced that by making this investment in Buckingham Palace now we can avert a much more costly and potentially catastrophic building failure in the years to come.”

The project will be paid for through a temporary increase in the Sovereign Grant, a percentage of the profits from the Crown Estate.

The cost of the refurbishing prompted dissent from the anti-royal campaign group, Republic.

“Royal attitude always the same: it’s theirs to use and ours to pay for,” the group said on its Twitter feed. “Time we took the palace back and turned it into world class museum.”

The scale of the project is enormous — though it deals with the parts of the palace the public would not see in a building that boasts 775 rooms including 78 bathrooms and 19 state rooms. Some 30,000 square meters of floorboards, for example, will need to be lifted to fix cabling.

In a nod to the environmentally minded Prince Charles, solar panels will be installed.

The project envisions the improvement of visitor facilities and improved public access, making it more accessible for the disabled, for example.

The palace is one of Britain’s most recognizable buildings, the backdrop for national occasions, royal balcony kisses and post-war victory celebrations. Tourists flock to its gates to watch the Changing of the Guard, while the facade that faces the flag-draped Mall features in the snapshots of millions.