Ruling MPs back plan to close parliament for 5-year, €500 million renovation
With reporting by Zack Newmark. The two parties in the ruling coalition agreed to shut down the Binnenhof parliament complex for over five years in order to conduct a complete overhaul of the buildings there. The renovations of the buildings, including the 13th century Ridderzaal, is expected to cost between 500 and 600 million euros.The ruling VVD party and its government affairs minister, Stef Blok, was an early advocate of the plan initially presented by former interior minister Liesbeth Spies in a commissioned report. Spies, a CDA member and the current mayor of Alphen aan den Rijn, said, "this variant is technically and financially more attractive." She was speaking in contrast to an alternative plan that would stretch the renovations out over a 13.5 year period, adding an additional anticipated cost of 125 million euros. On Tuesday, the coalition partners agreed on the option to close down Binnenhof for five years in order to renovate the Dutch parliamentary complex. After months of consideration, the Labour (PvdA) party, a coalition partner, agreed with the VVD. Labour came on board following consultation with construction firms in the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of Dutch parliament. "The experts confirm the minister's choice. They are portraying this as a realistic option," Labour MP Agnes Wolbert told Nu.nl. Disagreements exist between the two sides about the thoroughness of the renovations. Wolbert wants guarantees that the Binnenhof become fully accessible for people with disabilities, particularly as the government is pushing more employers to provide work for those who permanently require physical assistance devices, like wheelchairs and walkers. VVD parliamentarian Ingrid de Caluwé spoke out against her coalition partner's demands for "sustainability requirements," saying she is "adamantly against" the idea. "We must handle the taxpayer's money soberly," De Caluwé said. The exact plans are not the only source of dissent in Den Haag. Senators were reportedly very skeptical of a plan to shut the Binnenhof down, while retailers and catering businesses in the area are terrified that moving the government out of the complex will destroy their income. They hope the construction site will be publicly viewable and become a tourist attraction in its own right. Initial plans called for the start of the renovation by 2020. It is not known where parliament would move to, but one politician has already lobbied for a spot on Amsterdam IJburg.