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Rykwert fails to stop basement extension below flat

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Architectural critic Joseph Rykwert has failed in his bid to halt a neighbour’s plans to excavate his Hampstead basement

At a planning committee meeting on Thursday (20 March) Camden Council dismissed Rykwert’s objections to plans by Islington-based Sampson Associates’ to deepen the basement above which the architect-turned-writer lives.

The flat on Wedderburn Road is owned by Laurence Kirshal, founder of Consolidated Developments the firm behind ORMS’s Tin Pan Alley scheme on Denmark St in central London.  

Kirshal want to give his 2m-deep basement 400mm more ceiling height which means a dig of 600mm; but Rykwert, speaking on behalf of the other residents in the block protested on the grounds the work could damage his property.

In a letter to the authority sent ahead of last week’s meeting, Rykwert said he feared the work would ‘inevitably cause damage’ : ‘Unless some fool-proof method can be devised to prevent the ingress of water into the basement excavation, it will occur, eroding the soil beneath the foundations…and undermining them, causing irreversible damage.’

But despite around 25 letters of objections from worried, Camden Council rubberstamped the plans.

Colin Sampson, director of Sampson Associates, also dismissed Rykwert’s concerns:  ‘He’s upset, but I can’t help that,’ he said.

‘This is not a new basement - we are digging down 600 millimetres into an existing, rather small [30m2] basement.

‘It is a minor scheme that has been approved based on a Basement Impact Assessment which has been independently checked on behalf of the council by Card Geotechnics Limited,’ said Sampson.

Tim Macfarlane of Clerkenwell-based Glass Light and Special Structures which advised RIBA Gold medal-winner Rykwert told the AJ: ‘There was a debate about how to carry out the work and their latest proposal to inject grout to stabilise the ground.

‘We have our concerns but an independent engineer said it was a perfectly reasonable way to proceed. We were making sure no stone remained unturned’.

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