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Architects: 'Westminster crackdown won't kill off basement work'

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Proposed new rules restricting basement extensions in a second London borough are unlikely to dampen demand for subterranean development, according to architects

London Borough of Westminster is consulting on new rules which would restrict the depth of basement schemes to one storey in most cases, and is also proposing to remove such schemes from permitted development regime.

The move follows similar restrictions adopted in neighbouring Kensington & Chelsea at the beginning of this year.

Robert Davis, deputy leader of Westminster City Council, said: ‘Our residents have been facing an underground epidemic on their quiet residential streets, and I want to help stop the horror stories of people living next to mega-basement construction.

‘All basements will now go before the council’s planning department, allowing neighbours and local communities to have their say and for developers to demonstrate they will not cause undue harm to neighbours or the character of the area.’

Documents released by the council said that the number of applications for basement extensions rose from 86 in 2007/8 to 140 in 2013/14.

The council is consulting on to its local plan which would place a raft of new demands on developers of new schemes, covering assurances on drainage, landscaping, the effect of development on neighbours, heritage assets.

The rules would also require developers to provide a construction management plan.

Alastair McLeod, director at 4D Studio, which has undertaken a number of basement extension projects, told AJ: ‘In Kensington & Chelsea they have added onerous conditions and made it very difficult.

‘There may be some people who are put off but even adding one basement will add value to a property and I there is a degree to which people see their neighbours getting one and want one for themselves.’

Jason Wren, director of Shape Architecture, which has also built a number of basement extensions, said: ‘Our workload remains the same despite the move in Kensington & Chelsea.

‘The nature of the application process has got more intensive with the requirement for a very detailed and specific methodology.

‘It creates more work but doesn’t really undermine the viability of the projects. The prospect of a mansion tax earlier this year probably had a much bigger effect on demand for basement extensions.’

 

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Susan James

    The other issue with mega basements is when they extend into the gardens effectively creating roof gardens...what about any mature trees in those existing gardens and the correct conditions to plant future long-lived trees. Trees are going to be a major element in keeping London cool as future temperatures rise. See Islington Council's Basement Consultation SPD for this...http://www.islington.gov.uk/publicrecords/library/Planning-and-building-control/Publicity/Public-consultation/2014-2015/(2014-12-05)-Basement-Development-Discussion-Paper-Dec-2014.pdf

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