Labour call for urgent action to restrict the number of ‘iceberg’ basements in Westminster

Westminster Council’s Planning Committees have given planning permission to 31 ‘iceberg’ basements since the start of 2015, leading to Labour Councillors to call for urgent action to restrict basement excavations to just one storey and to stop homeowners digging under listed buildings. Labour have also called for the Council to impose tighter limits on how far homeowners can extend under their garden.

The 31 basement planning approvals (details hereWestminster Basement Developments Approved in 2015) include one in Lyall Mews reported in the national press

Labour Councillors say that residents in many parts of St John’s Wood, Bayswater, Pimlico and Marylebone have had their residential amenity ruined for years at a time by absentee homeowners digging ‘mega-basements’ involving huge construction disruption, noise and nuisance. The issue has been raised in Parliament by Westminster North MP Karen Buck who introduced a Bill to restrict basement developments

Now, Labour Councillors have urged Westminster to adopt a similarly active policy as their neighbours in Kensington & Chelsea which Camden are set to follow

Typical comments from angry Westminster residents include;

“The builders at 23 Carlton Hill have an excavating machine working on a basement excavation with no attempt at sound proofing and making a terrible racket with diesel fumes permeating our house, and which the builders say will continue continuously 8 hours a day for several weeks. Is there anything that can be done to force them to take steps to suppress the noise and contain the fumes? I called Westminster Council on Monday and again on Tuesday but as far as I am aware they have not even visited the site yet. For most of the day they also illegally block off 2/3 parking spaces with sandbags”

“It isn’t just the disruption while the work is going on (18 months or more generally) but also the threat to the long-term structural integrity of adjacent buildings. We have a basement going in on one side and another opposite. The teams doing the work are courteous and clear up thoroughly when the finish for the day, but traffic is often obstructed by large vehicles delivering building materials or taking away the subsoil and the fabric removed from the houses. And the boards around the properties, though neat, do nothing to enhance the appearance of the street.”

“The term ‘conservation area’ has become a mockery and the implementation of the new basement guidance rules is far too slow meaning that the WCC is helpless to control them. The possibility of such rules has resulted in a spate of new applications. Where I live I have four applications – one to the left, one to the right and two to the rear.”

“Basement excavations are a disaster. At the SE and SW corners of Hall Road and Hamilton Terrace, in the heart of a conservation area, two have been going on for well over a year. The large freestanding houses were reduced to shells – the backs removed, and the interiors gutted. At the one on the SW side, the entire very large garden has been excavated to the boundary, right up to the poor little house further W. The noise in the summer was very dreary for the whole neighbourhood. I strongly believe that all basement excavations should be banned. But failing that, they should certainly be banned in terraces, where they make life hell for the neighbours and threaten their houses.”

“We can’t emphasise enough how the horrendous build of basements and swimming pools needs property legislation. We have in Marlborough Place an enormous project major works for the last 18 months!! The constant drilling affects the foundation of surrounding houses.!! This work is far from complete and the planning permission is given far too easily. This has to stop!”

“Living on Hamilton Terrace for over thirty years, we have remarked a notable increase in recent years in both the rate and scale of massive developments on the road, which include huge basement excavations. We find it unacceptable that such huge scale work is permitted to be carried out in a Conservation Area. Furthermore, it is worrying that huge basements are being carved out in areas where there are subterranean water systems and where there is likely to be a detrimental impact on terrain and properties. Finally, being surrounded by huge scale construction means that there is constant noise, dust and lorry traffic in an area which used to be renowned for its serenity. “

“Just to let you know, in the last few moments, I have overheard a neighbour SCREAMING out of his window at the builders next door to him (Northumberland Place, where there are 5 major rebuilds happening): “STOP BANGING, I’M AT THE END OF MY TETHER!!!”. The builders are working within the permitted hours but nevertheless all of this is grinding us down and making us lose our sanity. I recently had to scream at the builders next door to me to stop works (jack-hammers, drills etc) but, in that case, they were working beyond the time limits. It seems to me that property speculators have become the new ruling class. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.”

“If WCC ‘showed more teeth’ and was stricter, it would not be regarded as a pushover by the property developers, which in turn would lead to fewer applications meaning a smaller burden on the beleaguered Planning Officers and more peace for us existing residents who are increasingly feeling that we live on a permanent building site. The effects of all this construction is not just environmental, but it is causing a lot of bad feeling and resentment between neighbours, which doesn’t make for a healthy community spirit. I have been subjected to a dreadful, ugly, build next door. My street is listed but it appears that even listed buildings are no longer protected. ‘Conservation Area’ also seems to be a meaningless status.”

Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg, Leader of the Labour Group, said:

“This is a big issue for many long standing local residents. Westminster Council needs to be a lot more active in protecting residents from the damaging impact of ‘iceberg’ basements in many parts of St John’s Wood, Bayswater, Pimlico and Marylebone. Why is it that Kensington & Chelsea and Camden Councils can take action to protect residents whilst Westminster Conservatives lag behind? “

This entry was posted in Basement extensions, Bayswater, Karen Buck MP, Labour Councillors, Marylebone, Pimlico, Planning Committee, Planning permission, St John's Wood, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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