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  6. London MPs claim basement development controls are inadequate

London MPs claim basement development controls are inadequate

London MPs have told Parliament that existing planning and building regulation controls over basement development are inadequate.

The issue was raised by Karen Buck, the Labour MP for Westminster North and Mark Field, the Conservative MP for Cities of London and Westminster, in a debate in the Commons.

They complained that plans for basement developments were spreading all over inner London.

Buck told MPs: “In many cases, basement developments - sometimes double basements going down two levels - stretch not just under the footprint of the house or even one or two-thirds beyond the footprint of the building itself, but through an entire garden. Plans include underground cinemas, swimming pools, gymnasiums and gun rooms.”

Buck added: “We know that, for the most part, basement developments are not opposed in principle, but their scale and the speed with which such major developments are now spreading over large parts of inner London is a major concern for neighbourhoods.”

She pointed out that amendments to the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 made in 2008 had removed the volume restriction that had previously limited home owners to developments that did not exceed a fixed percentage of their floor area.

“The 2008 guidance seemed to confirm that basement excavations should be permitted, although subject to conditions and restrictions intended to limit the impact on others. I am not sure, however, that the pace and scale of change was—or could have been—foreseen in 2008, and three years on, the system is obviously not working”.

Planning minister Bob Neil responded: “This is quite a complex issue, because it covers many aspects of both the planning process and the construction process, including concerns about noise and general disturbance and issues about the consistency and effectiveness of enforcement.”

He added: “There is not necessarily, therefore, a single silver bullet that can deal with the problem, but there are existing powers and good practice available to tackle it.”

Neill argued that many of the problems could be overcome if controls were “robustly enforced”.

However, he agreed to further discussions with the MPs to consider whether guidance needed to be strengthened or clarified.

The full text of the debates can be read on the Commons Hansard website (8 November 2011: Column 63WH) 


Roger Milne

10 November 2011