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Council crackdown on basement extensions

Posted on 2 October 2015

All about that base-ment

Kensington & Chelsea (RBKC) and Westminster Councils have put the spade in the ground to start their latest defence against the creation of basements. With policy frameworks already in place to judge planning applications for new basements, both councils have turned their attention to permitted development rights for domestic dwellings.

The digging of additional space underground is one of the few purely internal changes which requires planning permission, either express or through permitted development (PD) rights.  PD limits are based on a dimension based approach.  They authorise any extension to a dwelling which does not exceed these specific limits.

RBKC had previously sought to argue that the creation of a basement was always unlawful under the dwelling house PD rights because it resulted in a development of more than one storey wherever the basement lies under the footprint of the building.  Opponents argued that the basement itself was the extension and as long as this was a single storey it was always PD.  This approach had been traditionally accepted by RBKC and was widely applied elsewhere, however RBKC were overruled by the inspector at an appeal and have since challenged that decision.  The court has now ruled against RBKC and re-affirmed the generally accepted interpretation.

As a result, RBKC issued article 4 directions to remove PD rights on a borough-wide basis and Westminster has since followed suit.  These are delayed effect directions which will not be formally confirmed until April and July 2016 respectively.  While a consultation has been carried out by both boroughs, it seems doubtful that they will not confirm the directions and unlikely that the government will want to interfere.

Those desiring to start basement works will have to start work before the article 4 directions are confirmed in order to preserve their rights, otherwise they face having to obtain express permission.  This is true whether the proposal is for a full basement, a small wine cellar or a lowering of floor levels in one room.  The demand for basement companies is expected to peak over the next few months.

Please contact Daniel Farrand if you have any further queries or would like advice on these issues.

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