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Tiny Kentish Town street aims to set ‘historic’ legal precedent over basement builds

10:00 11 August 2014

Residents of Quadrant Grove in Kentish Town are defiant over a neighbour's plan to build a basement. Residents from left are Andrew Bache, Nicole Segre, Len Whiting, Khursheed Singh, Lynn Whiting, Barbara Thorndick, Lucinda Sturgis. Picture: Dieter Perry

Residents of Quadrant Grove in Kentish Town are defiant over a neighbour's plan to build a basement. Residents from left are Andrew Bache, Nicole Segre, Len Whiting, Khursheed Singh, Lynn Whiting, Barbara Thorndick, Lucinda Sturgis. Picture: Dieter Perry

Dieter Perry

Residents of a tiny street in Kentish Town could set an historic precedent over the legality of future basement builds after becoming embroiled in a “bizarre” planning war with a neighbour and the council.

Households along Quadrant Grove have formed a united front to block the construction of a basement in their “fragile street” – and to oppose controversial powers being used more and more to bypass planning regulations.

It comes after an application for the one-storey basement faltered last year when an independent report procured by Camden Council raised serious questions over the structural impact construction would have on neighbouring houses.

The applicant has now instead sought a “certificate of lawfulness” from the council, allowing them to use “permitted development” powers to build the basement without needing any permission.

The group of furious 40 opposing residents – which includes a high profile QC, a structural engineer and a prominent housing expert – are intent on taking their fight to the courts, the outcome of which could shake up the city’s entire basement construction industry.

Resident Barbara Thorndick, former chief executive of a prominent housing association, said: “Our tiny street cannot cope with basement work, both structurally and in terms of noise, dust and congestion.

“And we’re incredibly worried about the impact it will have on our houses. Basements have become a cause of so much aggro in neighbourhoods across London. They’re not solving the housing crisis and it’s time they were brought under control.”

Building down has become big business in London as property prices continue to rise and land space remains tight.

Amendments to planning laws in 2009 made the practice easier for households, but the residents of Quadrant Grove hope their case will see a reversal in 2014.

Quadrant Grove resident Christopher Sallon, a prominent QC, said: “The law on whether permitted development covers basement builds like this needs to be cleared up.

“We’ve sought legal opinion from expert barristers who say the powers do not cover basement builds. And they say we have a high chance of winning should we need to get an injunction.

“It’s something that has never been taken to the courts before so we could set a precedent across the whole metropolis.

“We recognise it’s very tempting for families to build down but these are tiny little houses with no deep foundations.”

The council is understood to have sought its own legal opinion on the issue but has so far refused to provide it to the residents. The group is currently awaiting its decision on whether construction of the basement will be granted under permitted development.

But their local councillor, Labour’s Alison Kelly, said: “The council must do all it can to make sure the development does not go ahead.

“The residents of this unique oasis of calm mustn’t suffer months of disruption.”

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