by Tim Lamden
Thursday, January 31, 2013
A group of Hampstead Garden Suburb’s most powerful and prominent residents, including top judge Lord Justice Leveson and banking tycoon Sir Victor Blank, are set for a battle over plans for an underground swimming pool near to their homes.
Lawyers instructed by Sir Victor, a former chairman of Lloyds Banking Group, will try to obtain a High Court injunction to stop the Hampstead Garden Suburb Trust from approving plans for a basement extension to a luxury six-bedroom mansion.
Sir Victor, 70, is bringing the legal action in light of objections from a group of about 12 residents, including Lord Justice Leveson and TV presenter Richard Madeley, who live close to the proposed development.
The trust, which rules on every development in the conservation area alongside Barnet Council, must decide whether to allow the basement excavation, which will house an indoor swimming pool, a games room and wine cellar.
The group fears that removing earth to dig the new basement could result in significant damage to neighbouring homes.
They are calling for the trust to explore the potential impact of the plans on underground water levels in the area and how this may affect houses near the luxury home.
They point to problems at another Hampstead Garden Suburb home, in Norrice Lea, where a similar basement excavation has left one home in danger of collapse.
Angus Walker, the chairman of the trust, was unable to comment on the matter.
He said: “There are legal proceedings which will be heard in February and the trust has no comment in anticipation of those proceedings.”
The application for the basement extension was originally made to Barnet Council on March 26 last year.
It involves the creation of a basement beneath the house’s back garden to hold a swimming pool and changing area, measuring almost 15metres in length.
The basement would stretch for a further 15metres to accommodate a games room and wine cellar.
Next month, Sir Victor’s lawyers will try to persuade a High Court judge to pass a court injunction preventing the trust from approving the scheme until further notice.
The trust has signed an agreement pledging to make no decision before the High Court hearing.
The trust was set up in 1968 to preserve the character of Hampstead Garden Suburb, which was founded by Henrietta Barnett as a “model community for people of all classes living together in beautiful houses”.
The trust has policies to protect the architectural standards of the Suburb and householders must obtain approval before making changes to the outside of their properties.