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Victory against Hampstead mega-basement that risked plunging family home ‘into abyss’

Oliver Froment's home sits on two columns at one side. Picture: Nigel Sutton Oliver Froment's home sits on two columns at one side. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Wednesday, April 9, 2014
4:39 PM

A father has won his battle against a huge basement leisure complex after planning chiefs agreed the project could have caused his house to collapse.

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Father-of-two Oliver Froment breathed a huge sigh of relief after Camden Council rejected his next door neighbour’s plan for an underground cinema, library and games room in Pilgrim’s Lane, Hampstead.

Councillors sitting on last Thursday’s development control committee feared that the 3.75metre-deep excavation could have jeopardised the stability of Mr Froment’s home, which sits above the ground on two pillars on one side.

The proposed excavation area went right up to the columns holding up the house, which he shares with his wife and children.

The 63-year-old managing director of a financial services firm criticised the council’s planning officers for recommending the scheme’s approval.

“I have given up months of my life to this and been a nervous wreck,” he said.

“What I can’t understand is how the application got this far in the first place.

“If the planning officers had done their jobs, it would have saved a huge amount of taxpayers’ money and individuals’ money.”

Committee member Cllr Flick Rea (Liberal Democrats) said that her “gut instinct” was that “this is a house that’s going to fall into the ground”.

Neighbours including Lady Pamela Hare, The Countess of Listowel, and solicitor Nusrat Zar, an expert on human rights and freedom of information, also opposed the project.

Ms Zar, who lives two doors away, said: “The application could cause harm and result in ground instability and the risk of flooding.

“Mr Froment’s house is at real risk of damage or even collapse and it could leave an entire row of houses exposed to water overflow.”

Hampstead Town members Cllr Linda Chung (Lib Dem) and Cllr Chris Knight (Conservative) both spoke out against the application, with the latter saying the building was in danger of falling “into the abyss” if the excavation went ahead.

Councillors were also concerned about the size of the excavation, saying it was only slightly smaller than a design rejected in 2011.

Michael Doyle, the applicant’s agent, said: “We have not yet decided whether to appeal or submit another scheme, but my client is very disappointed.

“The councillors’ decision contradicted officers’ advice. This was a much-reduced scheme.”

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