‘Basement controversy in Hampstead Garden Suburb won’t end with Sir Victor Blank case,’ says new chair

Richard Wiseman. Picture: Nigel Sutton.

Richard Wiseman. Picture: Nigel Sutton. - Credit: Nigel Sutton

The new chairman of Hampstead Garden Suburb Trust admits the issue of basement extensions is a problem that he cannot solve.

Former Lloyds Banking Group chairman Sir Victor Blank has taken the trust to the High Court. Picture

Former Lloyds Banking Group chairman Sir Victor Blank has taken the trust to the High Court. Picture: PA/John Stillwell. - Credit: PA Archive/Press Association Ima

Retired lawyer Richard Wiseman, 62, believes the trust’s legal battle with Sir Victor Blank over a proposed underground swimming pool near his Suburb home will help to clarify the trust’s power to regulate basement applications but will not prevent similar legal battles being waged in the future.

He said: “Basement controversy will continue because there will not be a hard and fast rule. The trust will have to exercise its discretion, and there are bound to be people who feel the discretion has been exercised wrongly.

“I don’t see how there can be a way around it. There is always going to be a grey area.”

Sir Victor, 70, a former chairman of Lloyds Banking Group, tried to obtain a High Court injunction to stop the trust approving plans for a basement extension to a six-bedroom mansion near his Suburb home.

In April, judge Mr Justice Henderson ruled that there were “no grounds” to stop the trust deciding on the application, prompting an appeal from Sir Victor which is due to be heard in February.

Sir Victor launched legal action in December after objections from residents, including judge Sir Brian Leveson and TV presenter Richard Madeley, who live near the proposed basement extension.

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Mr Wiseman, who lives in Hill Close, in the Suburb, was appointed chairman last month having been elected one of two new trustees, alongside former clothes store owner Michael Franklin.

The two replace former chairman Angus Walker and trustee Geoffrey Marriot who both stepped down after three-year terms.

Mr Wiseman has already identified his priorities. Top of his agenda is improving the trust’s communication with residents.

The father-of-three, who was global head of ethics and compliance for oil and gas giant Shell, hopes to invest in more improvement works across the Suburb and intends to address a “perception that the south side of the Suburb gets less attention and less cash”.

He said: “What I would like to do is to get some ideas together and say to people, ‘Look, there is an opportunity of spending so many thousands of pounds a year on Suburb projects’.

“What I’m saying is, let us come up with some ideas and come and tell us what your views are on the ideas, and if you have ideas of your own, by all means bring them to us. But don’t expect a pub on Central Square, because that’s not going to happen.”