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New excavation rules for Hampstead and Highgate residents

PUBLISHED: 15:01 15 January 2009 | UPDATED: 15:49 07 September 2010

Miguel Cullen RESIDENTS in Hampstead and Highgate will have to resist the temptation to dig deep in future – as new guidelines have been issued by planning chiefs on basement excavations. Camden Council has imposed a three-metre depth limit on new basemen

Miguel Cullen

RESIDENTS in Hampstead and Highgate will have to resist the temptation to dig deep in future - as new guidelines have been issued by planning chiefs on basement excavations.

Camden Council has imposed a three-metre depth limit on new basements built under homes in the borough.

It means developers will theoretically be barred from scooping up underground kingdoms, as their excavations will now be confined to the 'footprint' of the house above, with a limit of one storey deep.

So the likes of subterranean gym suites and virtual golf courses - owned by the likes of Hampstead's Ricky Gervais - will be a thing of the past.

But remarkably, underground swimming pools will be exempt from the new guidelines.

The credit crunch has done nothing to stem the recent flood of excavation applications, which Town Hall bosses believe could have grave environmental consequences such as subsidence and structural damage above ground.

Given the grand title 'new basement development and extensions to existing basement accommodation guidance', the new rules will also force people to show how they will deal with such concerns and they will also be expected to consult with neighbours.

The guidance is good news to the Heath and Hampstead Society.

"We have been concerned for many years by the huge amount of planning applications for new basements," said Gordon Maclean, head of planning for the society.

"We have raised this for many years with Camden and have urged them to bring in new policies to meet this rise in applications.

"We would have liked them to have gone a little further but beggars can't be choosers. We would like to see people prohibited from digging underneath their gardens. A bit of topsoil isn't enough.

"They [Camden Council] have long hesitated but now, thankfully, they have brought in this policy."

In Hampstead there is a combination of bagshot sand and claygate clay under the ground, which makes the area particularly attractive to developers seeking basement excavations.

Indeed, there is an application for an underground pool on Mr Maclean's very street, which has been bitterly opposed by him and other residents.

An extract from the new guidance reads: "A basement development that is modest in size such that it does not extend beyond the footprint of the original building and is no deeper than one full storey below ground level (approximately three metres in depth) is often the most appropriate way to extend a building below ground." Antony Marshall, Camden's cabinet member for planning, said he hopes the guidance will soon become set in stone.

"We are waiting for Local Development Framework which will come in in 2010," he said.

"It is crucial that there are clear guidelines on basement builds.

"We have published this guide to highlight the firm way we will be implementing our policies, helping residents and businesses to understand all the potential impacts of their proposals, and to ensure they plan and build them properly, safely and considerately.


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