Rush of basement applications before Camden Council rules change

A FLOOD of basement applications has reached Camden Council as more stringent planning rules come into force.

Developers rushed to put in a string of applications for basements across Hampstead and Belsize before the Local Development Framework (LDF) was approved on November 8.

Hampstead residents are anxious about the sheer number of applications for large basements which they say cause nuisance and damage to neighbouring properties and interfere with the area’s underground water flow.

The LDF has introduced stricter rules over basements and states they should usually be no bigger than the footprint of the actual house and no more than three metres deep, which is one storey.

But applications submitted before that date, many of which are yet to be decided, have reports written by officers who have followed only the older guidelines.

Chairman of the Heath and Hampstead Society, Tony Hillier, said: “If the committee knows what it is doing it will consider the applications on the new guidelines.

“But the problem is that neither officers nor councillors have the technical knowledge so we still have the education process.

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“That will be partly solved by a new hydrological and geological report Camden has commissioned. It will take a while for everyone to be educated but developers should realise that the barrier is much higher now than it used to be.

“To put in a basement application now requires 300 pages of very detailed evidence and people will realise soon how high a hurdle needs to be jumped over.”

Gordon Maclean, also from the society, added: “The flow of basement applications has been undiminished and the majority of applications are still being permitted.

“We had a decision recently which plainly goes against Camden’s own policy and guidance and there have been others.

“In the period before the LDF the decisions have been extremely random but now it is in place the council has no further excuse in not complying with the policies.

“The LDF says what a basement usually is but it is still not black and white. There are weaknesses there.”

Hampstead councillor Chris Knight says 15 homes neighbouring basement construction have already been damaged across Hampstead. “The basement rash is spreading like fire,” he said. “It is really worrying.

“The LDF is very new and it was only adopted by the council on November 8 which has brought in the tougher regulations, but a lot of these reports will have been written before then.

“Basements are simply bad news for Hampstead and we are very worried about all these applications getting through.

“These basements can be very dangerous and I am hugely concerned about the underground water movements in Hampstead – the basements are driving the water all over the place.”

Jake Puddy, of London Basement, said: “We welcome the LDF very much. The bottom line is this really highlights the thought that should be put into this kind of work.

“It reflects the need for responsible contracting and using a reputable contractor, so we welcome that. Anything that drives work away from people who think they can just do it without the proper controls is good.”

A spokeswoman for Camden Council said: “The council has recently adopted new planning policies that will help to improve all future basement planning applications.

“It is also consulting on detailed guidance that changes our processes for dealing with basement applications.

“All relevant council officers are receiving internal training on the new procedures, and are able to assess the information submitted with a basement application in a similar way to how they assess expert evidence submitted on other matters, such as financial viability and energy.”