St John’s Wood basements are ‘damaging our properties’

Residents furious as plans for new development are given green light

A CONTROVERSIAL St John’s Wood basement development has been given the go-ahead despite widespread objection to the scheme.

Plans were last week granted for an extension underneath a Hamilton Terrace garden and Hamilton Close house which will contain a swimming pool and gym.

A number of residents objected to the scheme for reasons including environmental grounds, because they are a danger to other nearby listed buildings, and the disturbance from construction work.

Former diplomat Sir Hugh Cortazzi, who lives on Hamilton Close, says his life has been blighted for almost three years after a different basement development along the road went wrong.

“It’s still causing us plenty of problems,” he said.

“They didn’t dig deep enough to enable the top to be put on the basement and it affected the neighbouring gardens.

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“The person who had bought the property then disappeared, the bank took ownership of it and it was bought by developers who are still working on it.

“Hamilton Close is in the most appalling condition. It’s full of potholes and it’s due to heavy trucks taking earth away.

“If we are to have the existing development alongside the latest development then this could carry on for years.”

While Sir Hugh admits residents’ opinions of basement developments have been affected by previous problems, he says he objected to the latest application for other reasons.

“We objected on the grounds that they are damaging the environment,” he said. “We don’t think gardens should be removed to put in underground pools.

“The removal of all this earth is not environmentally friendly. Even if they put back a layer of earth on top it won’t be deep enough to allow trees to grow there.”

The St John’s Wood Society objected to the latest basement plans while Regent’s Park Councillor Robert Rigby also objected on the grounds that soil removal will cause disruption, adversely affect the water table, potentially cause subsidence, and residents would be badly affected by the construction.

“The overriding concern is the disruption that’s caused by the process of digging under and building the basements,” he said.

“It’s too early to say what the full impact of these basement developments will be but there’s unease among residents about these developments.”

Development agent Stuart Forbes, of Stuart Forbes Associates which is building the basement, said: “The issue with the basement nearby is extremely unfortunate and that kind of thing is very unusual and extremely rare.

“It does mean that residents have experienced subsidence with their own eyes so they are more aware of it than other people.

“The problem is that there is no specific plan that the council adopts that would restrict this kind of development. Our scheme was worked very closely with the council to address their concerns. It’s befitting of Hamilton Terrace and the St John’s Wood area.”

Cllr Alan Bradley, Westminster council planning sub-committee chairman, said: “We are aware that basement developments can cause concern, but from a planning perspective this application conforms to all government regulations in terms of land use and design and its impact on the conservation area the property is located in.

“The committee has applied conditions to reduce disturbance to neighbours as a result of construction, protect neighbouring trees and to ensure the work conforms with listed building guidelines.”