Strict controls to clamp down on St John’s Wood basements

A set of strict controls has been announced by Westminster Council in a bid to curb the impact of basements in the borough.

Earlier this month the Wood&Vale revealed 86 basement applications had been received in the past year in St John’s Wood alone.

Residents have complained that their tranquil neighbourhood is becoming blighted by the underground developments and North Westminster MP Karen Buck led a parliamentary debate on the issue.

Now Westminster Council has sought to address some of their issues in its new City Management Plan (CMP).

The plan, which sets out the council’s future policies on a range of different topics, suggests much stricter controls on basement excavations.

It recommends ensuring that no basement can extend under more than 50 per cent of a property’s front or rear garden.

It also limits developments to just one level, maintains a soil depth of at least 1.5 metres across the whole garden, and ensures that basements achieve zero carbon standards.

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St John’s Wood Society planning chairman Christine Cowdray says the society is supportive of the proposals.

“Although we had asked that the CMP restricted excavation to being under the footprint of the house only, 50 per cent of a garden will now be safeguarded and the increased soil depth above the basement should give trees a greater chance of surviving to maturity,” she said.

“We welcome the one level restriction as this will be of benefit to residents who currently have to endure the noise and disruption caused by the removal of spoil from the sites of ‘iceberg’ houses which have two or three floors of underground rooms.”

Ms Buck also welcomes the council’s suggestions but says they will not greatly change the council’s powers on basements.

She said: “It does not fundamentally alter the council’s position in respect either of their ability to refuse proposals for basement excavations on the grounds of cumulative impact or their ability to obtain proper redress for neighbours for suffering months, if not years, of disruption.”

The basement proposals are part of the CMP, which sets out the council’s blueprint for issues such as heritage, housing, transport and open spaces.

Residents can have their say on the CMP consultation until next March on the Westminster website.

Deputy leader Cllr Robert Davis says the CMP proposals will ensure “Westminster remains one of the most desirable places to live”.