Three storey basement in Hampstead refused over damage fears

The existing house in Maresfield Gardens. Picture: Nigel Sutton

The existing house in Maresfield Gardens. Picture: Nigel Sutton - Credit: Nigel Sutton

Controversial proposals to build a vast basement extension the size of two double decker buses beneath a house in Hampstead have been refused after councillors voiced concern that the excavation could damage neighbouring homes.

The basement would have been the height of two double decker buses

The basement would have been the height of two double decker buses - Credit: Archant

The existing 1950s house in Maresfield Gardens, Frognal – currently only a single storey high at street level – would have been demolished to make way for a contemporary “sunken” house, with three underground levels if plans had won approval.

The subterranean development was 19 metres long at its widest point and would have stretched 9.6 metres underground, the height of two double decker buses. A swimming poll would have been built on the lowest basement floor.

But permission was refused by Camden Council’s planning committee on Thursday May 23 after eight of 11 councillors present voted against the plans.

Neighbour Lilly Sahni, said she was “extremely relieved” by the decision.

But she warned: “I don’t think the problem is going to go away.

“I feel that the council is going to have to do something about their present policy on deep basements.

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“My worst fear was that the house in the middle of the terrace would have caved in if the plans had gone ahead.”

Cllr Gio Spinella, who represents Frognal and Fitzjohn’s ward, said: “The basement was definitely one of the deepest I have seen for planning permission.

“People have a right to improve their homes but we are in central London and you have to take into account the people around you.

“The house was the third in a terrace of three and shares walls with the other houses. The plans would have called for extensive work.”

More than 30 people objected in writing to the plans and a letter sent by the Heath and Hampstead Society said digging three storeys underground was “outrageous” and the “depth of the basement was excessive”.

Planning committee member Cllr Sue Vincent said at the meeting she was “incredibly uncomfortable with the underground development” and expressed concern about the potentially “severe impact on neighbours”.

Permission for the luxury home was granted by Camden Council in 2007 and again in 2008 after changes were made to designs, but the approval expired in 2011.

Owners Stephanie Drews and Colin Rowat, of Campayne Gardens, West Hampstead, made no changes to the existing property during this time.

Cllr Flick Rea, on the planning committee, said the present council would not have approved the 2007 plans and that the basement was simply “too big”.

The Ham&High was unable to contact either Ms Drews or Mr Rowat for comment.