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High Court backs borough’s basement restriction policy

A legal challenge to a planning decision over a basement extension has led to a High Court judge declaring that the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea’s (RBKC) basement restrictions are “reasonable” and the case has been dismissed.

Kensington resident Zipporah Lisle-Mainwaring and contractor Basement Force bought the case after her plans to rebuild her property with a two-storey basement were rejected after the borough restricted basement developments to one storey.

Legal representatives for Lisle-Mainwaring and Basement Force argued that the policy was “fundamentally flawed” as the decision was taken in January without regard to the planning issues or whether there was a “reasonable alternative”.

RBKC cabinet member for planning and policy Timothy Coleridge said: “We’re obviously pleased and relieved that the Judge has rejected this appeal.

“Our policy brings some much-needed sanity to the mega-basement mania and finds the proper balance between subterranean development and the right of the rest of the community to the peaceful enjoyment of their homes.

“It’s a policy that has already been the subject of two years’ of consultation, debate and legal argument. And it is also a policy that is very popular and being copied by others. It deserves to stand.” 

Association of Specialist Underpinning Contractors executive director Rob Withers, who saw the legal challenge as a test case for the basement industry, said that he was disappointed by the decisions but added that the association will continue to work with its members within the confines of planning laws.

Withers added: “We note RBKC and other London boroughs are now issuing for consultation planning guidance notes and restrictions on permitted developments along with restricted working hours proposals for noisy works in London. While we appreciate the need to be considerate to neighbours this can only have the effect of extending contract durations and protracting the agony.

“It appears that basements are being singled out for attention and that other above ground construction works continue as before, with London properties in demand we are sure this is not the last legal challenge to the planning restrictions and would expect to see an appeal once the full decision has been digested.”

Nonetheless, Withers believes that the impact on the basement construction industry as a result of this decision will be minimal. “In regards to the market for basements the double storey or more basements, while high in value, is a relatively small percentage of contracts,” he said. “Anecdotal evidence suggests that it represents less than 5% of the market.”

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