NB An Article 4 Direction is in operation. An Article 4 Direction removes 'permitted development rights' in respect of basements. Planning permission is required. The Article 4 Direction applies to the whole of the London Borough of Camden.
Basements have become increasingly popular in areas such as ours where rising property prices have made the cost of moving home so expensive. Many residents prefer not to lose garden space to extensions and as the technology for basement excavation advances, and the cost of a home in South Hampstead increases year on year, it seems inevitable that attempts to increase their living space by digging down rather than building out will continue. There is no doubt that basement developments cause great distress, as any resident unfortunate enough to have had to live through neighbouring building works will tell you. A Neighbourhood Basement Survey carried out by CRASH disclosed numerous reports of damage as a direct result of neighbouring excavations and almost all respondents stated that they would like to see them halted.
The Neighbourhood Survey invited 100 residents living close to recent or ongoing basement excavations to respond to questions on their attitude to, and experience of, nearby developments. We received 37 responses. Of those, 34 stated that they would be "very likely" to oppose an application to excavate a basement in a house nearby. 21 people said that, on average, such building works lasted 18 months or longer. 20 people said they thought that, where work had been carried out, the impact on the appearance of the property or garden had been for the worse and 30 respondents told of changes to their property during neighbouring construction work ranging from minor cracking to serious flooding. There were 29 reports of similar further destabilisation and damage following completion of construction, as well as numerous stated problems with noise, vibration, dust and traffic chaos while those works were in progress. In August 2013, CRASH wrote to Francis Wheat, Camden's then Head of Development Management, to draw attention to some of the consequences of the then-current policy on basement development which we believe had not, up until that point, been considered by Council. Not the least of these is the fact that insurance premiums for houses within a radius of as much as 400 metres of a basement excavation are now being penalised with increased insurance premiums and, in some cases, being refused insurance cover altogether. Stride Insurance Group insisted on a Property Subsidence Questionnaire being filled out by everyone applying for household insurance. Despite this, Camden, like every other Borough Council, accepts no responsibility for the insurance difficulties caused by their continuing to approve neighbhourhood basements
These difficulties affect not only the people living near houses which have been excavated but the very home-owners who are doing the digging out. A survey by the brokers Insurance Tailors revealed that only 5% of people who carried out structural work, including digging out basements, had informed their insurance company of those works. This meant that, for most, their home insurance cover would have become invalidated the minute they started work, so that neither they nor their neighbours would have been protected against any structural damage caused. Residents are advised to check that the neighbours digging the basement have obtained adequate and appropriate insurance cover - from taking out specialist insurance policies to setting up special contingency funds in case of damage. It is vital that a party wall award - a legal agreement between neighbours - is in place before any work begins. This aims, among other things, to mitigate the levels of disturbance and includes a legal assurance that any damage caused to the neighbouring property will be recitified within a specified period. Despite this, however, CRASH has heard of too many cases where a developer or their insurers disputes that damage has been caused by the basement works. And If you are trying to sell your home while basement works are going on nearby, be prepared for a fall in the value!
Camden's existing Planning Guidance goes some way towards ensuring protection for neighbours and the environment, by requiring developers to prove through the production of a professionally prepared Basement Impact Assessment (BIA) that neither will be harmed during building works. All BIAs must be audited by a Camden-appointed firm of qualified specialist consultants. (See Camden Planning and Guidance on Related Links on the Home page of this website) Nonetheless planning applications which pay insufficient attention to this area’s underground water conditions or which give insufficient consideration to the possible destabilisation of neighbouring properties have continued to be submitted. The cost and complexity of BIAs, and the related audit, have considerably reduced the number of basement planning applications. Long may the reduction continue.
If you have doubts or concerns of any kind about a neighbourhood plan for a basement contact CRASH immediately.