New ‘sub squad’ to stop nuisance basement developments

Fri, 02/09/2016

A new ‘subterranean squad’ of basement nuisance busters launched on 1 September in Westminster, the first of its kind in the country.

The noise, dust and traffic impacts of basement development have had a big effect on local residents, who will now have a group of dedicated council officers to contact.

This innovative new service will be funded by a levy on those building new basements, ensuring the resources are in place to actively monitor and enforce against un-neighbourly builders.

That levy is being drawn as part of the council’s new Code of Construction Practice, which clearly sets out best practice for building sites such as basements. The code will also be rolled out over the coming months to cover larger developments in the city.

Cllr Robert Davis, MBE DL, Westminster City Council Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for the Built Environment, said: “We are sticking up for local residents, many of whom have found the explosion of basement development in recent years hellish.

“It is right that those who want to build basements should contribute to this new service, which will work to help mitigate the negative impacts.

“Westminster City Council supports the right kind of growth and is not against all basement development, but they must be carried out in a way that is considerate to local residents and the environment.”

Over the last 5 years Westminster City Council has received on average 150 applications each year and has seen a trend towards more ‘iceberg’ basements where homeowners dig down two or more storeys.

New rules include planning controls limiting basements to a single storey and no more than 50% of total garden land.

The new ‘subterranean squad’ will:

  • take a degree of oversight and control, for example making sites coordinate their deliveries and reduce the cumulative impact on residents
  • check that developers are keeping neighbours informed for instance via newsletters or site meetings
  • enforce stricter working hours so as to avoid noisy works at inconvenient times such as Saturday mornings
  • provide a point of contact for residents with complaints – with the power to enforce against overly noisy sites under statutory powers
  • monitor the level and impacts of traffic to sites
  • also police development sites of over 10 residential units, or over 1000m2 commercial floorspace

As a final resort Westminster City Council could use its powers relating to the duty to keep traffic flowing on the highway, for example by limiting the number of licences on a street at any one time 

A residential basement scheme will cost around £8,000 on average; the new charges will cover the cost of delivery of the service based on hourly rates.

The largest developments will be charged around £30,000.

The new powers will only apply to basements which gained planning permission from August 2016 onward, and other major development schemes from September.

Last updated: 14 October 2016
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