A landmark court ruling means that basement extensions must have planning permission if they require engineering and excavation works.
A High Court judge has ruled that the London Borough of Camden wrongly allowed a basement designed by North London practice Strange Associates under permitted development rights.
Brought to court by a neighbour, the case is the latest round in London’s ‘basement wars’ between disgruntled neighbours and householders developing underground extensions.
Landmark Chambers, representing neighbour Michael Eatherley, made the following statement: “This is the first time that the High Court has directly dealt with whether a residential basement extension, involving significant excavation works, is or can be within the Class A right.
“The judgment clarifies a controversial topic in planning law and provides much-needed guidance to authorities, who have hitherto adopted divergent approaches.”
Class A permitted development rights apply to projects to enlarge, improve or alter domestic homes.
Last December, Eatherley’s neighbour, James Ireland, applied for a certificate to excavate a single-storey basement under his terraced house in Belsize Park, North London.
This latest judgement found that Camden’s planning committee erred by approving the application because it did not consider the excavation and removal of soil, as well as the structural support works, as a separate activity from the creation of the basement.
Justice Cranson, the presiding judge, commented: “In the context of an original “two up, two down” terrace house in suburban London, it seems to me that the development of a new basement, when there is nothing underneath at present, could well amount, as a question of fact and degree, to two activities, each of substance.
“There is the enlargement, improvement and alteration aspect, but there is potentially also an engineering aspect of excavating a space and supporting the house and its neighbours.”
He added that, even though engineering works may be indivisible from the aim of the developer, they still need planning permission.