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27 June 2013
Planning guidelines to help control developments above and below ground and to increase the number of affordable homes were last night (Wednesday 26 June) approved by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. With economic turbulence overseas, property in Kensington and Chelsea is often seen as a safe investment for wealthy foreign investors. These buyers are able to invest huge sums of money in very large residential units. The Council proposes to restrict very large units in a scheme to 25 per cent of the overall floor space. The Royal Borough has also seen a trend for the creation of larger properties through the amalgamation of smaller ones and estimates that this has resulted in the loss of an average of over 50 dwellings a year since 2009. These new guidelines propose to restrict this practice, except where the amalgamation is within a house, which had been previously split into flats. Subterranean development has increased dramatically in recent years and has been the subject of concerns from residents. This has been heightened by the growth in the number of planning applications for basements from 13 planning applications in 2001, to 182 in 2010 and 307 in 2012. Basement development has given rise to issues about noise and disturbance during construction and concerns about the structural stability of nearby buildings. Designed to introduce a sense of proportionality to basement development, highlights of these new policies include a reduction in the extent to which basements can extend into the garden, a restriction to a single storey and severe restrictions on basement developments under, or in the gardens, of listed buildings, or where a basement already exists. At the same time the Council wants to encourage an increase in the number of affordable homes being built. It is proposing to raise the threshold where affordable housing should be built on site to 2,400 sq m. Below this threshold, developers will be required to make a financial contribution towards affordable housing. The Council believes that this is a realistic approach to encourage developers to build affordable homes as part of new developments. Councillor Tim Coleridge, Cabinet Member for Planning Policy, said: "Over the past decade we've noticed a dramatic increase in the number of basement applications and at the same time a distinct pattern has also emerged of foreign investors investing huge sums of money in very large residential units. "With some of the most expensive land values in the country it is a constant challenge for us to build affordable homes. "Through these policies we are trying to get the right balance between residents, investors and a meaningful increase in the number of affordable homes we deliver." These proposals will be presented to the Government's Planning Inspector in the autumn who will decide whether they are sound. If given the go-ahead, the Council hopes to introduce the new policies early next year.
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