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21 March 2013
Stricter planning rules could spell the end of mega-basements in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.Six weeks of public consultation on the proposed policies will get underway on 21 March 2013. Designed to introduce a sense of proportionality to basement proposals, the draft policies include:a reduction in the extent basements can intrude into the garden, from 85 per cent to 50 per cent, with that 50 per cent being a single area of space.a restriction to a single storey in most cases, with exceptions only being considered for large comprehensive developments.an outright ban on basement developments under, or in the gardens, of listed buildings or where basements already exist, though again exceptions might be considered on very large sites.the compulsory installation of pumps to prevent flooding from sewers. The move follows a study by the leading engineering consultancy, Alan Baxter and Associates, into the impact of multiple basement developments on the built and natural environment in Kensington and Chelsea. Commenting on the new draft policies inspired by that report, Cabinet Member for Planning Policy, Cllr Tim Ahern, said:"We do not argue for a ban on basement development, only for a better balance between them and the amenity of our other residents. If the cumulative impact of scores of schemes that take months and years to complete is to damage the wider quality of life in our borough I believe we have a right to take that into account."Just as important, we want to preserve our garden space in its green, leafy and flowering form. In particular we want trees to grow and thrive and they simply can't do that in thin soil that's principal purpose is to cover over a dwelling space."We also need to retain our soak away areas and for that you need space wide enough and deep enough. Basements that are storeys deep do not help. "Finally, Kensington and Chelsea is an important heritage area with thousands of listed buildings. Increasingly it's clear that major basement developments can be structurally very challenging. Because of that increased risk to the fabric of our precious heritage assets we believe we should adopt the precautionary principle and reduce the risk by limiting the scale of some of the developments we have been seeing here."But now it's time for the public and the professionals to have their say. We will listen carefully and our proposals will be examined by an Independent Inspector later in the year, after which we will take a final decision."
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