Last edited 09 Aug 2016

Basement Excavation (Restriction of Permitted Development) Bill

High property values and a lack of land for development has resulted in property owners extending their homes and a surge in the excavation of underground basements. This can cause significant disruption to and disturbance of neighbours.

Generally it is up to a local planning authority to decide whether to allow a particular development or not. However, in England and Wales, the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 enables central government to permit certain types of developments known as 'permitted developments'. These are generally minor changes to existing properties. Permitted developments do not require approval from the local planning authority as permission is granted by the Order.

The Basement Excavation (Restriction of Permitted Development) Bill 2015-16 was a Private Member’s Bill introduced to Parliament by Karen Buck MP under the Ten Minute Rule which allows an MP to make the case for a new bill in a speech lasting up to ten minutes. If the MP is successful the bill is taken to have had its first reading.

It was described as ‘A Bill to restrict the application of permitted development rights; to grant local planning authorities powers to restrict the size and depth of basement excavations underneath or adjacent to residential properties; and for connected purposes.’

At the first reading of the Bill on 16 September 2015, Karen Buck MP said:

“The impact of the size and scale of basement excavations on immediate neighbours is hard to overstate. Soil removal alone on this scale takes time and generates a significant traffic volume, often causing damage to roads and pavements nearby. Noise levels are hellish. One constituent wrote to me this summer to oppose a scheme in the Maida Vale area saying that the works would include excavations to build an underground swimming pool and the erection of a large above-ground condenser that would emit noise 24/7. Little or no thought seems to have been given to the plight of nearby residents who would be expected to endure noise, vibration and dust for at least a year.

“… However—and this is my main motivation for bringing the issue back to this House—local authority policies are not the final word. Well-financed developers and owners know that they can often proceed with appeals that are risky and expensive for cash-strapped local authorities. One highly controversial case in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea is now being challenged in the courts, despite the council’s ruling and its adoption of a new, tougher planning policy. Westminster Council is therefore seeking an article 4 direction: a notice under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 to ensure that a democratically determined local policy is not subject to challenge as a consequence of permitted development rights. That will be a matter for the Government’s adjudication.

"Local councils, and the individuals and communities whom local elected representatives are there to serve, are at the mercy of national Government decisions. Although local problems are often below the national radar, they are of major local significance. Local communities want to know that judgments on such matters can be made and enforced by their local councils. Surely councils should not have to go cap in hand to the Secretary of State for the right to set and enforce policies of this kind, in keeping with their local priorities and the wishes of their residents, and that is what my Bill proposes.”

The Bill was expected to have its second reading on Friday 29 January 2016, however it was withdrawn and did not progress any further.

See also the Planning (Subterranean Development) Bill, intended to ‘…make provision for the presumption against the granting of planning permission in respect of subterranean development where certain conditions apply....’ introduced into Parliament by Labour Peer Lord Dubs.

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I didn't know that you could add a basement to a house after it has been built! It is interesting that they need to make new bills that put stricter limitations on excavations. I agree that it would be noisy, however I wouldn't mind if my neighbors had to do some construction. I would just like it done during day time hours.