Last edited 02 Dec 2015

Planning (Subterranean 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.

The Planning (Subterranean Development) Bill[HL 2015-16] Is intended to ‘…make provision for the presumption against the granting of planning permission in respect of subterranean development where certain conditions apply....’

It was introduced into Parliament by Labour Peer Lord Dubs, the former MP for Battersea, and the first reading took place on 2 June.

In questions at the House of Lords on 12 March 2015, Lord Dubs said ‘People are highly alarmed at the prospect of such excavations—on flood plains—such that they may damage neighbours’ houses, particularly when they are narrow terraced houses, and neighbours are appalled at the thought that they are going to have a year’s disruption, chaos and unpleasantness while the building work is going on, such that if it were caused by anybody else it would attract an ASBO. Surely the Government ought at least to give local authorities the power to say no in such places—not to say never, but to say no where it would be better for the interests of the local community to say no.’

For the purposes of the bill, subterranean development means ‘…development which comprises excavation or building below ground level other than for the purposes of repairing, strengthening or supporting an existing building or structure.’

Under the provisions of the bill, If the conditions in sections 2 to 5 apply (listed below), a local planning authority may not grant planning permission on an application under section 58 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (granting of planning permission: general) unless it is reasonably necessary for the proper enjoyment of the property to which the application applies.

Sections 2 to 5 relate to proposed subterranean developments:

  • Where a flood risk indicator indicates that the property falls within a river or sea floodplain.
  • Where the property comprises a building which is within a terrace.
  • Where the local planning authority has reasonable grounds to believe that there is significant local opposition in the area in which the property lies.
  • Where the local planning authority has reasonable grounds to believe that the development is likely to cause unreasonable interference to the use or enjoyment of the land of others.

The second reading of the bill is yet to be scheduled.

NB See also, the Basement Excavation (Restriction of Permitted Development) Bill, which had its first reading in Parliament on 16 September 2015, introduced by Karen Buck MP under the Ten Minute Rule. It is 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.’

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