Getting Caught Out by the Boroughs

While we design projects all over the south of England, it’ll be no surprise to you that most of our projects are for properties in London and the surrounding areas. As a result, we have to work with all the local borough councils to make sure that our basement projects fulfil the criteria required by the specific boroughs. In fact, over the course of our 20 years designing basements we’re probably quite well-known throughout the local borough offices and one thing we’ve noticed is that there is no consistency to the requirements of the individual borough councils.

Neighbouring boroughs can have completely different criteria, policies and requirements from each other and, what’s more they’re always changing! Thankfully we do so many basement projects that we keep up with the changes and are able to adapt to anything new with agility. When we started out there were NO basement policies and so, we have been able to help steer the earlier incarnations of the policies by Wandsworth and Hammersmith & Fulham, however, it was the introduction of the original Kensington & Chelsea policy that really changed basement planning in London and across the country.

Having worked with these offices for more than two decades, we are so familiar with Basement Impact Assessments and the rigmarole surrounding it that we are able to accurately calculate any contingency into our initial planning quote. We have heard many stories of very competent and experienced architectural practices getting caught out by some of the nuances of basement conversions and extensions.

Our colleagues over at Inside Out Architects found this out the hard way when putting together a Basement Impact Assessment in the London Borough of Camden.

LBC have a one-size-fits-all policy towards basements and do not offer concessions for smaller schemes. In a time of council cuts, it seems counter-intuitive for London Borough of Camden to be reviewing hundreds of pages of reports for a simple extension that clearly has minimal impact on the adjoining properties.James Barrett, Architect at Inside Out.

We feel your pain James, but having worked with Camden for a number of years we know how to navigate passed all the pitfalls making it a much less traumatic experience for us AND the client. In James’ case the extra fees were absorbed by his practice making the whole project much less cost-effective with everyone losing out to some extent. Needless to say the guys at Inside Out will have learned from the experience, although in their blog they included a list of recommendations which was topped by “Try to avoid basement works” – you can see the full article on their website.

These kinds of horror stories are commonplace but usually written by non-specialists. If you are thinking of having a basement conversion and need some advice make sure you contact us. We are the leading design studio for basements in London and can guide you through all the obstacles and pitfalls you may face when trying to get planning permission for your project – we know what works.

For more information about our basements and the potential value they could add to your home follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn or if you would like to speak to a member of our team give us a call on 01628 826066.

Photo credit: By Patricia Hofmeester

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