Earlier this month residents of Durham Place in Chelsea were shocked when two multi-million pound houses simply crashed to the ground leaving a gaping hole where they had once stood. Construction work had started to extend the properties underground. Basement extensions in London have always been a contentious issue between neighbours. The collapse of these two houses is unlikely to do anything to improve such relations and no doubt will lead to expensive litigation, writes Karen Bright, Head of our Litigation team.
The extremely loud crash was witnessed by a resident who was then interviewed by the Press Association: “I live in the area and was just passing by when the building suddenly collapsed to the ground. It was extremely loud, there was dust everywhere.”
Planning permission submitted by real estate company Seabrook Properties Ltd was approved by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea council in August last year. Approval documents such as this have to specify in detail the type of works being carried out and councils are wary of granting any permissions whose construction works in particular are not sympathetic to the local environment, or diminish local residents’ enjoyment of the neighbourhood, such as by blocking pavements and restricting access to roads with scaffolding whilst the work is undertaken, for example.
Disputes about basement renovations are not new. As the Guardian reported in 2014: The media is fond of stories about the ‘iceberg homes’ of tycoons and oligarchs: already enormous houses under which three– and four–storey basements have been dug to house swimming pools and car collections.
Basement excavation in London is a hot potato for Kensington and Chelsea Borough in particular. Even Kensington Palace’s application for a new two story basement extension to house royal collections was opposed by neighbours unhappy that the building work can be noisy and disruptive.
According to another article the borough is currently at the centre of a dispute between Jimmy Page and Robbie Williams over the latter’s application, via a London basement company, to extend his basement to accommodate a swimming pool.
If you have concerns about works being carried out close to your property you should immediately seek expert advice from a surveyor.
A surveyor will be able to advise you on any statutory steps which may be required by your neighbour regarding Party Wall Notices. These are nearly always needed if someone is building or excavating in close proximity to a neighbouring building. Where a surveyor has concerns that statutory requirements have not been complied with or there is a risk of damage to your property then he/she will advise you to take urgent legal advice on your options to safe guard your property.
The above is accurate as at 17 November 2020. The information above may be subject to change during these ever-changing times.
The content of this note should not be considered legal advice and each matter should be considered on a case by case basis.