Though William and Kate are unlikely to encounter any problems with planning permission, other celebrities are claiming that basement development work is making their lives a living hell. Dame Joan Collins regularly tweets about the disruption to her exclusive neighbourhood from lorries and drilling equipment, while one media mogul’s plans for a pool and gym in his basement were eventually overturned by his celebrity neighbours.
Westminster’s Basement Tax
It’s easy to understand why basement construction in London is so popular, with estate agents estimating that a high quality basement project can add up to 50% to the price of a property. Even more modest conversion projects can significantly increase a property’s appeal. However, in Westminster, the negative impacts of the often hugely unpopular ‘iceberg basements’ is being offset by a ‘basement tax’ which pays for a ‘sub squad’ to monitor basement developments and act as a point of contact for any complaints.
Don’t Dig Yourself into a Hole
Though there have been horror stories of houses collapsing and neighbouring properties being damaged by basement construction in London, a properly planned and executed basement conversion project can add value to your property as well as adding much needed extra living space. If you’ve outgrown your property but don’t want to move, then your basement can provide much needed office or living space.
How to Avoid upsetting the Neighbours and Digging Yourself into a Money Pit
First, find a good design team. Ask for recommendations amongst friends and family who may have had similar work done and use a company with knowledge of the local area and any restrictions that may be in place. Working with a good team will ensure you have all the proper planning permissions and construction documentation in place before work starts.
Now check the contractor who’ll be undertaking the work. Are they financially stable? Do they have a good track record with sound testimonials from satisfied customers? Ideally, your builder will be a member of the Association of Underpinning Contractors, guaranteeing that they are experts in this specific style of construction.
Before any work commences, however, you must get your neighbours involved. You need to sit down with them and explain directly what you intend to do, emphasising that there will be minimal disruption to their daily life. Discussing your plans in a civilised fashion over a bottle of wine can earn a lot of goodwill in a way that staying silent until your neighbours receive the legal notification of your intentions does not.
Finally, take out construction insurance. If you’re working with the right team then you’ve already minimised the likelihood of something going wrong, but if the worst does happen you need a safety net. Taking out the right insurance will cover you for all eventualities.
You may never be in the position to plan an ‘iceberg basement’ – well, who needs a home cinema or a basement disco anyway – but with a little forethought, plenty of planning and the support of your neighbours, you can create some valuable extra living space with minimal disruption.