The excavation of the two-storey basement at Kensington Palace will be done to permanently house the Historic Royal Palaces Collection, in addition to operating as a conservation facility for the Royal Ceremonial Dress Collection which is currently on display inside the palace.
The decision hasn’t met with approval from everyone, however, with neighbours complaining the works carried out by the basement builders will be noisy and disruptive.
Basement excavation in London is currently a hot topic and Kensington and Chelsea Borough is not unfamiliar with complaints over basement extensions and basement builders. Many wealthy homeowners in the borough have in the past sought the help of basement contractors in London to extend their homes with so-called ‘iceberg basements’ due to a lack of space on the capital’s streets.
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.
Neighbours close to the palace are said to be angry at the prospect of two years of disruption, which will take place less than 200 metres from Britain’s most expensive street, Kensington Palace Gardens, also known as “Billionaires Row”. Current residents of the street include the likes of Roman Abramovich and Indian steel tycoon, Lakshmi Mittal.
A benefit to the nation
Kensington and Chelsea Council have said the excavation will be of “economic benefit” to the nation, and stated that it was a “unique set of circumstances”.
The 50-metre extension will take place under the 323-year-old Grade I listed Queen Anne’s Orangery which was designed by Christopher Wren and built in 1704.
A royal get out clause
Local resident, Patrick Hope-Falkner said he believed people had been cowed by the fact the royal palace was involved, but that nobody was above the law. He said that the local authority was blatantly breaking its own regulations in allowing the extension and that the excavation would be a traumatic development to a listed building.
Stephen Tsang, an architect who lives on Bayswater Road, close to Orme Square Gate where lorries will access the site, said that he thought the development would be dangerous, claiming that many cyclists have already been knocked down there. He added that school children attending Kensington Park Secondary School would also be at risk as they normally pour out onto the road where the lorries will be leaving.
Proposals say that deliveries from lorries of up to 16.5 metres in length will take place on weekdays from September 2018 until October 2020.
Local authorities across the capital are facing mounting pressure to tighten up on rules covering large-scale basement developments by basement construction companies in London. Councils such as Camden, Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea now require applicants to go through the full planning application process.
Previously, authorities had been following a light-touch process of regulation which had seen planning given to property owners and basement specialists in London with little public scrutiny.