The Evening Standard recently reported that Kensington and Chelsea council have set up a dedicated hotline for people to complain about basement conversions – in particular noise and disruption to traffic. There were several points of interest in the report, not least the description of Chelsea as “one of London’s wealthiest enclaves” – a choice of words indicating the gap between some Chelsea residents and people living in the rest of the capital.
Good Neighbours Use Considerate Contractors
Meanwhile, the owner of the red and white striped house that has caused controversy in Kensington has applied for planning permission for a basement addition to the new property she is building. Relations between the neighbours, already poor, now seem be deteriorating further with objections from residents being lodged.
Many of the smartest London houses have owners who are either not in residence or who are frequently away. These areas are not, in general, known for their close community spirit. And maybe that goes quite a way to explaining why feelings run so high. It’s very different if you know the person having the work done, even by sight, and they have explained how long it will take and apologised for any inconvenience.
People deciding on basement conversion in London outside the super-prime areas are more likely to know their neighbours – even to have children at the same school. This leads them to be a lot more picky about who they choose as project partners for their basement work – they’re likely to be quite demanding about how considerate the contractor is and to take a lot more interest in the possible impact on the neighbourhood. They’ll almost certainly be looking for a “Considerate Contractor” firm that understands how to mitigate the impact of the project on neighbours.
So Who Is Building the Five-Storey Monster Basement?
This project is so big that it’s taken a full two years just to do the excavation. Now they’re finally ready to start construction.
So who’s building it? Some “couldn’t care less” billionaire who wants a swimming pool and somewhere to store his art collection?
Not at all. It’s the NHS, or to be precise University College Hospital. They’re going to have a proton beam therapy facility there to treat cancer. Above the basement there’ll be a six-storey hospital.
You can see the logic – it makes much better use of the building’s footprint in an area where it’s extremely expensive for the hospital to find space. Construction News has fascinating drone pictures from the excavation.
The point is that, yes, there are mega-expensive London squares where neighbours are at war with each other. But although that’s newsworthy, it’s only a tiny part of the picture when it comes to basement building in London. In the future, houses, schools, sports centres, hospitals clinics, cinemas and shops will all use underground space. London will be an above-ground and below-ground city – and we’ll all accept it as such.