Wednesday, 15 February 2017

The Trouble With Basements

A basement in Shepherd's Bush
One thing most people can agree on in Shepherd's Bush is our shared dislike of our neighbours digging basements.

If your neighbours are digging a basement, it means noise, dust, and disruption. There will be jackhammers, skips and wall-shaking disturbance. And, worst of all, it all takes a long time.

Listening to voter's concerns, our Council has been consulting on the digging of basements, with proposals to limit the size and scope of basement extensions and generally to try and make it more difficult and restrictive.

Presumably the result will be no basements, or fewer, smaller, basements. Which is consistent with a development policy, not in just in our Borough, that makes it very difficult for anyone to build. And this is especially the case in London, where fresh housing is most needed.

Own a house, or a flat, and need more space? Perhaps you've had a baby, or you're thinking about having another one.  So you think - we'll move to a bigger house, or a bigger flat. But then you find out just how expensive it is to move, largely thanks to former Chancellor George Osbourne's big increases in Stamp Duty, up to 12% of the transaction. Think it won't apply to you? Think again. A fairly ordinary terraced house in Shepherd's Bush was recently listed for £3m. The stamp duty payable on that is almost £300,000.

So you think - I don't have that kind of cash - maybe I won't move after all.  Maybe instead I'll extend a bit out the back. But you can't do that, because planners don't like rear extensions - except small ones at the ground floor level. Well, maybe you'll add a mansard roof extension on top. But you can't do that either, because the "street scene" must be preserved.

But surely, you think, I'm not in a conservation area, so these rules don't apply. But they do. Conservation or no, everything in our Borough is subject to the same rules. And, if the Council don't like it, or your neighbours object, your plans to extend will get nowhere.

So, finally, running out of options, you come at last to the basement. And let's face it - you don't want to dig a basement because it's far more expensive than adding an extension or an extra floor on top (all that digging, all those foundations), and you will have to move out, and pay for somewhere else to live while the noisy, dirty, wall-shaking work is done. And your neighbours will hate you for it. But you don't have any choice, because there aren't any other options.

So, we may hate our neighbours digging basements, but it's hardly surprising that they are doing it - it's because we've made it so difficult for them to do anything else.

The Shepherd's Bush Blog offers a personal view on life in Shepherd's Bush. If you would like to contribute a story about our neighbourhood, email us at

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