Musicians fight tycoon’s basement plans


13 January 2016 by Euan Mclelland

– Musicians including George Michael and Brian May claim tycoon’s plan to build an iceberg basement could force world-famous recording studio next door to close down.
– Businessman Andrew Jeffreys hoping to increase scale of his £10m home.
– Has submitted plans to install two basements with cinema, sauna and pool.
– Excavation would bring property within a metre of the iconic AIR Studios.
– Artists argue that as such the silence needed for recording would be ruined. Council has received 800 letters against it while petition has 10,000 names

Brian May, George Michael and Joanna Lumley
Brian May, George Michael, Joanna Lumley George Michael,

Brian May and Joanna Lumley have joined a host of top British artists in signing a petition opposing a wealthy businessman’s plan to build an underground cinema and leisure complex just yards from one of the country’s most prized recording-studios.

Businessman Andrew Jeffreys has applied for planning permission to vastly increase the scale of his £10million London home.

In installing dual iceberg basements beneath his sizeable four-storey Georgian mansion, the multi-millionaire chief executive of research and consultancy firm the Oxford Business Group will be able to add a swimming pool, sauna and hot tub to his sprawling estate.

Basement near Air Studios

However, by doing so, he would bring the outer reaches of his property to within less than a metre of the walls of the Air Studios, a north London venue described as a ‘a jewel in Europe’s music industry’.

The artists fighting against the excavation argue that such an extension would shatter the silence required to allow musicians to obtain a flawless, unbroken recording within the studio’s cavernous production suite – set within an ancient Victorian chapel.

More than 10,000 people have already signed their names to a petition against Mr Jeffreys planning application.

Mr Jeffreys has chosen not to comment. A statement released by his architect, Thomas Croft, insisted he and his family ‘no desire to cause any needless disruption’. Mr Croft added: ‘Again we stress that if Air will sit down with us we are sure we can find ways around any concerns they may have so that the building work can take place whilst the studio remains open.’

A Camden Council spokesman said: ‘The Council is seeking to ensure that the necessary technical assessment has been made for it to be satisfied that the basement can be constructed without harm to neighbouring buildings, ground cond itions and the water environment.’



A planning application in Hampstead threatens the very existence of a jewel in Europe’s music industry. Founded by Sir George Martin, Air Studios, which secures employment for hundreds of musicians every week, is one of London’s two principal recording studios with full orchestral capacity. It is a pre-eminent destination for the global film industry, and is pivotal to the £1.4 billion annual contribution of the film sector to the UK economy.

Despite over 800 written and 10,000 e-petitioned objections, Camden’s planning department has, for eight months, been forced to consider repeated iterations of the application, none made with any consultation to Air, from neighbours wishing to excavate two huge basements (for a pool, cinema, gym,wet room) right next to the studio.

Among objectors are top composers, producers and musicians who highlight the centrality of Air to the UK’s film and music business.

Underground excavations (likely to exceed a year) will bring risks to the Grade II listed building, and will critically affect Air’s need for silence, the prerequisite for such specialised recording. At huge cost, Air is forced to prove the threats to its business. The applicants are unable to prove lack of risk in their plans and their exploratory drilling (an archaeological requirement) has already vividly demonstrated the acoustical risks.

Camden’s tardiness in rejecting these applications creates uncertainties for Air’s substantial timetable of bookings. Contracts, and the livelihoods of thousands, once lost will never be recovered. Overdue changes to planning rules must be made to protect businesses as well as homes plagued by the selfish aggrandisement of such basement extensions.

Sir David Hare, Playwright; Sir Neville Marriner, Founder Director, Academy of St Martin in the Fields; Hans Zimmer, Composer; Brian May, Guitarist, Queen; John Smith, General Secretary, Musicians’ Union; David Arnold, Composer; Sir George Martin, Founder, Air Studios; Giles Martin, Record producer; George Michael, Singer; Stephen Warbeck, Composer; Maggie Rodford, Managing Director, Air-Edel Group; Tim Burton, Film Director; Howard Goodall, Composer; Joanna Lumley, Actress, author; Music Producers Guild; British Film Commission

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