11 July 2016 by Rory Tingle and Stephanie Linning
Criticism: Queen guitarist Brian May has attacked
the ‘b*****d basement builders’ ‘as it emerged that
362 mega basements were approved in Kensington
and Chelsea over the last year alone
– May says mega basements have blighted Kensington, London
– Guitarist blames ‘unreasonable’ schemes for turning area into a ‘hellhole’
– More than 350 mega basements were given green light over the last year
Queen guitarist Brian May has attacked ‘b*****d basement builders’ as it emerged that more than 350 mega basements have been given the green light in his plush west London neighbourhood over the last year.
May, 68, says that the building of multi-level ‘iceberg basements’ is turning Kensington, west London, into a ‘hellhole’.
Figures uncovered by MailOnline show the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea handed out 362 planning permissions for basements of more than one storey in the 2015/16 financial year. The number represents a drop of 42 per cent since 2013/14 and the council says it shows the problem is ‘getting better, not worse’.
But May, who has lived in the area for 15 years, says the constant building work is leaving residents feeling ‘helpless and full of anger’, adding that not enough has been done to curb the number of mega basements. He said: ‘The amount of stress in having this hanging over our heads has already caused us great damage … We’ve been fighting these selfish basement building b******s for years, and it has already massively impacted our whole lives. All of us feel helpless and full of anger.’ He added: ‘You wake up angry and frustrated every day, and in the end you really hate the bullies, and feel like you want to kill them. You think that is too strong a description?’
The rocker said that he and his wife Anita Dobson are planning to move because of noise caused by piling rigs and diggers, a loss of privacy and fumes resulting from excess traffic. ‘The last thing we wanted was to be uprooted from the home we’ve built over the last 15 years in Kensington,‘ he said. ‘But we are now forced to move – the noise, disruption and pollution from these works at two houses at once directly opposite our home will be way beyond endurance.’
The council has introduced a string of building regulations and the councillor in charge of planning said the drop in the number of planning approvals reflects the success of the tougher stance.
I Want To Break Free: The rocker said he and his wife Anita Dobson are planning to move because of excessive building works in Kensington (pictured)
Hot Space: So-called ‘mega-basements’ are often bigger than the original property above them. But the number of planning permissions granted for the developments has reduced by nearly half (file photo)
Councillor Timothy Coleridge, cabinet member for planning, told MailOnline: ‘The problem is getting better, not worse. We have to be as fair as we can and we have done the best we can. ‘Brian is lovely but when he says things like “the council should ban all basements” I think he knows that we cannot ban them, what we have done is to restrict them.’
Mr Coleridge said Kensington and Chelsea now has the ‘toughest’ regulations for the building of basements in the country. New laws mean mega basements are only allowed if the property is separate from a residential area, such as a school or stand-alone block of flats.
Until recently, homeowners in Kensington and Chelsea had freedoms from central Government known as ‘permitted development rights’ which allowed them to build a basement under the footprint of their home without applying for planning permission. Last April the council made ‘an Article 4 Direction’ which came into effect three months ago and now all basements have to go down the planning permission route.
But in a recent open letter of complaint, May suggested that by still granting planning permission for individuals to build basements, the council is ignoring the well-being of other residents. He gave as an example a double basement at a depth of nearly ten metres that was recently given the go ahead.
A council spokesman said: ‘Basements are generally now limited to a single storey and no more than 50 per cent of the garden, as well as other restrictions. This proposal met those criteria.’
‘HELLISH’ MEGA BASEMENTS CAUSING PROBLEMS IN KENSINGTON
The number of mega basements being built in Kensington and Chelsea might be on the decline
but there are still a number of high profile projects creating problems for local residents.
The four storey mega basement at the centre of a TEN-YEAR legal battle
In June, neighbours embroiled in London’s longest running mega basement spat spoke of the ‘nightmare’ they have endured since workers downed tools and left the garden of a £28million mansion looking like a ‘gaping chasm’ when its fraudster owner was jailed.
The Grade II listed townhouse in Kensington was snapped up by conman Achilleas Kallakis, who was later convicted and jailed for seven years.
Kallakis submitted a planning application in 2005 and had begun digging the 30ft mega basement – designed to hold a swimming pool, spa, cinema and car lift – when the four storey project was abandoned in 2008 in the wake of his arrest.
Out back: View of the garden behind the mansion which was dug out for an extension
Mega structure: Plans held by the council reveal the true scale of the basement and building above
After Kallakis was jailed, receivers seized the early Victorian property and sold it in 2011 for £28m to an unnamed owner, who is said to be a Dubai-based businessman. While a new planning application was approved by Kensington and Chelsea Council in 2013, the work is yet to continue. And council documents show time schedule that suggests work will not be finished for at least another two and a half years, adding ‘there is no guarantee’.
Foxton tycoon plans 80ft deep basement with vehicle lift and infinity pool
Property tycoon Jon Hunt and his wife Lois started work at their Grade II listed mansion in Kensington Palace Gardens late last year. The plan, which will add five underground levels to his three storey home, is one of the most ambitious ‘iceberg’ developments ever seen.
Plans for the mega-basement in Kensington include a vehicle lift and an infinity pool with glass floor
The ferris wheel is at one end of a giant ‘museum’ for all his classic cars and motorbikes, designed to allow the vehicles to be displayed ‘like objects of art’ with glass floors and viewing galleries. Mr Hunt’s plans for the 80ft deep underground extension, which stretches the length of his 180ft rear garden, also includes a swimming pool and full-size tennis court.
Cara Delevingne’s father sparks fury over £10m home with mega basement
Cara Delevingne’s father has aroused the anger of his neighbours after embarking on a two year building project to install a double basement under his luxury home.Charles Delevingne, who is descended from aristocracy and made a fortune as a property developer, is knocking down two buildings he owns around a courtyard in Kensington, West London
Disruption: This image shows the site at the beginning of the building works scheduled to last two years
He is to replace them with a five storey family home worth around £10million, with two of the floors being built underground. But neighbours today complained about the ‘hellish’ disruption they will face during the two years of construction scheduled for the site.