Question No: 3950 / 2011
I have been contacted by a constituent in Queens Park regarding subterranean developments. Residents have a number of concerns about basement construction such as damage to other properties, the potential for improper construction of deeper foundations leading to possible distortion to the building above, a wave effect that could impact on neighbouring properties and possible flooding issues.
Local planning teams are limited in what they can do. The Party Wall Act is the only protection for residents in this situation, which affected residents would want, expanded. The idea would be for the owner of the property undergoing the development to give an insurance based bond to cover any future damage. Would you support this?
Written response from the Mayor
I agree that the planning system has limited control over basement construction if it is ‘permitted development’, though if it legally constitutes new development, strategic and local planning policies must be taken into account such as those on groundwater and, if the excavation extends under a garden, biodiversity. Subject to consultation responses, I will consider dealing with this issue in the forthcoming Housing Supplementary Planning Guidance.
I am advised that your proposed insurance bond may in fact duplicate a process that legally is already a civil matter. The Party Wall etc. Act 1996 provides a framework to enable neighbours who share a boundary to carry out certain building works (including excavation works within six metres of neighbouring buildings) and enables the appointment of an independent surveyor to:
- -set out whether any protection measures are required to prevent damage
- -provide a record of the condition of the neighbouring property before the work begins (so that any damage to the neighbouring land or buildings can be properly attributed and made good)
The Act also enables an amount of money to be made available to the neighbour for restorative works, where the developer fails to carry out the necessary works. What works are necessary to make the neighbouring property good are normally based on the opinion of the independent surveyor.
Requiring a bond through the planning system would be duplicating this system, and the planning enforcement system is not well-suited to dealing with matters of this kind.