DHCLG has published a ‘Summary of Responses from the Consultation outcome on Basement Developments and the Planning System Call for Evidence’.
Key messages which emerged from the Call for Evidence were that basement developments can raise major concerns for residents in the areas where they take place due, for example, to the disruption and potential damage from the heavy engineering works required and the length of time the works can take. In response, some local planning authorities were using existing tools at their disposal to influence local development. For example, by introducing local plan policies to restrict the size of basement developments, where appropriate, and measures to mitigate the impacts of basement developments once building work was underway.
The majority of respondents said that they had either opposed or been affected by a basement development; had developed local planning policies or guidance on basement development; had advised on a basement application; or undertaken a basement development. These developments had largely taken place in central London. While some
of the proposals had been considered to be permitted development under national permitted development rights, the majority of cases had involved a full planning application to the local planning authority. Not all of the developments had been discussed with neighbours before the works began. Where they had, various measures were taken as a result including drawing up of a Party Wall Agreement, or taking neighbours’ concerns into account as part of the planning application process.
In considering planning applications for basement developments, local planning authorities reported that they looked at a wide range of issues. In order to control the impacts of basement developments, local authorities had introduced, or were introducing, specific local plan policies. Where basement development is an issue there was also use of Supplementary Planning Documents (SPDs) which provided guidance on local plan policies related to basement developments, and/or requirements for a range of related mitigation measures such as Construction Traffic Management Plans, Construction Method Statements and Basement Impact Assessments. Requiring developers to sign up to a Code of Construction Practice for construction sites to minimise nuisance to neighbours was also common practice.
Use of locally prepared Good Practice Guidance by various local authorities was also reported, which set out the issues and design considerations which should be taken into account when building or extending basements, and/or referred to the need for Construction Management Statements and Flood Risk Assessments for basement applications.
With regard to the effectiveness of local planning policies in controlling potential impacts of basement developments, most of the professional organisations, developers and local authorities that responded believed that, in general, those policies that existed were working well in mitigating impacts and also in minimising the number of such developments. However, many amenity organisations and individuals did not believe they had been effective, citing in particular the fact that basement developments were still able to proceed.
As to whether the impacts of basement development were managed well through the planning process, again most professional organisations, developers and local authorities believed that, in general, impacts were managed well where local plan policies and guidance were in place. Ensuring compliance with Codes of Construction Practice, Construction Traffic Management Plans and Construction Management Plans were seen
as effective in minimising the scope for problems to arise. This often involved joint working within local authorities between transport, highways and environmental health departments, as well as planning, which helped ensure that impacts could be managed well.
Responses which did not think that impacts had been well managed were generally from amenity organisations and individuals. However, this was not so much the case where local plan policies for basement developments had been introduced. In these areas some amenity organisations agreed that the impacts of basement developments were now being managed well.
There was evidence provided of basement developments having been undertaken under permitted development rights. However, respondents believed there to be a degree of legal uncertainty as to what level of works were covered by the rights. A range of suggestions were put forward as to how the planning framework could be improved to deal with potential impacts of basement development. These included restrictions on what could be granted planning approval or stronger protections for neighbours. A significant minority wanted to see a ban on all such developments, at least in built-up residential areas.
The greatest number of responses suggested removing the ability to undertake basement developments under permitted development rights so that a planning application is always required in such cases, which would enable consideration of all potential impacts of the proposal and allow planning consent to include appropriate mitigation measures.
Many responses concentrated on specific areas where consideration was most needed. Other suggestions were to review other related regimes such as, for example, the Party Wall etc. Act 1996, the Building Regulations and Codes of Construction Practice, to ensure they functioned effectively. Others also highlighted the need for Party Wall Act agreements to be entered into, which was not always the case, especially where works were started under permitted development rights. A requirement for only specialist contractors to be able to carry out development in all boroughs was also suggested. In light of the uncertainty as to the extent of basement development allowed under permitted development rights there were calls, in particular from local authorities and professional organisations, for the Government to clarify what was allowed under the rights.
A wide range of additional comments were made, with a large proportion being from residents and others who re-iterated that the impacts of basement developments on neighbours and their properties were considered to be unacceptable, both when works were underway and afterwards when damage to properties could become apparent. Better monitoring of works was suggested, while it was also suggested that a higher application fee for such developments was needed to help fund increased monitoring.
Finally, the responses received to the Call for Evidence have shown that in areas where basement developments are considered to be a particular issue, local authorities are using the planning system to mitigate their impacts.
The Government’s response states that the Call for Evidence has highlighted a number of concerns about the impact of basement developments in certain areas. It has also provided examples of existing and emerging good practice by local authorities in using the existing tools available to them in the planning system to mitigate these local impacts, both before development has started and once it is underway. This includes the introduction of local plan policies and Article 4 directions to control basement development.
Download the full report summary