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Down and Out in Kensington and Chelsea?

The Borough's Basement policy review takes another step towards adoption

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea has received (2 December 2014) an eagerly awaited report from David Vickery, the Inspector appointed to assess the Core Strategy single policy review for soundness. The report, and its Appendix which contains the main modifications he has recommended, can be found here.

Harriet Townsend draws attention to the following important findings of the Inspector, for those interested in development underground

  • "I am convinced by the evidence that there is presently an unacceptable impact on surrounding residents' living conditions" [paragraph 52].
  • The Council were correct that a criteria based policy assessing the planning merits of proposals on a case by case basis was not a reasonable alternative and therefore did not need to be assessed within the Sustainability Appraisal [paragraphs 13-15].
  • The Draft Plan was not sound as submitted but could be made sound by a series of main modifications.

These include:

  1. The acknowledgment that light wells and railings "can be permitted where they do not seriously harm the character and appearance of the locality" [paragraph 81 and MM9];
  2. Removal of the requirement for an improvement in the sustainability of any pre-existing building of which the proposed basement would form part [paragraph 87 and MM13]; and
  3. The recognition that an impact on highway safety should only prevent development if shown to be unacceptable in the particular case [paragraph 90 and MM15].
  • However the criteria which are considered arbitrary, ineffective, unfair and even harmful by many objectors (restriction to a single storey underground, and to 50% of the garden/curtilage of the main building) survived subject to modifications which provide for monitoring and a review after 5 years [paragraphs 59-60 and 68].

The Borough is believed to be considering adoption of the modified policy on the 21 January 2015. A legal challenge to this controversial policy review would have to be brought within six weeks of adoption.

Harriet Townsend represented the objector Basement Force at the recent Examination Hearings. They argued that a criteria based policy without arbitrary restrictions on size was a reasonable alternative and did need to be assessed within the Sustainability Appraisal. Their submissions to the Examination on the modifications and the correction to the SA provided by the Council after the Hearing closed – REP 195/18 – are available via the link above.