Basement Review Draft policy and other measures for public consultation

Comment ID 8
Document Section Basement Review Draft policy and other measures for public consultation Executive Summary background - current situation - reveiw - proposal policy - procedures - permiitted dev View all on this section
Respondent 3xArchitecture (Michael Mozny) View all by this respondent
Response Date 30 Jan 2013
Comment

Under paragraph 34.3.59 of the supporting text the draft policy proposes to restrict development to 75 % of the garden area. Our comments are as follows:

 -       Alan Baxter argue that the extent of any basement covering a maximum of 75% of the garden area is an optimal figure. It should be possible to increase this figure (possibly to the previously allowed maximum of 85%) in those instances where significantly improved sustainable urban drainage methods are proposed.

  

The supporting text under paragraph 34.3.61 makes reference to restricting basement development to a depth not suitable for further horizontal subdivision. Our comments are as follows:

-       The Alan Baxter report makes very little mention of deep basement construction. In the few instances where it does much emphasis is put on the methodology and in no circumstance does it expressly advise against it. The question is raised in the Q&A section (question 4) of the Baxter report and the consultants argue here merely that special care is to be taken when deep basements are designed.  

-       Most basements have little if any visual impact on the city- and streetscape. How far do the powers of the Planning and Development Control go in order to control development such as basements? The depth of a basement has no relation to its visual appearance at ground level.

-       It can be argued that deeper basements result in more significant construction impact and therefore a greater loss of amenity to the neighbouring properties / occupants. However, the extent of construction is almost more closely related to method rather than size and construction methodology is and should be controlled through the assessment of the Basement Impact Assessment. To accommodate functional requirements a single basement over a larger area could cause greater disturbance than a double basement over a smaller area.        

-       To achieve a more optimal distribution of light and a better spatial experience double height spaces are quite often preferable in subterranean development. Therefore less manifestation at ground level (such as horizontal glazing at ground level) could often be achieved by choosing a double basement.

-       It appears that opinion is guided largely by very vocal groups opposed to basement development while those in favour of or indifferent to basement development generally do not respond to consultation.

-       It has been mentioned that basement development is a result of contemporary lifestyle and spatial requirements. If people are precluded from extending their homes they might otherwise buy multiple properties and combine resulting in lower densities within the borough.

            

Paragraphs 34.3.74/75/76 propose the preparation of a Basement Impact Assessment prior to submitting a planning application. Our comments are as follows:

 

-       It is proposed that any planning application for a basement must include a Demolition and Construction Management Plan (DCMP) and a Construction Traffic Management Plan (CTMP) and that these need to be approved by the Bi-Borough Director of Environmental Health and the Bi-Borough Director of Transportation and Highways respectively prior to the application being made. It is foreseeable that neither department will publish active applications for stakeholders to comment on. It is also affects the decision period of 8 weeks (or 13 weeks) set by statute. Furthermore can it be questioned whether either department will adhere to any timeframe set by the Council therefore increasing uncertainty in relation to timeframe.

-       In certain circumstances it might become necessary that a CTMP or DCMP needs to be altered slightly after planning approval is granted. Under the current proposals it would become necessary to re-engage in the complicated two-stage planning application process at departmental and Council level.

-       The costs for all basement developments will increase substantially. Whereas most applicants applying for large and deep basements will be able to afford this increase it will not be affordable or even viable to apply for basements under small properties even where this would add much to the amenity of the property.

 

 

Paragraph 5.0 of the draft policy proposes to remove permitted developments rights for basements directly underneath the footprint of existing dwelling houses. Our comments are as follows:

 

-       The procedure needs to be clarified. It is clear that the Council will have to forego the planning fee. However, will the council cover the significant cost for a preparation of a planning application that would otherwise not be necessary under PD rights.

-       By removing permitted development rights the council is trying to bring under its control matters that are regulated by other legislation currently in existence and relate solely to amenity. This would be the primary aim of such policy as proposals currently falling under permitted development rights have no external manifestation and therefore have no impact on the visual character of a neighbourhood.

-       As the council cannot refuse planning permission for any type of development solely because of the effect its implementation will have upon the amenity of residents of the Borough it is difficult to argue  why it should choose to restrict permitted development rights for that very purpose.   

 

 

General Matters:

 

-       It is proposed to restrict visible manifestations to the rear wall of the house. However, if well designed, these can be disguised by planters, screens and other soft landscaping measures and therefore have very little visual impact even if positioned deeper within the garden area.

-       The Alan Baxter report frequently proposes the timely and continuous engagement of structural and civil engineers. This should be expanded to other qualified consultants such as chartered architects. Through their education and experience chartered architects will be able to advise on most aspects of contract administration and construction, including Party Wall matters (which are frequently mentioned, but it is agreed that these are civil matters and cannot be bound into the planning system) and other general planning issues. An experienced architect might for instance advocate the use of a top-down basement construction method to reduce nuisance to neighbours and minimise the risk of structural damage to neighbouring properties.

More information about the issues of basement construction in relation to neighbouring properties should be provided to neighbours by the council at the point when a proposal is approved rather than advising during the application process. This information should include Party Wall procedures. 

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