LADBROKE ASSOCIATION

The conservation and amenity society for the Ladbroke Consrrvation Area of the

Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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BASEMENT DEVELOPMENT WISH LISTS

 

 

BASEMENT DEVELOPMENT WISH LIST: ACTION FOR LOCAL AUTHORITIES: VERSION 3

This is an updating of a set of proposals first circulated by the Ladbroke Association and the Considerate Basement Construction Group in 2012. Some of our original proposals, we are happy to say, have now been at least partially implemented. For instance, the council is in the process of making an Article 4 Direction to ensure that from April 2016 all basements will require planning permission, including those under the footprint of the house; and a code of practice on noise, vibration and dust is in preparation. The proposals below are still outstanding. They are not in any particular order of priority.

 

1. The Council should do more to ensure that the developer consults adjoining owners and others affected before applying for planning consent. All the indications are that prior consultation makes subsequent relationships between owners run much more smoothly. Often the developer can adjust his plans in small ways to meet particular concerns of the neighbours, and that could help the planning process (as otherwise the Council risks having to deal with more objections, and the developer with more hostility). For instance:

 

  • When Council officers are giving pre-application advice, they should routinely urge consultations with neighbours and ask to see the responses from neighbours. In many basement cases it might be helpful for the applicant to be encouraged to arrange a meeting with the neighbours, attended by the officer, so as to give the latter a better view of any likely problems.
  • A description of what consultation there has been with neighbours should be one of the validation requirements.

 

2. The Council should make it a condition that developers based overseas should appoint a valid agent in the UK who can deal with all matters on their behalf before and during the whole construction period and for 12 months thereafter. Many developers involved in major basement developments are companies based in places such as the British Virgin Islands whose owners remain anonymous and it is almost impossible for neighbours to find a valid interlocutor with whom to discuss their concerns. The Council may also need a valid interlocutor to deal with planning (as well as environmental) enforcement matters, so this also is a condition that should be acceptable in planning terms.

 

3. The Council should make it its policy not normally to give planning consent for residential buildings to be demolished merely to allow access by machinery to the site (we know of one case in Camden where a mews house was demolished on these grounds; and another in Chelsea of a building similarly being demolished). This sort of destruction may be appropriate for major projects likely to bring real benefits to the community and/or the local economy. But for domestic subterranean developments, they are unjustified in terms of sustainability and merely increase the nuisance that neighbours have to put up with. If necessary, material may have to be brought in and out by hand.

 

 

4. Councils should ensure planning applications are comprehensible to the lay person and give a realistic idea of what is planned. The drawings are often difficult to understand and the architects of applicants are not above putting in imaginative drawings and computerised simulations which give a misleading idea of what is proposed. The brief description on the planning application form (then used for the notices to neighbours) is often also misleading. A recent application in RBKC for “demolition of existing dwelling house and erection of replacement dwelling house” concealed, for instance, the fact that the application involved a major new subterranean development. We believe it is within the power of Councils to be more active in policing applications and insisting on better planning applications.

 

5. The Council should set down more detailed requirements for what should be in the construction method statement. We are concerned that construction method statements differ markedly in their degree of detail. Some are excellent, with full geo-technical and hydrological surveys and a good account of the effects expected on neighbouring properties. Some, however, are pretty summary and make almost no realistic assessment of the effects on neighbouring properties from heave/settlement, any hydrological problems etc. The Council has been consulting on a revised Basements Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) which does require more detail, but we are not convinced that it goes far enough. Ideally, we would like to see, in addition to what is proposed:

 

  • Demonstration that damage of more than “very slight” (or at the very most “slight”) on the Burland scale to neighbouring properties can be avoided. This will not guarantee that such damage will be avoided as unexpected problems may arise during the excavation or construction, and the contractors may not stick to the specification. But it will at least show that, on the basis of the information available, the construction can be done in a way that avoids such damage. We are aware that doubts have been expressed as to whether such a requirement would qualify as a planning matter. However, it seems no different in kind from other information already required in method statements with the aim of addressing the possibility of ill-planned and poorly constructed development causing damage to existing and neighbouring structures (to use wording from the RBKC Supplementary Planning Document).
  • Inclusion of a statement of the condition of the existing buildings and services on and near the site and their sensitivity to any disturbance, together with a description of the measures proposed to mitigate any disturbance. This will include immediately adjacent buildings but also in the case of terraces any possible effects on buildings two or more doors away, and in the case of flats or other accommodation above a basement development the effect on the upper floors.

 

6. The Council should make use of its reserved right to commission an independent engineer or hydrologist at the expense of the applicant. This should be done routinely in cases where there is slope instability or known hydrological problems or particular problems would be caused to vulnerable neighbours by construction nuisance. The present right has never been used apparently because of the difficulty of deciding what is a particularly vulnerable building, so the bar needs to be lowered. We are aware that, when the Council routinely consulted its own structural engineer, they invariably agreed with that of the applicant. But times have moved on and structural engineers are now far better informed about domestic basement construction. The experience of Camden may again be relevant here.

7. The Council should impose a planning condition on all basement developments requiring the developer to keep to the specified hours of work. This would enable a tekporary stop to be placed on the works in cases of serious violation. Therte is at least one other Council that imposes such a condition.

 

8. The Council should impose tougher conditions on use of the highway. In some cases, e.g. where there is a narrow mews, it may be appropriate for spoil to be removed by hand. Even though this would impose extra cost on the developer, it would be justifiable under sustainable development principles, which require the balancing of economic factors against social and environmental ones.

 

9. The Council should be prepared to make use of Section 106 agreements/CIL/monitoring funds to alleviate community problems during construction. In particular

 

  • Using such funding from the developer to ensure coordination of construction traffic management plans. We are aware that the Council requires CTMPs to take account of other works in the area, but we are not clear on whether this really happens (judging by the number of complaints, it is not very effective if it does happen); or on how the coordination is monitored or enforced. All applicants for basements in areas where others are also under construction or planned should be required to sign a S. 106 or other agreement to pay for a person to organise consultation with neighbours and ongoing coordination. The sums for individual applicants would be small, but it would be of great benefit to the local community.

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  • Using such funding to pay for a dedicated officer to facilitate the resolution of problems during the construction phase (with each developer paying a small sum that would go towards the officer’s costs). We understand that Camden has already done this. The flow of subterranean developments is now such that there should be an assured flow of finance, especially if organised on a tri-borough basis.

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  • Using such funding (if still possible under the new regime) to obtain an undertaking from the developer that, in the event of really major damage to neighbouring properties, he will pay for an independent structural engineer (approved by the Council) to make a study of the cause of the damage, with a view to benefiting the community by showing how this could be avoided in future.

 

10.  The Council should require contractors to belong not just to the Considerate Constructors Scheme, but also to an appropriate specialist body such as the Association of Specialist Underpinning Contractors. We are also not clear that the Council actually reports enforcement problems (e.g. over traffic management) to the Considerate Contractors Scheme. This could be an effective sanction, as removal of the contractor from the scheme would be an effective blacklisting for basement work in the Borough.

 

11. The Council should develop a policy for ensuring that neighbouring buildings are protected in cases where the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 does not apply. The Core Strategy says that “The Party Wall Act is more suited to dealing with damage related issues” (paragraph 34.3.71). There are circumstances, however, in which it is not applicable, or where there is doubt over its applicability. The first are when damage is caused to buildings two doors away – as can and does happen in terraces of narrow houses. The second are when a basement is built under a building divided into flats. Surveyors are not agreed on whether the Party Wall Act applies to the flats more than one floor above the basement. In such cases, the occupants of the damaged premises have no recourse except to try to claim damages through the common law. By the wording above, the Council appears implicitly to accept that it would take some responsibility for damage-related issues if other legislation did not exist. And there would seem a general duty of care. Here we are dealing with an effective legal vacuum and it would seem reasonable for the Council to impose a condition that, where such circumstances arose, the applicant should agree to apply the Party Wall Act disputes procedure.

 

12. The Council should make better information available about where people should go if there are problems with a basement construction. There should be a single user-friendly place on the website dealing with all areas of complaint – noise, fumes, traffic, vermin etc. In addition, all complaints should be not just recoded but monitored so that tends can be established and general action taken where appropriate.

 

13. Properties to be revalued for Council Tax purposes, at the applicant’s expense, once the works are complete. This is a proposal in Lord Selsdon’s Bill. We suspect that many of the properties are already in the highest band. But if there is a change in the arrangements for property taxation following the Election, this could be an element.

 

14. The Council should employ consultants to take a representative selection of completed basement developments and make a back-analysis of the impacts, with particular reference to structural impacts. The results could feed into decisions on what should be on the validation list.

 

Ladbroke Association/Considerate Basement Construction Group

28 December 2015

 

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BASEMENT DEVELOPMENT WISH LIST: ACTIONS BY GOVERNMENT

The Government has until recently argued that Councils have sufficient powers to control the nuisance caused by subterranean development. But following pressure from peers and particularly Lord Dubs, the Government agreed to conduct a review of the planning rules and regulations that relate to basements. As a first step, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) issued a "call for evidence" in November 2016. The following is the submission from the Ladbroke Association, which sets out the changes that we believe the review should consider.

 

1. Introductory points

 

 

1.1. We are aware that Baroness Williams’ commitment to Lord Dubs was to a “review of the planning law and regulations that relate to basements”. However, many of Lord Dubs’s amendments to the Housing Bill and many of the points made in the debate concerned party wall matters. Lord Selsdon’s 2012 Basements Bill was also largely concerned with party wall matters, and had major contributions from members of the Pyramus and Thisbe Club, the expert body for party wall surveyors, who wanted to rectify some of the present deficiencies in the present Party Wall etc. Act 1996. We therefore took it for granted that the review would deal with all the issues raised during the debates in the House of Lords and urge that it should do so. In that expectation, we propose below a number of changes to current party wall arrangements to give a fairer deal to those unlucky enough to live next door to a basement construction project.

1.2. The evidence of our 2009 survey and all the information that has come to our notice subsequently is that for most victims of basement development by far the greatest problem is the noise and vibration during the construction, from the building work and the associated collection of demolition and excavation waste and delivery of materials. By reason of their scale, intensity and duration, they are of a different order altogether from those associated with a normal domestic renovation/extension and are more akin to those from a major infrastructure project such as Crossrail.  In extreme cases there is a real risk to health and livelihood. We know of at least one death of an old lady associated with a basement development (the effect on the very elderly of the upheaval caused by basement work next door should not be under-estimated); and many cases where people have been left hugely out of pocket or (in the case of people who work from home) been unable to pursue their normal occupation for the duration of the construction. This is a serious interference with people’s rights.

 

1.3. There is a real sense of outrage and unfairness when those living next door to a proposed basement construction project realise that they will be forced to endure lengthy and horrendous noise pollution, vibration, dust, vermin, potential damage to their property and potential financial loss for the sake of a purely private benefit to the neighbouring property owner (often a developer). People would feel far less strongly about say a school or a hospital where there is a public good involved. There is a perception that it makes a nonsense of the Government’s commitment to the three principles of sustainable development if, when there is an application for a basement, no account can be taken of the harmful environmental effects of the excavation and construction process. The argument that these matters are dealt with by environmental pollution legislation and the party wall regime is just not good enough. The fact is that, however well-applied these regimes are, they can provide only marginal mitigation in the case of basement projects, given their intensity, scale and duration.

 

 

2. The Planning system

We should record that we welcome the measures that RBKC has put in place to mitigate basement construction (and they are currently far ahead of most boroughs), but they are probably near the limit of what can be done without Government intervention and changes to the rules. In particular, there is a real problem with trying to make the planning and environmental regimes work together to minimise the nuisance caused by basement construction. We believe also that one of the best ways of making basement construction more tolerable would be to have proper monitoring and community liaison regimes, paid for by the developer. Although some authorities have tried to set these up, others do not consider that they have the legal powers.

 

The following are the specific measures that we invite the Department to consider.

 

 

2.1.Enable local authorities, when deciding planning applications, to take at least some account of the harm to the neighbourhood of the construction activity and to balance this against any public interest. There are circumstances, for instance in narrow mews or near to an establishment housing vulnerable people, where it may just not be possible to build a basement in a tolerable way, however well-applied the legislation on environmental pollution.

 

2.2.Give local authorities the power to control the commencement, and possibly also the timetable,  of basement developments where it is in their judgement desirable to do so having regard to all the circumstances.  Many of our streets are narrow, often with parking on both sides, and the effect of the construction traffic, noise, dirt and dust when several basement developments are taking place at the same time can be horrendous. It is not infrequent that the occupant of a terrace house finds that basements are being built simultaneously on both sides. In one case of a particularly horrendous basement development lasting two-three years, the neighbour was driven to move out, incurring considerable expense, only to find that within a couple of months of moving back work began on a basement on the other side. The cumulative impact should be a material consideration in granting consent and in imposing conditions.

 

2.3. Allow Councils to increase certain planning fees to cover the cost of scrutinising complicated development proposals properly. Councils require applicants for subterranean developments to provide detailed construction method statements, traffic management plans, etc., but we strongly doubt whether they have sufficient resources to scrutinise them properly. If Councils have to follow the guidance in the Eatherley v. LB Camden case, they will need even more scrutiny to determine whether basements under the footprint of the house constitute engineering operations. Compared to the cost of the average basement project, the extra cost to the developer would be minuscule and it would avoid other applicants and the Council tax-payer having to subsidise the costs of dealing with these applications.

  

2.4. On the “polluter pays” principle, allow councils to levy a sum from developers of potentially noisy developments to cover the cost of monitoring the works and arranging liaison both with the residents, and with individual developers when several basements are being built in the same street. Basement construction lasts a very long time; involves complicated engineering; normally involves a host of different contractors; and is often inadequately supervised by the lead contractor. Party wall surveyors are not there to supervise the works and only make occasional visits. As a result, there are frequent breaches of conditions and a lot of money has to be spent by the local authority on enforcement when complaints are made, at the expense of the Council tax-payer. 

We strongly believe that much of this could be avoided if local authorities could set in place proper monitoring and liaison arrangements. Some have tried to do so. The City of Westminster has recently introduced such a scheme whereby developers pay fees to finance a “basement hit squad”, but many councils are concerned that such an arrangement might not stand up before the courts under current planning rules. We understand that the London Borough of Camden used to use S.106 funding to pay for a dedicated officer to facilitate the resolution of problems during the construction phase (with each developer paying a small sum that went towards the officer’s costs), and some years ago the City of Westminster used S.106 to finance a local liaison group to deal with problems from a major project, but we are not sure that this is still possible under current S.106/CIL rules. The Government needs to ensure an appropriate framework so that Councils can proceed without fear of legal challenge.

 

2.5. Be more flexible in the use of planning conditions to enforce rules on basements. A few years ago, the fashionable mantra in Whitehall was “joined-up government”. In most Councils, however, the different parts of the organisation trying to exercise control over basement development operate in silos and are encouraged to do so by the system, because of the rule that the planning regime should not be used to enforce other legislation. Where there is a legislative vacuum, as on construction traffic, the planners can step in and RBKC requires all basement developers to have and to abide by an approved Construction Traffic Management Plan. Moreover, they enforce these CTMPs rigorously. But in other areas, especially noise pollution, many councils are doubtful about using the planning system, despite its superior and simpler enforcement powers. People do not understand why the various regimes cannot be made to work together so that they each help each other. And if they did work better together, it might well be that controversial projects would be easier to deal with and appear more acceptable.

 

Examples of planning conditions that would be useful for basements, both in the area of Council responsibility and wider:

 

  • A condition that the council’s Code of Construction Practice should be followed. As indicated above, at least one council does impose such a condition, but others seem to regard it as legally doubtful and are therefore reluctant to go down this route.
  • A condition that a Section 61 agreement (Control of Pollution Act 1974) should be in place before work starts. Alternatively, a requirement that developers notify the council four weeks before starting work so that a Section 61 agreement can be served under the Control of Pollution legislation.
  • A condition that no work should start before a party wall award is in place (at present, if work does start, the adjoining owner’s only recourse is to seek an injunction from the courts).

2.6. A condition that developers based overseas should appoint a valid agent in the UK who can deal with all matters on their behalf before and during the whole construction period and for 12 months thereafter. Quite a few of those involved in major basement developments are companies based in places such as the British Virgin Islands whose owners remain anonymous and it is almost impossible for neighbours to find a valid interlocutor with whom to discuss their concerns. The Council may also need a valid interlocutor to deal with planning (as well as environmental) enforcement matters.

 2.7. Remove permitted development rights. We and others have been pressing DCLG for some seven years now to amend the General Permitted Development Order (GPDO) to make clear that basement excavations are excluded from extensions that are defined as permitted development. DCLG have never really explained why they are reluctant to do this, and we note that the Judge in the Eatherley v. LB Camden [2016] EWHC 3108 (Admin) case was critical of Government inactivity in this area.

The alternative would be for Councils to impose an appropriate Article 4 Direction. But Councils are reluctant, partly because for the first 12 months they would have to pay compensation to any developer whose plans were thwarted by the Direction, and during those 12 months applications for basements would increase as developers try to “get under the wire”. It also involves a lot of bureaucracy at a time when Councils are under severe financial pressure. Multiplied across the country, this would add up to a considerable burden. A change to the GPDO would be cleaner, simpler and a more cost-effective use of tax-payers’ money. It is unlikely that the drafters of this part of the GPDO intended that it should cover basements under the footprint of the house. Basements are not specifically mentioned and were not an issue at the time. Indeed, DCLG itself took the view when we first raised this with them some seven years ago that there was legal ambiguity as to whether the GPDO does cover such developments. Moreover, there is also uncertainty over whether some basements qualify as “engineering operations”, which are not permitted development, with different Planning Inspectors taking different views on cases that do not seem to warrant differential treatment and the recent Eatherley v  LB Camden case adding to the confusion.

A requirement for planning permission would not prevent such basements from going forward as consent would normally be given provided that the same conditions are met as for other basements (in practice, it is almost impossible for a local authority to refuse a properly prepared application for a basement). A basement dug beneath an existing building is no less risky or polluting in terms of noise etc. than a basement that extends out into the garden. It is illogical, therefore, not to apply the same mitigating measures to both categories. And it would remove the difficult judgements that will need to be made in the light of Eatherley v. LB Camden and provide certainty for both developers and local authorities. We have seen no evidence that developers are put off building basements because of the need for planning permission, the costs of which are tiny in relation to the overall costs of building a basement and the subsequent likely increase in value of the property.

 

 

 

3. The party wall regime

Basement construction is inherently noisy and inherently likely to cause at least some movement to neighbouring properties, and this has to be accepted. But it is not acceptable that people should suffer physical or mental harm or be out of pocket as a result of the activities of their neighbour. In theory, the party wall system should deal with such problems. In practice, as currently drafted and interpreted, it does not always do so – perhaps unsurprisingly given that the Act was drafted at a time when such extreme works in a residential neighbourhood were virtually unknown.  We urge, therefore that the Government review the working of the Party Wall Act. As we see it, the main problems are:

 

 

3.1. Losses. Quite serious losses can be incurred in cases where:

  • A person works from home and is unable to do so during the works because of the noise. This can include tutors, music teachers, persons offering medical or counselling services. One case in our area involved someone who read texts onto tape for talking books. They either have to forgo their normal income or rent other office space.
  • A vulnerable person, e.g. somebody who is ill or elderly, needs to be moved elsewhere for the duration.
  • A property is due to be let and cannot be let at the normal rent because of the works.
  • A property is due to be sold but cannot be sold at the normal market price. In some cases, people who need to sell their property urgently (e.g. because of a divorce settlement or change of work-place) cannot do so until the work is finished, possibly two or three years later, unless they are prepared to take a large loss.

 

The Party Wall Act contains provisions on loss, but these are almost impossible to apply in the case of basement extensions because of the difficulty of distinguishing between noise etc. from works on the basement from works on other parts of the site not covered by the Act. As a result, adjoining owners find it almost impossible to be compensated for their loss.

 

This is not an easy problem to solve and we think that a Gordian knot-cutting approach is needed, namely that, during the construction of a basement, all work on the property should be deemed to be within the ambit of the Party Wall Act. Party wall surveyors also need to be far readier to accept that in a significant number of cases the rental of office or other alternative accommodation (or an allowance in lieu) may be the only fair way forward.

 

We note, incidentally, that Crossrail construction was excluded by legislation from the party wall regime but those badly affected by it were given the chance of relocation or the funding of noise reduction measures, so that they ended up better off than if they had had to rely on the party wall system.

 

3.2. Additional expenses. Although the party wall system provides for the developer to put right any damage to the adjoining owner’s property, adjoining owners are usually involved in a number of additional expenses, not least because people have to take time off work to deal with the various problems that arise during the construction. It should be possible for party wall surveyors to award an allowance for such losses.

 

3.3. Security for expenses. The Act allows the award of security for the expenses of completing the work, e.g. in the form of a lump sum being deposited in an escrow account. But this provision does not cover the expenses of putting right any damage to the neighbouring properties, so if a developer goes bankrupt, the neighbours are left without any effective way of covering their costs. The Act needs to be amended to allow for reasonable security to cover the expenses of putting right and of meeting any losses incurred by the adjoining owner because of being unable to work or sell or let their property.

 

3.4. Completing work. If work stops in the middle of a development, the rights of the adjoining owner are not sufficient to enable him to obtain a remedy without possibly costly and lengthy court proceedings, and if the building owner has gone bankrupt or left the jurisdiction, he may be faced with a major financial loss. The adjoining owner should be able to serve a notice requiring the building owner to complete the work or do what is necessary to protect and restore the adjoining owner’s property, as proposed in Lord Selsdon’s Bill. If appropriate action is not taken within a reasonable time, the adjoining owner should be entitled to go in and do the work himself, and be repaid through an insurance bond.

 

3.5. Future damage. There is also no provision for claiming for problems that that may occur in the future as a result of the works. Some sort of statutory property insurance bond might be the best way forward on this. There should also be a system for triggering the appointment of a party wall surveyor or surveyors to settle disputes on whether the damage is due to the basement and what if anything should be awarded.

 

3.6. Damage outside the statutory distances. The damage caused by subterranean developments in jerry-built London terraces of narrow houses can mean that buildings two and even three doors away are damaged by excavations – in one case in RBKC the owner of a house two doors away had £30,000 worth of damage, but because the Party Wall Act did not apply, he could not claim for it from the building owner except by going to court at considerable expense. Arrangements need to be made to cover this situation by extending the statutory distance within which excavations fall within the Act from six to nine metres as proposed in Lord Selsdon’s Bill. Alternatively, there could be a provision as described above for a dispute to be deemed to have arisen when an owner beyond the distances in the Act claims that there has been damage (note that frivolous claims can be discouraged as surveyors can award costs to the building owner).

 

3.7. Upper floor flats. In cases where a building is formed of a number of flats and the owner of the bottom flat decides to build a basement, there is disagreement among party wall surveyors as to whether party wall notices need to be served on the upper flats. Some practitioners claim that, as the upper flats have no party wall with the property of the building owner, party wall legislation does not apply. Yet a basement can cause problems to all floors of a building if the stability of the outer walls is compromised. It needs to be clarified that party wall notices should be served on all flats. 

 

3.8. Work starting before party wall award. Although work is not supposed to start before a party wall award is in place, if a developer does go ahead, the only way that the adjoining owner can stop the work is to take out an injunction. This is not a big problem but in the cases where it occurs it is a real one. We have suggested above that a planning condition should be used to ensure work does not start prematurely. This would be simple to enforce and inexpensive. An alternative, however, would be to make it an offence under the Act to start work before a party wall award is in place. The Bill tabled by Lord Selsdon in 2012 provided that it should be an offence to start work before a party wall notice has been served. But we have heard of some cases where work has started while negotiations between the party wall surveyors were still going on, so we think the offence should apply also to starting before an award (or agreement) is in place.

3.9. Damage when there is no party wall award.  There is no recourse beyond the common law when works covered by the Act cause damage but there is no party wall award in place, for instance because the parties did not know one was needed or the building owner deliberately avoided serving a party wall notice. This (like the future damage problem) could be cured by a provision that where such damage occurs a “dispute” under the Party Wall Act could be triggered, so that party wall surveyors could then be appointed to award as appropriate.

We think that there is also a debate to be had as to whether more use could be made of the party wall system to deal with some of the problems listed in the “planning” section above. For instance,   Section 7(1) of the Party wall Act requires the Building Owner to avoid “unnecessary inconvenience”. S.10(12)(b) provides that an award may determine the time and manner of executing any work. These provisions in theory give plenty of scope for party wall award to include all sorts of mitigation measures, but because of case law party wall surveyors are reluctant to tread into areas covered by other legislation.  Yet it might be simpler and cheaper for the public purse if some mitigation measures related to noise, dust, etc could be designed by party wall surveyors, who are in a good position to know the individual situation, and included in the award.

 

S.6(8)(b) of the Party Wall Act provides for cases where work is not prosecuted with due diligence. This particular provision is hardly used, yet it should be possible under S.10(12)(b) to require an agreed schedule/timetable/build period for the project,  with S.6(8)(b) action being triggered if the timetable was not followed without good reason (which might encourage the construction industry  and building owners to put more emphasis on completing projects in good time).  

 

 

 

4. Other

4.1. Extend Building Regulations so that they apply also to adjoining buildings in the case of subterranean development. This would mean that developers would have to show not only that their own building was safe but that the ones next to it also were. Although RBKC requires a construction method statement showing that the work can safely be done, there is no subsequent control.

 

4.2. Future liabilities to be registered as a charge on the property in the Land Registry.  At present, if the property with the basement development subsequently changes hands, and there is subsidence in the adjoining property traceable to the development, it is difficult for the adjoining owner to take action. There are other works covered by the Party Wall Act that also create future liabilities (e.g special foundations and the construction of a new party wall astride the boundary) and it would be desirable for these too to be registered as a matter of law. So far, we know of no significant evidence of basements causing problems after the construction phase (although cracking can continue to worsen for a year or so). But we have been told by some surveyors that they believe that may be quite serious problems 20 or 30 years down the line and that many basements may prove very difficult to repair. There is a possibility in such circumstances that neighbours could be badly affected.

 

 

Ladbroke Association

16 December 2016

                                                                                                                               

 

 

 

 

 

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