London has been cracking down on so-called mega-basements for some time, but now some homeowners will have to shell out big bucks to secure planning permission.
Wealthy homeowners in the borough of Westminster, who want dig deep underground to fit in their opulent swimming pools, spas and gyms, will have to pay an average levy of £8,000 (U.S.$10,600) to secure planning permission, according to the Evening Standard.
The proceeds will pay for a dedicated team, who will monitor whether construction work complies with restrictions on noise and working hours. They will also act as a point of contact for complaints from neighbors.
In the past decade, so-called “mega-basements,” which can run several stories deep, have gained popularity among London’s floor-space-hungry elite as building up is actively discouraged, if not outright banned because authorities want to protect the capital’s historic skyline.
However, these billionaire basements are causing disagreements between neighbors over noisy construction work and, in some cases, cracks in walls.
Last year, Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page criticized singer Robbie Williams’ plans to upgrade his $25 million mansion in Holland Park. Mr. Williams eventually scaled back plans for a two-story basement extension.
Joan Collins, the actress, has also complained about them, telling a local British magazine that she found it “shocking that people are digging down to put in swimming pools and bowling alleys when they only live here for two or three months of the year.”
As a result of a mounting pile of complaints, several London boroughs have started to crackdown on these mega basements, also dubbed icebergs, and this is not the first move from Westminster. At the end of last year, it confirmed it would limit the size and depth of basement construction.
In December 2014, officials in Kensington and Chelsea limited the scale of basement development, arguing that many of its residents “have experienced years of misery from noise, vibration, dust and construction traffic.”
Similar changes have come to other London neighborhoods, including Islington and Camden. The latter includes Bishops Avenue in Hampstead, dubbed “Billionaires Row.”
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