Please Note: This Article is 6 years old. This increases the likelihood that some or all of it's content is now outdated.

Wealthy homeowners with luxury properties in London’s leafy squares could face massive bills to dig out basements after a judge ruled many break an obscure planning law.

Dozens of homes in plush Kensington and Chelsea are like icebergs – with above the ground living space sometimes dwarfed by what cannot be seen below the pavements.

Now, a court case about installing a lightwell to brighten an underground space has bought dismay to the capital’s basement builders.

The London Squares Preservation Act 1931 was drafted to protect London’s green squares from underground building.

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The act says that builders can basically do what they like under the subsoil, but cannot disturb the top soil except for limited access for maintenance or construction.

It seems for years, homeowners, architects and local councils have misinterpreted the act, according to Mr Justice Supperstone sitting at the High Court.

When Kensington and Chelsea Council finally decided enough encroachment on London’s squares was enough and banned a homeowner from fitting his lightwell, the developer challenged the decision.

The council told the developer that the work should be reversed and the square reinstated.

The judge agreed with the council that ‘underground’ should be interpreted literally and that digging a hole for the lightwell which would sit on the surface meant disturbing the top soil, so the works were not underground and therefore could not be permitted under the act.

Mr Justice Supperstone understood his decision had wider implications for other homes around London’s squares.

“If the council is correct then not just the developer but the owners of six other homes in the same road and owners with properties adjoining squares elsewhere in London all face the prospect that the development to the rear of their properties, which in a number of cases has been in place for many years, is now to be regarded as unlawful under the act and hence liable to enforcement, including removal by injunction proceedings,” he said.

Please Note: This Article is 6 years old. This increases the likelihood that some or all of it's content is now outdated.
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