New Low For Basement Planning Permission

Environment Agency Demands Flood Risk Assessments Prior to Approval

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All homeowners wanting to create basement extensions are being asked to produce flood risk assessments by the Environment Agency.

The government agency says it must now be consulted before councils can give planning permission for any basement developments in areas classed as a flood risk.

A spokesperson for Hounslow Council said "The Environment Agency have a map of flood risk areas which covers most of Chiswick, and the southern part of Brentford and Isleworth. As statutory undertaker, they assess the flood risk of proposals."

This has caused a significant back log in processing these applications at many of the local authority's planning departments.

In Hammersmith and Fulham. More than 250 applications are already delayed. The Environment Agency has 21 days to decide whether or not to object to each application submitted, which looks set to prevent councils meeting their eight week application turnaround targets.

Cllr Nicholas Botterill, cabinet member for environment, said, "In H&F we have the fourth highest property prices in Britain and, together with steep rises in stamp duty, more and more people simply cannot afford to move house when their families grow and are looking to extend their existing homes instead."

He added, "The risk of basements flooding is an important consideration for anyone investing in a basement conversion, but this new requirement has not been properly thought through.

"The Environment Agency simply doesn't have the capacity to process all of the applications they will be receiving. Their guidance on what a flood risk assessment should be for basements is over complex and unhelpful to homeowners. This is going to mean delay and increased cost for homeowners and uncertainty about whether the Environment Agency will ultimately object and recommend that the council refuses planning permission."

This is yet another set back for residents considering adding a basement to their property rather than moving to a larger home.

Earlier this year The Bedford Park Society welcomed a decision by The Planning Inspectorate to reject plans for the building of basements in Bedford Park.

The Inspector supported Hounslow Council's position on the basis that the "lack of basements is a factor that contributed to the character and special interest of the listed buildings'; that the effect of the design would be "visually disturbing and detrimental to the character and architectural and historic integrity of the building and its garden setting" and that "an approval on appeal in this instance would increase pressure on the Council to approve further proposals."

June 7, 2007