Going Down! Rich dig 4650 new basements across London

Source: The Daily Mail: Wednesday, 9th May 2018

With space for home extensions increasingly hard to come by, it seems the super-rich have solved the problem by digging down… and down, and down.

For the extraordinary scale of London’s basement craze has been revealed in a study that found 4650 had been approved in a decade.

Around 1,000 gyms, 380 pools and 120 staff rooms have been uncovered in plans for huge basements built between 2008 and 2017. In total 112 ‘mega basements’ with three or more storeys has been approved and 785 ‘large basements’ with three or more storeys  had been approved, and 785 ‘large’ basements with two or more storeys.

One particular opulent three-storey basement in Holland Park, West London has a swimming pool, plunge pool, beach, sauna and steam room, hot tub, media room gym and staff quarters, according to the Newcastle University study.

A two-level basement in Notting Hill, which cost £4million , includes a 70ft swimming pool that turns into a dancefloor at the touch of a button. Researchers also found 550 media and cinema room, 340 games rooms, 380 wine stores, 240 saunas or steam rooms and 60 underground parking facilities.

The combined depth of all the basements built over the period is 50,160ft- 140 times higher than St Pauls Cathedral. The study concluded the sharp rise in basements’ popularity is ‘emblematic of the profound plutocratisation of London’, as international investors and the super-rich move in- pushing the professionals classes into other areas. Some of the largest basements were seen in so-called ‘iceburg homes’ where the space underground is bigger than that above, with basements up to 59ft deep.

Their lengthy construction times can cause misery for neighbours who have to endure years of noise and works traffic. The researches from Newcastle’s global urban research unit, led by professor of cities Roger Burrows, said: ‘The global excesses of wealth, focussed on such a small fragment of the global population, now find spatial expression in many of the neighbourhoods of central London.

‘At a time when so many households face a crisis in their housing circumstances, the new subterranean geography of London is deeply symbolic of the realities of the intensification of global inequalities’. The study looked at seven of the capital’s wealthiest Borough: Kensington and Chelsea, Hammersmith, Westminster and Fulham. Haringey, Camden, Islington and Wandsworth. It only covered houses already standing when the basement was built, meaning that many new new builds remain under the radar.

In the last ten years 67 mega-basements were built in Kensington and Chelsea and 34 in Westminster. Underground developments in those boroughs were the most opulent and the most likely to have pools, according to the report according to the report which was undertaken for the Guardian.

Karen Buck, Labour MP for Westminster North said: ‘The sheer opulence if many of the larger basement excavations caused jaws to drop even in fairly affluent neighbourhoods, like St John’s Wood and Bayswater, where neighbours have sometimes found themselves under siege from these developments’.  Becky Fatemi of London’s Rokstone estate agents told the Guardian that 34 per cent of the 140 properties it sold in the last five years had basements. She added many buyers said they needed extra space for nannies and staff.