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Over the last few years, the creation of dual level, mega-basements complete with swimming pool and private cinema have been reported in the media as the latest ‘must-have’ for the rich and famous. An analysis by Glenigan of recent planning applications and approvals confirms that the prime residential areas of Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea are at the epicentre of basement extension activity. However, the analysis also reveals that, faced with limited land availability and high house prices, basement extensions are being more widely turned to by households and developers as a way of securing additional space. There were 3,437 applications for basement extensions nationally last year, 5% fewer than during 2015. The basement extension market remains centred on London and southern England. Almost two-thirds of applications (65%) were for projects in the capital, with the south east accounting for a further 11%. However there is also increased interest in basement extensions outside of London’s prime residential market. Indeed while applications in London during 2016 were sharply down (-14%) on the previous year, there has been increased interest in basement extensions in other parts of the country (albeit for a low base – no pun intended). Basement Extensions London 2016 In the capital the central London boroughs account for the lion’s shares of applications. Collectively Kensington & Chelsea, Hammersmith & Fulham and Westminster accounted for 38% of applications. However, this compares to 41% of London basement applications during 2015. The drop in ‘market share’ is in large part due to sharp falls in applications in Kensington & Chelsea (-27%) and Westminster (-22%). The decline in these two boroughs is likely to reflect the cooling in the prime residential market over the last two years together with tighter planning rules on basement extensions being introduced by the two councils. Strikingly, the number of applications being approved in both the Capital and in the central London boroughs has remained relatively robust. The number of approvals for basement extensions in London fell by 4% last year, in contrast to the 14% drop in planning applications. Whilst there will be a lag between planning applications feeding through to planning decisions, the more modest decline suggests that it is the more speculative proposals that have been deterred by the cooling in the prime residential market and the tightening in planning rules. Indeed, approvals in Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster slipped by just 2% last year, and rose slightly in Hammersmith & Fulham.

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