On Tuesday 4 October, Morrisons Solicitors hosted a Basement Extensions Conference at the Ham Yard Hotel in London. Appropriately enough, the conference facilities at the hotel were in the basement; but what a basement it was. Everyone I spoke to was kind enough to say that the venue was excellent; and certainly from an organisational perspective, the staff at the hotel couldn’t have been more helpful. Almost more importantly, the food was very good indeed and the bar staff attentive at the end of event networking drinks.
The conference began with a presentation from Tim Chapman, a Director at Arup and leader of the London infrastructure group. Having set the scene by explaining why London is uniquely blessed with all the ingredients for “basement wars”, he went on to share his thoughts on construction methodologies, reviewing the risks associated with the cut-and-cover sequence favoured for many garden basements. Tim reminded us of the tragic consequences of failing to ensure that homeowners hire an experienced professional team, and concluded by challenging the current planning system as inadequate to ensure that basement extensions are properly, safely and effectively planned.
Tim was followed by the eminent Michael de Freitas, Emeritus Reader in Engineering Geology at Imperial College, London. Michael’s presentation left no-one in the audience in any doubt of the critical importance of a properly scoped site investigation and a Basement Impact Assessment. He reminded us of the limitations of the BRE Classifications of damage, particularly in the context of planning applications and assessments of likely harm. Michael and Tim both emphasised the shortcomings of the present planning process in ensuring that only properly planned and carefully assessed applications for basement extensions are approved.
Will Minting (Partner, Wilks Head & Eve), immediately after the lunch break, spoke knowledgeably about “unnecessary inconvenience”. The effect of section 7 of the Party Wall Act and the question of just how inconvenient may inconvenient works legitimately be, is very topical (and is a subject of one of my earlier blogs). Will walked us through what little case law there is on the subject, speaking with authority on the subject of noise nuisance after his key role in the Hiscox case from 2008.
We concluded the day with six “top tips” to avoid getting into a hole while digging one, delivered with wit and with the weight of vast experience by Nick Isaac. Nick’s recommendations picked up a common theme running through the day’s presentations, which was that basement extensions, done properly, are expensive – and if homeowners can’t afford to do them properly, they shouldn’t be doing them at all.
All our delegates took away a complimentary copy of my book, “The Law and Practice of Basement Extensions”. If you would like to buy a copy, please contact Jordan Clarke by email [email protected] or by phone on 01737 854 547.
If you weren’t able to attend the conference, we hope to see you next year.
If you would like any further advice or assistance please contact Morrisons Solicitors basement extension expert Matthew Hearsum. Matthew is a partner in the Dispute Resolution team and can be contacted by email at [email protected] or by telephone 01483 215 034.