Basement extensions in London have become as common as loft conversions

21st January 2022

It has become very common to have basement extensions in London. Most of these are built for oligarchs who can afford a basement equipped with underground swimming pools and art galleries. Naturally, this has also caused a fair amount of disgust and envy among the masses who do not possess the same kind of wealth. However, as per research, it’s not just oligarchs that are dabbling in basement extensions.


A study shows that around 7,328 basements were approved in London between 2008 and 2019. These basements were made mostly for affluent professionals in the country. In fact, basement extensions have become as common as loft conversions. As per the research done at Newcastle University’s School of Architecture, Planning & Landscape, the schemes contain 1,695 gyms, 814 cinemas, 532 swimming pools, 689 wine cellars, 342 steam rooms or saunas, 607 games rooms, and 154 staff quarters.


Upon closer analysis, it was also revealed that the total depth of all of these basements is equivalent to 15.8 miles. This is approximately 31 times the height of Burj Khalifa, which is the tallest building in the world.


Around 1.782 cubic meters of earth has been excavated, after which these basements have been constructed, which is 12 times the volume of St Paul’s Cathedral.


There are also rising concerns related to flooding due to these basements, as well. After London received heavy rain showers, many argued that the proliferation of basements developments was what has led to the flooding of so many properties throughout the city.


The fact that this work is happening at such a massive scale has also led to increased levels of competition between people living in wealthy neighbourhoods in London. Robbie Williams wanted to make an underground swimming pool and gym under his house in Holland Park, which led to a five-year quarrel between him and his neighbour.


A study conducted shows that out of all the schemes, 80% were standard development of a single storey.

Hammersmith and Fulham had the greatest number of developments here. Around 18% were ones that were large basements, which have enough space to install a swimming pool. Approximately 2% were mega basements too. Kensington and Chelsea had the highest number of these basements.


Roger Burrows who is a professor of cities at Newcastle University said that rising house prices in the 2010s made basement development a very popular choice amongst affluent Londoners residing in areas like Hammersmith and Fulham. People wanted to maximize the value of their property and that is why they built basements in them. As per Burrows, these single-storey basements are about as common as loft conversions used to be.  


Mary Dhonau, who is the CEO of the National Flood Forum hopes that the recent flooding provides a reality check to builders and planners and discourages building basements to avoid the displacement of soil needed to absorb rainwater, especially in urban areas.


It remains to be seen if Londoners will pay heed to this incident or continue opting for basement extensions.


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