Another twist in the development project at Parma Crescent

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Over the last year we’ve been following the twists and turns of a proposed development on Parma Crescent (on the opposite side of Lavender Hill to Asda). The picture above is the house that is currently on the site: a smaller-than average house with a larger-than average garden. That’s a dangerous thing to be ion inner London – because it of course became a prime development opportunity!

The first proposal to redevelop it suggested demolishing everything, and building a block of five flats, with numerous balconies, and steep mansard roofs on the top level to essentially build a three storey block of flats. This was controversial, attracting 44 objections, and not much in the way of supportive comment.

The developers presumably sensed that this proposal was destined for rejection, because a few months later they changed the plans, chopping back the side of the building closest to Lavender Hill, slightly lowering the roof, and making it have the same angle as neighbouring houses (the blue dotted line in the picture below was the shape of the first proposal). However there must have been some steers from the planning department that this was likely to hit trouble as well, as the plan shown below was also withdrawn by the developers.

A third set of proposals introduced that made the building smaller again, and made the roof line look a lot more like what was already present on the rest of the houses on the street (i.e. without roof level balconies facing the street itself). These plans were then changed yet again (but only slightly) to remove a sort of roof balcony and lower the height of the top floor.

This proposal saw 44 objections (plus a handful of support comments), but got through the planning process and is now fully consented. When we last wrote about this in November last year we noted that this had been quite a long process, but on the fact of it the building below could have been the end of the story.

What was approved was still a building with five flats in it (one one-bed, three two-bed, and a three-bed). The generous garden around the current house was doomed (which the Battersea Society noted was incompatible with local planning guidance that prevents major developments in residential gardens) – but we did recognise that what would be built in its place was rather more in keeping with the rest of the street than the initial proposals, removing most of the balconies that would directly face neighbours, and reducing (though not removing) the overshadowing that would have been created to properties to the north.

But all the best planning stories include a twist, and this is no exception. Because having got approval to build the above building, at the end of January this year the developers submitted another proposal. The above-ground part of the build is largely the same as the approved plan, with a few windows moving around. But the new plans add a large basement covering the whole of the site, and increase the number of flats from five to eight! We understand the appeal of this approach to the developer: make the most of the ‘building shape’ already approved, but potentially sell an extra million pounds’ worth of flats for only an extra £75-100k in development cost. The proposed development (seen from the south) is illustrated below.

The developers’ planning advisors suggest in their covering letter that while they originally did not propose to build a basement because the costs were too high, they had now got estimates in that suggested it would be feasible after all. Under the proposals, four of the flats would have their bedrooms & living rooms split between ground floor and a newly excavated basement, with various patios / light wells dug out at basement level to allow the lower level rooms to have windows.

Basements in densely built residential streets are a thorny subject at the best of times, given the disruption they cause to neighbouring residents and the somewhat mixed quality of accommodation they can create – and there have been major disputes across the river where mansion owners in Kensington and Belgravia have been building three and four storey mega basements. Not to mention the mega controversial five storey basement that was proposed for the Clapham South hotel last year (but rejected by planners!).

But planning law means that it’s actually not as easy as one might think for a planning department to say ‘no’ to them out of hand, unless they create massive overdevelopment or particularly poor quality accommodation. And while this is undoubtedly a large and development, the internal layout and general standard of the proposed flats seems to be fairly reasonable in planning terms. A minor tweak has subsequently changed the internal layout to make the flats on the upper floors larger and cut the number from eight to seven (changing three one-bed flats on the first floor to two two-bed flats).

Unsurprisingly the prospect of a major basement excavation has caused local concerns, and at the time of writing the proposals have seen 53 objection comments and one support comment (from a resident of Goulden House). The opportunity to comment has (technically speaking) closed but the detailed plans can be seen at the Wandsworth Planning website (search for application 2021/0408). If you do wish to make a support, objection or general comment our past experience suggests the Council will usually try to consider ‘late’ comments if they can.

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