Work begins on the controversial block of flats on Parma Crescent

We’ve been following the twists and turns of a proposed development on Parma Crescent (on the opposite side of Lavender Hill to Asda) for some time. Developers bought a small house with a large garden, and went through a series of planning applications to replace it with a small block of flats. Initially five flats were planned (details in our article here), in a relatively bulky development running close to the edges of the plot – but with application after application the plans gradually evolved to look more like the neighbouring houses.

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This five-flat building (artists’ impression below) eventually received planning permission, but the developers then went in again to grow it underground bu adding a large basement covering the whole of the site, and increasing the number of flats from five to eight!

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From the developer’s perspective this meant they could 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. 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.

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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). Unsurprisingly the prospect of a major basement excavation caused local concerns, with over 50 objection comments.

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However as we noted back in April, while these developments are particularly disruptive, 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 development, the internal layout and general standard of the proposed flats seemed to be fairly reasonable in planning terms.

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A tweak to the design 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). And the extended basement project did later receive planning permission.

And works have now begun – with the complete demolition of the old house and garden. The whole site has been surrounded by a hoarding (above), and as our photo below shows there’s nothing left except an outline on the house next door, and the garden is gone.

It’s a sad loss of one of one of the few ‘green’ spots on the street – however some small consolation is that the final building is less dominant than what was initially proposed. This was always going to be a difficult case to influence, as developers have quite a strong hand in small developments like this one – but credit is due to the residents of Parma Crescent and the streets around for really engaging with the (many) planning proposals on this site. Without that effort we could have seen something much worse here.

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