Westminster planners overruled over failure to consider mega basement policy

03 May 17

Westminster planners overruled over failure to consider 'mega-basement' policy

A business tycoon has won a High Court block on his neighbours' plans for a three-storey 'mega-basement' project in the heart of Mayfair after a judge ruled that planners has failed to apply a new council policy restricting such developments.

Stelio Stefanou objected to his neighbours' plans for the development underneath a listed building in Charles Street.

The extension was to include a kitchen, laundry, cinema and gym, together with a two-storey subterranean swimming pool.

Westminster City Council gave the go-ahead for the work in August last year, but yesterday a High Court judge overturned the decision.

Mr Justice Gilbart said the council’s planners had not taken sufficient account of its own policy on basement extensions. 

The judge said the house is in need of some repair and had been the subject of works plans for years.

However, the huge underground development would cause a "great deal of upheaval", with "lengthy building and excavation works", he added.

Lawyers for businessman and philanthropist Mr Stefanou argued that the council was wrong to grant listed building consent and planning permission.

It had failed to have regard to a new policy, which allows for excavation of more than one floor only in "exceptional circumstances".

"Patently, this development fell to be considered against that policy," said the judge.

"It proposed a very substantial basement extension, with the creation of two new basement floors."

The judge said the council was wrong in the way it had considered the proposals before granting permission.

As permission was already in place for a basement extension in 2011, the council thought it only had to consider work which was additional to that already allowed.

That was a "very straightforward error of law", as the "whole scheme" had to be considered in the light of the new policy on basements.

"There can be no doubt that this proposal involved the provision of basements and that it was caught by the new policy," he said.

"The council was bound to have regard to it."

He quashed the planning permission and the listed building consent.

Egypt-born Mr Stefanou is a regular on the Sunday Times Rich List. He sold his building maintenance company, Accord Plc, for about £150 million in 2007.

R on the Application of Stefanou v Westminster City Council. Case Number: CO/4918/2016

westminster council makes a U turn on planning policy re mega basements

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