Oct. 11 - Homeowners in some of London's most affluent neighbourhoods are adding value to their properties by digging down - building luxury basements with swimming pools, wine cellars and even dog spas. But as Hayley Platt reports, resistance to the trend is growing and local councils are cracking down.
London property is among the world's most expensive. But there's very little room to expand and that's led to a new trend. Digging down is on the up. Wealthy home owners in particular are installing underground extensions - to add space and value. Alan Waxman of Landmass specialises in dig downs. SOUNDBITE: Alan Waxman, founder of Landmass, saying (English): "We know that for the cost of £500 or £600 a square foot in return you're going to get back £2-3,000 a sq foot. So from a simple mathematical point of view it makes common sense because the cost of moving is making people think twice, we already have a house, I can for that money increase the value of my own property." But as the number of planning applications increase so does the number of complaints about them. Even a relatively small excavation can produce around 200 lorry loads of earth and take up to a year to complete. Randa Hanna is Head of Planning for Belgravia's Resident's Association. SOUNDBITE: Randa Hanna, Belgravia's Resident's Association, saying (English): "Now that this has multiplied you go to some streets and you find three or four different digs. So people can't park, and you have all the work that's associated with that; huge skips, noise non-stop but these are all the artificial things. Then you've got all the physical problems; you've got cracking in some cases you're got structural problems, you've got flooding in others." Next door in Kensington and Chelsea applications are at an all time high - more than 160 so far this year, on top of around 300 last year. Twelve years ago it was just 46. One of them is from Russian billionaire Roman Abramovitch, who's wants to spend £10 million on a two-storey basement. Formula 1 heiress Tamara Ecclestone is building another - complete with a spa for her dogs. And one man has even applied to build under the road outside his house. The authorities have now woken to the trend - new regulations will in introduced next year to limit the size and number of basement builds. But that's just created a digging frenzy. SOUNDBITE: Randa Hanna, Belgravia's Resident's Association, saying (English): "There is suddenly a rush to put in all these applications before the rules come in. It's huge. We hope that councils will feel stronger knowing that these regulations are coming in." None of this addresses the environmental concerns some have about digging out London's foundations. But with some properties in the city selling for more than a small island many are focussing on the returns rather than any risk.