Wealthy Londoners race underground before basement bonanza ends

Thu Sep 5, 2013 12:34pm EDT
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By Belinda Goldsmith

LONDON (Reuters) - Wealthy homeowners in some of London's most affluent neighborhoods are racing to build luxury basements with swimming pools and wine cellars before new rules limiting underground developments come into force.

Over the past decade a growing number of property owners unable to build up or out in tight London streets have opted to dig down, bypassing rules governing above-ground work and encouraged by technological advances in building basements.

Tetra Pak heir Hans Rausing this week joined the list of the super wealthy to get approval to build a pool, cinema, and cigar room under his London mansion where his wife's body lay hidden for two months last year after her drug-related death.

Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich, Formula 1 heiress Tamara Ecclestone, and steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal are among those dabbling with basement extensions in recent years.

But the construction of mega basements is about to be reined in with authorities in the two most affected London areas finalizing stricter rules for subterranean work in response to community anger about the disruption and structural impact.

Final comments on the plans had to be submitted this week.

Resident groups around London have grown increasingly angry about basement extensions causing noise and disturbance during construction, traffic problems, vermin, and fear developments will impact structural stability of nearby buildings.

"There were just no rules and we've had quite a few accidents, such as a skip (dumpster) cracking through the street and water leaking into neighboring properties," said Randa Hanna, spokeswoman for the Belgravia Residents' Association.   Continued...