Hello David. Can you please tell me how you got to become chairman of the advisory panel to the House of Lords for the Subterranean Development Bill?
Lord Selsdon, a senior peer who has enjoyed a varied career in politics and industry introduced a private members bill in 2014. He approached me to assist with drafting the bill and I enlisted the help of several party wall surveyors, a structural engineer and a geotechnical expert. Lord Selsdon and I met in the course of a party wall matter at his home. The advisory panel has since met several times and held meetings with government officials.
What has this bill replaced?
There was no comparable legislation in place before this bill was introduced. The closest legislation to the Subterranean Development Bill was the Party Wall etc. Act 1996.
Can you tell us what this new bill will entail?
Essentially the new bill spreads the distance with which the work is notifiable to 9 metres away. The Party Wall etc. Act is currently 6 metres. There will be codes of practice for building work and codes of conduct for best possible practise which a developer will be bound to adhere to.
What are the cost implications involved?
Since the distance will be increasing, more neighbours will be involved in notification so that some increase in professional costs is likely.
Is this bill a good idea in your opinion?
Yes! An excavation can take up to 2 years, everything moves – upwards when the load is lifted by removing soil and back down again when it’s loaded up with new structure. Dust, noise and vibrations can all be extremely disruptive and this bill will create regulations to help basement construction become a less unneighbourly process!
When will this bill be passed?
It was on hold while the coalition government was in power, and we were planning a meeting in the Summer. The recent general election may have some impact on timetable but we hope there may still be a chance to introduce the bill in the next parliamentary session.
What are the most popular reasons for building underground?
Swimming pools, garages, cinemas and gyms are all popular. Even nightclubs sometimes!
How do you think the bill will be received?
I think it’ll be welcomed. I’ve been liaising with the Ladbroke Association – a local pressure group in Notting Hill who deal with all things property with a particular interest in basements. Most pressure groups are well organised and are keen to promote good practise and control.