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The Planning (Subterranean Development) Bill [HL] is a private member’s bill introduced by Lord Dubs (Labour). The Bill received its first reading in the House of Lords on 2 June 2015 and is scheduled to receive its second reading on 20 November 2015.

The Bill seeks to make provision for the presumption against granting planning permission in respect of subterranean development where certain conditions apply. The provisions would extend to England only. For the purpose of the Bill, ‘subterranean development’ means development which comprises excavation or building below ground level other than for the purposes of repairing, strengthening or supporting an existing building or structure. If enacted, the Bill would require a local planning authority to refuse planning permission, unless it was reasonably necessary, if the following conditions applied:

  • Following an application to HM Land Registry, a flood indicator showed that the property fell within a river or a sea floodplain.
  • The property comprised a building which was within a terrace.
  • The local planning authority had reasonable grounds to believe that there was significant local opposition. The conditions would be met if the local planning authority received a petition from a substantial number of residents from the area for which it was responsible. The Secretary of State responsible would also have the power to introduce, by statutory instrument, further provision about the circumstances in which a local authority deemed that there was significant local opposition.
  • The local planning authority had reasonable grounds to believe that subterranean development was likely to cause unreasonable interference to the use or enjoyment of the land by others.

Lord Dubs has stated that there has been an “epidemic of these basement excavations”, and argued that people were “highly alarmed at the prospect of such excavations”. The Government has responded that it considers the powers currently available to local authorities “sufficient to control the planning and construction processes of basement development”, explaining that the authorities affected could “adopt appropriate local plan policies”.

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