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A Batcave in De Beauvoir? We shine light on basement dig plans that have neighbours on a crusade

PUBLISHED: 12:30 19 May 2016 | UPDATED: 18:14 06 October 2017

The vicarage in Mortimer Road (Picture: Ken Mears)

The vicarage in Mortimer Road (Picture: Ken Mears)

Archant

Extraordinary plans for a lavish two-storey basement extension at a listed vicarage in De Beauvoir Square have been met with strong opposition by neighbours and heritage groups. The Gazette found out why developers across London will be keeping an eye on this one.

The Batcave, pictured on Google StreetView - not in Hackney but at a (currently) fictional location (Picture: Google StreetView) The Batcave, pictured on Google StreetView - not in Hackney but at a (currently) fictional location (Picture: Google StreetView)

Holy smokes! Neighbours, heritage groups and a church are leading a crusade against plans for a “Batcave”-style basement extension at a listed vicarage in De Beauvoir Square.

Property developer Nicole Bremner wants to dig a six-car garage (with turning circle and car lift), swimming pool, sauna, steam room, whirlpool, shower and pool bar underneath her garden.

But the extensive work, the planned felling of protected trees and the fact the building is in a conservation area have led to a host of objections.

Nick Perry of the Hackney Society planning group told the Gazette: “It’s ridiculous. I’m all for people making their homes better but it has to be where there is space to do it.

“This subterranean lair, with its vehicle lift and glass-topped staircase has all the mystery of the Batcave.

"This subterranean lair, with its vehicle lift and glass-topped staircase has all the mystery of the Batcave."

Nick Perry, the Hackney Society

“It’s a shame the four trees that must be removed to make way for the underground car parking spaces can’t be made to pivot out of the way, on demand, like something out of Thunderbirds.

“With a footprint larger than the vicarage, and a use completely at odds with Hackney’s car-free policies, it’s hard to see how the applicant thought this was even worth thinking about, let alone paying an architect to draw up plans. I suppose it gives us a taste of what the future might hold.”

A neighbour argued the “complete overdevelopment” could set a dangerous precedent for future applications.

And that view was echoed by an architect, who told the Gazette the lack of policy for basement extensions at the council meant developers would be keeping a close eye on the decision.

She said: “I have applied for these in Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster but in those areas they need a ground investigation assessment by a geologist.

Plans for the 'Batcave' reveal a high-tech 'car lift' to slot vehicles into a below-ground garage Plans for the 'Batcave' reveal a high-tech 'car lift' to slot vehicles into a below-ground garage

“As neighbours these are the main statements you consider when deciding whether to object. But Hackney doesn’t ask for them. They only ask for a construction method statement as a condition, so you don’t need to invest too much money to apply.

“The council needs to change its policy to protect its own people, if only to make sure things are done properly.

“If my neighbour was to apply for a basement extension I’d want to make sure my property was not affected. The only way to do that is to check the planning documents.

“Homes like this one often don’t sit on proper foundations and a ground investigation will give an idea of what is in the area.”

The vicarage used to belong to the neighbouring St Peter’s church before being sold to housing association Circle 33 in 1982.

Penshurst Road in Hackney has been closed for weeks after a basement dig saw concrete accidentally poured into a sewer (Picture: Ken Mears) Penshurst Road in Hackney has been closed for weeks after a basement dig saw concrete accidentally poured into a sewer (Picture: Ken Mears)

And a spokeswoman for St Peter’s Parochial Church Council said churchgoers were “deeply concerned” about the impact it could have.

Basement digs have caused problems before in Hackney. In 2014 a row erupted in Wilberforce Road, Finsbury Park, over a flurry of extensions – and last week the Gazette wrote about a sewage pipe being filled with concrete during a dig in Penshurst Road.

Nicole Bremner did not respond to a request for comment.

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