Britain's top judge weighs into local planning battle over basement extension
17 February 2017 • 12:46am
It is a planning battle that has become a common cause of discontent among homeowners in some of London's wealthiest neighbourhoods. But in submitting plans for a basement to extend his three-storey mews home, one Notting Hill resident has come up against a particularly fearsome opponent. Former gambling director Malcolm Graham's hopes of creating an extra floor underneath his property have met with opposition from none other than the most senior judge in the country, Lord Neuberger. The president of the Supreme Court, who oversaw the landmark Brexit court case on the triggering of Article 50, has become embroiled in the battle in his own backyard by filing objections to his neighbour's plans.
Mr Graham has submitted plans to create the first basement development in the private mews in west London to create "storage and ancillary space". The new floor would stretch underneath the house and below the back garden. But his neighbours are concerned that the narrow street, where properties sell for around £3 million, will be unable to cope with the large vehicles necessary to do the work. Among them are Lord and Lady Neuberger, who responded in January, during the same period the Supreme Court was considering the Government's Brexit appeal. They said in their submission that the development would "reduce the quality of life" for residents both during the building work and afterwards.
Lady Neuberger told the Evening Standard: “We are concerned that this street is just not suitable for basement development.” Cranbrook Basements, who have submitted the application, told the newspaper there would be "no measurable impact" on the local conservator area and pedestrian access would continue to be safe. Council officers have recommended that a planning committee approves the plans for the basement. It comes as Lord Neuberger publicly criticised politicians for not defending the judiciary quickly and clearly enough after the courts ruled that Theresa May must hold a parliamentary vote on triggering Article 50.
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He said judges were “not well treated” after three High Court judges unexpectedly ruled that the Government could not trigger the Brexit negotiations without a vote from peers and MPs. Liz Truss, the Justice Secretary, came under fire for failing to speak out quickly enough after the ruling led to sharp criticism of the judges by some sections of the media. Asked whether politicians responded quickly enough to defend the judiciary and rule of law, Lord Neuberger told Radio 4's Today programme: "They were certainly vocal enough quickly enough after our hearing. "After the (High) Court hearing, I think they could have been quicker and clearer. But we all learn by experience, whether politicians or judges. It's easy to be critical after the event. "They were faced with an unexpected situation from which, like all sensible people, they learned."