Edna O’Brien hits roof over Knightsbridge neighbour’s basement

London is clamping down on huge "iceberg" basements, but Will and Kate’s plans might be the exception


Owners of luxury homes in the capital are flocking to include cavernous “iceberg basements” in their refurbishment plans, despite the fact that the concept was borne of a practical requirement for additional space in London where square footage is at an absolute premium. Density hasn’t posed that major an issue here just yet, but never let that get in the way of a good London trend.

Ironically enough, just as the practice of creating basement extensions bigger in size than their above-ground structures gains traction here, the tide is turning in London. Irish novelist Edna O’Brien is currently at the centre of a localised protest against the construction of a giant basement in Knightsbridge, on the basis the construction din would make it impossible for her to write.

Palatial apartment

O’Brien’s London home of 30 years backs on to a property owned by Canadian TV billionaire David Graham, who has resubmitted plans for a 25ft deep basement of 552sq m (5,945sq ft) that will include a pool, gym, office, laundry and store rooms beneath his seven-bed mansion. The row stems from 2012 when original plans were submitted – and rejected – for a much bigger 1,672sq m (18,000sq ft) basement. The decision is expected later this month. Joining the protest were fashion designer Bruce Oldfield, Duchess of St Albans Gillian Beauclerk and interior designer Nina Campbell.

The upset caused by the construction of these substantial subterranean extensions has already prompted Kensington and Chelsea Council – where two- and three-storey basements were not uncommon – to introduce a strict new policy to combat their spread. However, there’s always an exception to the rule, for instance, when it comes to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and his wife Kate.

Officials from Historic Royal Palaces have applied to build a 50m-long, two-storey basement beneath the orangery in the grounds of Kensington Palace to accommodate staff and free up other palace suites for the royal couple who plan a return to the palace in autumn. Their newly refurbished apartment at Kensington Palace will have 22 rooms and two kitchens. It’s expected the new basement will also house ceremonial dresses from the Royal Collection. The ultimate walk-in wardrobe then.