Income raised from a new Westminster Council levy will pay for a dedicated enforcement team to protect residents during construction by monitoring noise, working hours and truck deliveries.
The first of its kind in the UK, the levy is being drawn as part of the council’s new Code of Construction Practice, which clearly sets out best practice for building sites such as basements. The code will also be rolled out over the coming months to cover larger developments in the city.
Councillor Robert Davis MBE DL, Westminster City Council Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for the Built Environment, said: “We are protecting local residents, many of whom have found the explosion of basement and other development in recent years difficult to live near during their extensive construction period.
“It is right that those who want to build basements should contribute to this new service, which will work to help mitigate the negative impacts. “We support the right kind of growth and are not against all basement development, but they must be carried out in a way that is considerate to local residents and the environment.”
New rules include planning controls limiting basements to a single storey and no more than 50% of total garden land.
The ‘subterranean squad’ will:
- take a degree of oversight and control, for example making sites coordinate their deliveries and reduce the cumulative impact on residents
- check that developers are keeping neighbours informed for instance via newsletters or site meetings
- enforce stricter working hours so as to avoid noisy works at inconvenient times such as Saturday mornings
- provide a point of contact for residents with complaints – with the power to enforce against overly noisy sites under statutory powers
- monitor the level and impacts of traffic to sites
- also police development sites of over 10 residential units, or over 1000m2 commercial floorspace
The new powers will only apply to basements which gained planning permission from August 2016 onward, and other major development schemes from September.
Westminster has been awarded funds to create a Marylebone Low Emission Neighbourhood scheme to help improve air quality for residents.
The award comes from the Mayor of London’s Air Quality Fund and will be match-funded by the council and private sector partners to introduce new measures, including:
• A new building energy efficiency scheme
• Improving public realm spaces and creating greener spaces
• Introducing play streets for families to enjoy
• Vehicle delivery plans to reduce traffic
• Increasing patrols by ‘Air Marshals’ to enforce "no engine idling"
• Engine idling Action days when volunteers ask drivers to switch off engines when stationary
• Piloting a dedicated and bookable electric vehicle charging point scheme
Marylebone suffers some of the highest pollution levels in London, given the area’s location, mix of land uses, building density and type, and number of vehicle trips. Its location between major transport routes results in a complex urban air quality problem with levels of nitrogen dioxide that exceed recommended health levels and very high levels of particulate matter. This is particularly concerning given the number of young families, schools, universities, businesses and medical facilities in Marylebone.
Other areas in Westminster also suffer from high pollution and the Low Emission zone funding builds on the efforts launched in 2015 to enforce ‘no engine idling’ at hotspots across the city.
Heather Acton, Cabinet Member for Sustainability and Parking said: “I am delighted that our proposal has been successful. It is a true community partnership. We now look forward to putting the proposals into action, creating a cleaner, greener Marylebone, and replicating the successful measures across Westminster".
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