Subterranean Development Bill

Saturday, 4th August 2012 | by: Justin Burns

The Subterranean Development Bill was originally an amendment to the Localism Bill sponsored by Lord Selsdon and drafted by members of the Pyramus & Thisbe Club.

The driving force behind the bill appears to be resident associations in affluent areas of London such as Belgravia and Highgate where many members of the House of Lords have properties.

Key points:

  1. Applies where works are those of excavation for and construction of building or engineering works to form new or additional accommodation for any purpose below ground level.
  2. Owners planning such works will have to submit a Subterranean Development (SD) Application to the relevant local planning authority. The application will have to include all relevant information required by the code of practice.
  3. The distance set out in section 6(2) (adjacent excavation and construction) of the 1996 Act will increase from 6 to 9 metres.
  4. Any surveyor appointed in accordance with section 10 of the 1996 Act must be qualified by examination and experience in building surveying or construction matters, be a member of a recognised professional body and hold a current and adequate Professional Indemnity insurance policy.
  5. If a building owner fails to serve notice before commencing SD works, he or she shall be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale or 10 per cent of the contract value reasonably to be expected in relation to the notifiable works, whichever shall be the greater.
  6. Where a building owner commences work on a SD and the work is suspended for a period of 6 months or more, an adjoining owner may serve notice requiring the building owner to replace any temporary weatherings with permanent durable weather proofing construction; to complete any works of underpinning and to replace any temporary propping or shoring with permanent durable construction.

The full text of the Act can be read at

The Private Member’s Bill was introduced by Lord Selsdon, read a first time in the House of Lords on 8th December 2011. At the bill’s second reading on 10th February 2012 Lady Hanham, the minister, indicated that it was unlikely that the Government would support new primary legislation and that the measures within the bill should be dealt with by providing Local Authorities with extra clout to enforce existing regulations:

“I hope I have made it clear that further legislative measures are unnecessary. However, we must find a way to ensure that all the issues that have been raised in the Bill are taken into account, to see where legislation may need to be updated.”

The next step will be to identify those regulations and I understand further meetings between members of the advisory committee and Government officials are continuing.

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