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Tory donor's plan for mega-basement with pool and yoga room thwarted... by two trees


Tory donor's plan for mega-basement with pool and yoga room thwarted... by two trees

Mega basement: The subterranean luxury development plan

Ruth Bloomfield 

A Conservative Party donor who had planned to build one of the largest and most opulent basement extensions ever seen in central London has been thwarted — by a pair of trees.

Kensington & Chelsea council has thrown out plans for a triple-decker subterranean complex beneath a  Victorian villa in Holland Park.

It was to have included a 25m pool, an entertainment room, a wine cellar, a cigar room, massage rooms, a two-level gym, a dance/yoga studio, plus a hot tub, sauna and steam rooms.

The works would have added more than 16,000 sq ft of living space to the £20 million house owned by Edmund and Carol Lazarus, creating an “iceberg home” with more room below ground than above it.

However, it emerged today that the council — which is under pressure to curtail the craze for lavish basement extensions — has rejected the plans.

An exterior view of the Tory donor's £20m house

Jonathan Bore, its executive director in charge of planning, ruled that the excavations would damage trees in the property’s garden, in particular two London planes which are both more than 60ft tall. The excavation would involve severing part of the roots of these trees which Mr Bore says would compromise their “health and vitality”.

“The impact of development on the health, stability, appearance and longevity of high quality trees on and near the site would be such the character and appearance of the property and the Holland Park Conservation Area would be harmful altered,” said Mr Bore, in a report.

Another issue is that the extension, at 16,049 sq ft, is so large that council rules which usually apply only to commercial property developments mean the couple are liable for a contribution of about £900,000 towards affordable housing as a condition of being granted planning permission.

Mr and Mrs Lazarus, who bought the house in 2010 for £16.2 million, argue that they should not have to pay as their proposals do not involve creating extra homes. Mr Bore believes there should be no exceptions to the rule.

The couple, who have a young family, can now abandon their plans — which would cost an estimated £10 million to execute — or take the case to appeal.

Mr Lazarus, 45, made his fortune as an investment banker before setting up private equity firm Bregal Capital in 2002. He studied at Oxford, where he became a close friend of Education Secretary Michael Gove, and is a former Westminster councillor. He and his wife have donated at least £95,000 to the Conservative Party in the past two years.

Mayor Boris Johnson appointed Mr Lazarus chairman of the London Green Fund, a £100 million project to invest in schemes to cut carbon emissions.

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