How the "global super-rich" have honeycombed London's posh neighbourhoods with sub-basements, sub-sub-basements, and sub-sub-sub-sub-sub-basements


I’m not sure that I get why this activates peoples plutocrat hate. These are rich people that want to live downtown instead of out in the country. If it makes people feel any better, I’m noticing that like Grenfell tower, there is only one stairway. So if there is a fire upstairs, these people will be similarly trapped with no way out.


If they want to live downtown they can follow the spirit of the zoning rules and being good neighbours. If they don’t want to follow in that spirit they might at least make their basement workarounds serve a purpose more practical or value-adding than conspicuous consumption.

You get a Like for finding the silver lining!


OK, sure, not exactly the same thing: they’re building up or out instead of down, they’re not doing it in England. However, they’re extending their houses or replacing them with much larger ones (in my non-plutocratic neighborhood houses are regularly replaced by houses twice the size), and many of the amenities are comparable to the ones in the London houses. Most of the London owners would probably be happy to extend their living spaces the same way – after all, it would be cheaper – but planning permission doesn’t permit it. Yes, it is much more expensive to do it in London, so it looks like wealthy excess, but the basic principle is the same. They’re trying to increase the size of their living space, and maybe the value, and doing it the only way that is permitted.

The linked article sets out to examine the narrative that most of these excavations represent “luxified subterranean lairs of gigantic proportions” and does a good job of debunking it, a the same time highlighting that the twisted distribution of wealth in London does make it possible for a number of people to create excessive mega-basements.

The problem isn’t the basements. It is the property values in London and the distribution of wealth. Most of the homeowners creating these basements are doing exactly roughly the same thing as homeowners everywhere often do.

As for

gross displays of conspicuous consumption

this seems to me to be truer in the American examples – where the extensions are, for example, visible – than for the London hidden basement examples.

If living in a particular neighbourhood is important enough then abide by the zoning restrictions instead of bypassing them

If there are zoning restrictions that they are bypassing then they should be brought before the relevant authority (and the basement filled in at their expense). Otherwise, let’s not pretend they’re doing something they’re not.


There’s an opal mining town in central Australia named Coober Pedy. As the temperatures on the surface tend to hover around the 50°C mark, most people live underground.

The opal is scattered over a field a few hundred kilometres wide, and the town is built bang in the middle of it; there’s opal underfoot. But in order to minimise noise and dust, there’s a rule forbidding mining within the town limits.

However, if you just happen to stumble across some opal while you’re digging a new room for your underground house, you’re allowed to keep it.

As a consequence, Coober Pedy is now full of single men who live in gigantic underground mansions with a dozen bedrooms each.


The differences go beyond that, but as long as you acknowledge it’s not exactly the same there’s room for discussion.

My primary residence is on the edge of a plutocratic neighbourhood. I know people with $100-million+ in net worth living here and in other places for whom these kinds of additions (down, up, or sideways) make no sense from the point of view of adding value, of enjoying and regularly using the amenities (adding room for a disco is not just trying to “increase the size of living space”), or of enhancing the neighbourhood.

There are currently foreign buyers who are pushing things in this neighbourhood the same way the Russian oligarchs are in London (here mostly teardowns replaced by outsized monstrosities), but the longtime residents (UHNWIs and HNWIs who themselves have tennis courts and large swimming pools and outdoors sculptures on their properties) do not look kindly on them or the garish eyesores they’re building.

For example, I know one older couple who reluctantly cashed out of their home when some shady character from Central Asia bought the lot next door, did a teardown of a perfectly lovely home that was in line with the character of the neighbourhood, and put up the sort of oversized mini-palace that only the likes of Il Douche would consider “elegant” and “classy.” I’m sure that some residents of these London neighbourhoods are doing the same thing rather than put up with the consequences, present and potential, of all these basement projects and the kind of people who build them.

I’ll agree there. What makes this situation abnormal and the displays of conspicuous consumption so gross is the fact that only plutocrats can afford to buy houses there. If they were just inconveniencing other plutocrats no-one would be complaining, but the long-time residents of these neighbourhoods and those people who’ve been priced out of the city as a whole are understandably not happy about being put in these situations so someone can have a car elevator.

The articles describe the basement amenities as little more thanan arms race between oligarchs. It’s intramural scorekeeping using money there. Americans in roomier areas tend to make it an extramural display. Either way having an in-home disco or the apparent extra room for it is not adding any real value to anyone’s lives.

Who’s pretending? I’m saying they’re bypassing the spirit of the zoning laws. I won’t hold my breath for the municipal authorities in London to do anything that would upset foreign or domestic oligarchs, though.


I suddenly have the urge to establish yet another award for books/films/whatever and name it The Multi Award.


FTFY. :blush:


Yeah, that’s a guilty Saturday afternoon’s pleasure for me, too. There’s a channel here that plays the DVD equivalent of ‘straight-to-video’ movies.



That happens in my town, but is notably rare in London exactly because of the planning rules that force the construction down into the basements.

The articles describe the basement amenities as little more thanan arms race between oligarchs.

One of the things the linked article does is fact-check the claims of all these other clickbaity articles that have been written on the situation.

I’m saying they’re bypassing the spirit of the zoning laws.

The reason they’re getting planning permission (and not bypassing the zoning laws) is because their construction retains the character of the neighborhood by building underground. I wish that was the case in my part of the world, and apparently yours.


But basement extensions do add to the house’s value. The new owner gets the space without the time, risk and aggro of getting the work done themselves, and if they don’t like the decor they can renovate it…

In the linked article a specialist basement archiitect says:

Maybe the [main] property’s worth £2,000 per square foot, and the basement maybe £1,500 or even £1,000 per square foot. But because I can build that for £500 per square foot, there’s a simple commercial decision there.


One of these days I must look into British planning/zoning codes, but Tyrol is first in line.


I have a friend in South London, and right before she got priced out of her place I visited, and she told me about how everyone up the hill (she was at the bottom of the hill) had dug pools into their basements, but then they couldn’t get the tiny backhoes used for digging out, so they dug deeper, buried the backhoes, and then put the pools on top of that. We laughed about what archaeologists of the future will think, but the rest of it wasn’t that funny. She also had a neighbor two doors down who didn’t want to park his Lamborghini in his own driveway, and he kept trying to get her to let him use hers (she didn’t have a car), and was kind of aggressive about it until she finally told him to get bent.



Wait… that’s Matthew McConaughey? Doesn’t look like him! I don’t know the Scorupco, but I recognized Christian Bale…

I’ll have to check this out. Sounds right up my geeky alley!


Yeah, when Matthew McC starts talking, it rings a big gong in your head, but it takes awhile to figure out it’s him. I remember thinking it was Woody Harrelson for several minutes. Eventually, he said something drawl-y that clicked with “Allright, allright, allright!” from Dazed and Confused.


Here’s where I have an advantage, because I’m one of those people who are really good at facial recognition. I suppose it stands to reason that I’m a portrait artist.


I always get those two confused.


I guess I’m not understanding everything you are saying here. Who is making excuses? Of course there are those who are intent on dominating everyone else. Just look at the Koch Bros. But also, look around you, look at what is being done to the Earth, our water, our air, other species, our climate. Whether it is a majority of humans or a handful, the impact upon this planet is obvious. I know many persons who simply don’t give a shit about anything other than their own lives and well being. Too much air pollution? Why just double down and buy a diesel truck and convert it to a rolling coaler. Species are dying, hmmm, gee, I’m planning my fall bear hunt next week, oh well. The water has toxins in it? The hell you say, oh well, I’m all for fracking. That’s how millions of Amerikans think. It isn’t just a few vastly wealthy people. Wer’e all frogs in a pot, slowly boiling. I mean, hell, trump is our fucking president. As a species, I believe, unless we have evolved to understand how we are truly impacting our earth and attempt to mitigate it, we are all part of the problem.


I’m assuming HMSGoose will be taken in the rapture. But I don’t know HMSGoose, just a guess.