Record numbers join the ‘don’t move, improve’ brigade

More Londoners than ever upgraded their homes last year, proof that the sticky property market is fuelling a “don’t move, improve” revolution across the capital.
Loft bedroom
© Alamy
Big ideas: need an extra bedroom? More Londoners than ever are finding extra space in their lofts and basements
A survey of domestic planning applications - ranging from basement extensions to loft conversions - shows 64,000 Londoners joined the race for more space last year, up 14 per cent on 2010.

“People will always need more space, but if they cannot afford to move they will improve what they have got, and hope to increase the value of their home,” says Adam Valentine of construction tracker Barbour ABI, which tracks the UK construction industry and carried out today’s research.

The greatest number of projects are being carried out in equity-rich boroughs like Westminster (5,947) and leafy middle class areas like Barnet (3,359) and Richmond-upon-Thames (3,163).

The biggest number of projects took place in Hackney, where planning applications soared by 76 per cent year-on-year. Ealing, Southwark and Tower Hamlets also saw strong growth.

Brian Berry, director of external affairs at the Federation of Master Builders, said today’s figures could be the tip of the iceberg as they do not include works carried out under permitted development rights.

Key projects include extending kitchens, particularly in suburban areas where 1930s houses tend to have small kitchens. “This probably adds greater value than anything as everyone wants a big family space.” said Berry.

The period stock of west and south-west London are prime candidates for loft extensions: spending up to £40,000 on a new bedroom suite can add up to 15 per cent to the value of a home. Tricky and expensive basement extensions, which cost from £100,000, are mainly the preserve of prime central London.

Stars are among the improvers - Kate Moss is building a basement extension beneath her home in Highgate, Benedict Cumberbatch is amalgamating two flats in Hampstead, and heiress Tamara Ecclestone is overseeing a refurbishment of her home in Kensington, complete with underground bowling alley and nail bar.

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