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Friday, 4 March 2016


It's good to see Mr Stallwood taking no prisoners...
The history is HERE
Ex City trader, Stephen Fairholme, made a retrospective planning application for his humungous basement at 32 Abingdon Villas which had been built in excess of the plans originally approved by the Council. 
Fortunately, vigilant neighbours alerted the Kensington and Chelsea Planning Department about what was going on and Deputy Planning Chairman, Cllr Mackover, took the Council’s  Enforcement Team on site with their tape measures. 
Huge discrepancies were discovered and at the Planning Meeting scheduled for 8th March the recommendation is that Mr Fairholme will have to build a new wall to reduce the size of his hole and bring it within the planning guidelines.

Mr Fairholme told the Evening Standard that the “builder dug an illegal basement and he (Mr Fairholme) found out too late to do anything about it”.
This is disputed by the builders, Cranbrook...

Planning Director, Graham Stallwood has insisted that an independent Chartered Engineer should be appointed to oversee the work and ensure that it is completed as approved. 
No Engineer. No basement.


  1. And well done Sam Mackover for forcing the issue....keep it up!

    1. Fly On The Wall4 March 2016 at 18:05

      Cllr Mackover has emerged as a strong and fair minded Chairman of the Planning Committee. He had no hesitation pulling on his wellies and dragging along Officers to 32 Abingdon Villas to measure up. Compared with the plans presented by Knight Frank in the retrospective approval application, Officers found an extra 2 meters over the permitted 50% of garden limit and a dig out that is 400mm deeper than the plan that was approved by the Council in 2013.

      There are enormous water table problems in this part of London and the unapproved excavation caused serious flooding and danger to neighbour foundations.

      The flood water was illegally pumped into the sewers and Thames Water has a separate enforcement action.

    2. This a clear example of good governance. And what happens when a clear minded Councillor takes charge and instructs Officers.

      Lets hope that Cllr Mackover has started a "movement".

  2. This is a positive story. However, it's unlikely that a businessman like Fairholme personally oversaw such a large and complex building project. He probably engaged a project manager whose duty it was to ensure the work was done exactly according to the home owner's wishes and ensure the ongoing builders' bills precisely equated to the work completed. The excuse that a builder went on an unpaid building binge for the benefit of a customer, is frankly tosh.

    1. The Dames's Investigator4 March 2016 at 17:52

      Fairholme is very hands on. He has made 24 Planning Applications for this project, personally doing the work himself, to push the boundaries When the going got tough he hired Knight Frank as his consultant to cosy up to the Town Planners and get his retrospective application approved.

      But for once, Planning Director Graham Stallwood would have none of it.

    2. Mr Fairholme has little time for the law and little time for neighbours. He is not a nice person.

      He wrote to the Council to say that their basement policy is rubbish and they should in fact be approving more and bigger basements.

    3. Stephen Fairholme should leave Kensington and go to live in East Europe with his ghastly family and nasty personal habits.

    4. The Dame's Investigator needs to sharpen her pencil. Fairholme hired Savills to cosy up to Officers - not Knight Frank.

    5. The buck stops with Fairholme... sooner he goes away the better

  3. Many of the basement approvals over the last several years require that an independent engineer supervise construction. My understanding is the planning department has not been strictly enforcing these and this case shows the dangers. There should be some very nervous developers out there right now.

    1. Retired Chief Executive5 March 2016 at 10:52

      I have read the Report from Officers that will be presented to the Planning Meeting on Tuesday 8th March. It is a sad indictment of the way that planning is conducted in the Royal Borough.

      Mr Fairholme applied for approval of a huge basement in 2013 and this was refused. He was eventually given planning permission for a basement that fell within the guidelines of the new basement policy. ie one floor only and no more than 50% of the garden.

      Fairholme went ahead and dug the bigger basement anyway and then hired Savills in November 2015 to apply for a retrospective planning approval. Savills met with Officers in Hornton Street in private to discuss matters and then Officers wrote to the Planning Committee recommending approval, in spite of vigourous objections from neighbours, Ward Councillors and the MP.

      The Chairman of the Planning Committee, Cllr Sam Mackover, decided that something was fishy. Extremely fishy. He insisted that the retrospective application should be withdrawn from the Planning Meeting in December 2015 and he personally visited the site with Offciers to measure up. They found:
      (i) the basement was longer and deeper than approved.
      (ii) it stretched to more than 50% of the garden
      (iii) the plans presented to the Council by Savills, on behalf of Mr Fairholme, showed a basement that was smaller than what had actually been excavated.

      This is a story of a lax and compliant planning regime. It is incompetent or corrupt. Everyone is scratching everyones back and if you know the right people a nod and a wink can get anything approved. Even if it contravenes specific rules.

      It is truly surprising that a brand like Savills is prepared to bat for a client without first of all ensuring that the evidence it uses (ie the false plan that was presented to the Council) is accurate.

      The hero of this story is Cllr Mackover, Chairman of the Planning Committee. He called a halt, insisted on a site investigation in his presence, and made certain that the deception was exposed.

      Offciers are now recommending some draconian measures. The basement has to be reduced in size. Construction has been halted. No further work can be carried out before an independent Chartered Engineer is appointed to oversee the work. All of this is a welcome relief for long suffering neighbours. But it is a situation that should not have been allowed in the first place.

      Cllr Paget-Brown needs to sit up and take notice. Lax and incompetent planning practices cannot be allowed to exist alongside controversial matters like basement excavations. The clamour from residents is well known. New policies need to be strictly enforced at the outset and if the Director of Planning cannot do this then he should be fired. Consultants like Savills need to understand that policies are "for real" and cannot be manipulated between friends.

      It is not satisfactory in a democratic system to have to fall back on public servants like Cllr Mackover and force them to take personal risks with their careers with last minute interventions. It is extremely unusual to find people who are prepared to go the extra mile for no reason other than "it is the right thing to do". Government cannot be conducted on this basis.

  4. Fairholme is a bully. He regularly attacks neighbours and has caused such fear an loathing in Abingdon Villas that it will be impossible for him and his East European wife to live there once his basement is rebuilt to comply with planning restrictions.

    1. Late one night the Chairman of the Residents Association, Anthony Walker, was balled out through his intercom at home by Stephen Fairholme who was angry that the Residents Association had objected to one of his 24 planning applications to dig his basement.

    2. Mr Fairholme does not like Mr Walker. He wrote to the Council to complain that Mr walker lives in a 2300 square foot flat "all by himself".

      Fairholme is barking

    3. Any person who dares to oppose Mr Fairholme can expect a bashing from this 6 foot 3 inches bully.

  5. After one altercation with an elderly neighbour, excrement was pushed through her letter box late the same night. It is not of course suggested that Mr FAirholme had anything to do with this.

    1. Fly On The Wall5 March 2016 at 06:10

      Mr Fairholme has investigated all of his neighbours and reported those with Non Domicile status and those living in homes owned by Offshore Trusts for not paying taxes. The man is deranged. Seriously deranged.

  6. Piggmy drivel. Fairholme will appeal and get his basement.

    1. you spell pygmy like this

  7. Not necessarily. Overall the Inspectorate are quite canny.

    What may well occur is that the new wall will be built. Then once the fuss is over, it will be quietly knocked through and the 'lost' rooms reopened. A solution to this possibility is to pump liquid concrete into the illegal space. Removing tonnes of solid concrete will be impossible to hide.

  8. Fairholme is a neighbour from hell. He reported one elderly lady to the DVLA for erratic driving and she was required to take a driving test again. Which she passed, thankfully.

    Who needs a neighbour like that???

  9. Person Familiar With The Situation5 March 2016 at 10:13

    Mr Fairholme and his wife Stefani are both in a hole. They used to be well paid City bankers and bought their £5 million, four story, Kensington house with the biggest mortgage they could get. And they earmarked next year's bonus for the obligatory City fashion statement - a basement for the au pair and a games room.

    Stafani lost her job and now works for a charity. Stephen lost his job too and found it difficult to find more work. He discovered that it is not a good idea to take former employers to Court for paying an "inadequate" year end bonus of £230k. Now he tries to make a living as a Headhunter, using his City contacts. But it seems that not many contacts like to deal with Mr Fairholme. He told his builder that he has no more money. "The company is finished".

    The dreadful Fairholme failed to remortgage to pay for the £1 million basement addition which he already started to dig with savings. With diminished income he is no longer "bankable".

    So he goes for broke. Build the biggest basement possible, and in excess of what was authorised, so that he can sell at a huge profit to pay off his debts.

    A tale of City greed and hubris.

  10. Fairholme never had any intention of conforming with the planning permission that he obtained for his basement. He likes to get what he wants and therefore does what he wants. This is who he is.


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