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Man evicted over tunnel network

9 August 06 14:29 GMT

A pensioner has been evicted from his property after burrowing a 60ft-long tunnel network under his own property.

William Lyttle, 75, has excavated a network of tunnels under his house in Mortimer Road, Hackney, over the last four decades.

Hackney Borough Council feared Mr Lyttle's activities potentially endangered public safety.

Council engineers won an order to evict him so they could carry out emergency repairs to make the property safe.

After the repair work is completed, engineers are planning to assess the full scale of the tunnels and see whether they run under neighbouring properties and roads.

Hackney Borough Council said it believed Mr Lyttle bought the 20-room four-storey property about 30 years ago.

It was originally two separate houses but Mr Lyttle knocked them through to make one complete house.

A spokesperson said if it was in good condition today, the property would be worth an estimated £1m.

The tunnels were first discovered after complaints by nearby residents about rats and pigeons in the area.

Repair bill

Following up neighbours' concerns, an inspection was planned by environmental health officers in June 2003.

On arriving at Mr Lyttle's home, they called off the assessment because the property was judged unsafe.

Eric Bussey, who lives nearby said: "It's an eyesore. You don't want to look at that while you're sitting in your house looking onto your street."

The property is on a bus route and as such, the council said the clear breach of public safety has forced them to act and obtain the eviction order.

"It's private property and until it became a danger to the public we were unable to tackle it," said a council spokeswoman.

"It's essentially up to the courts to decide that and the problem in the past has been that the courts have not agreed with the council."

The repair is expected to cost thousands of pounds to which Mr Lyttle will be liable.

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