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'Mole man's' 300,000 repair bill

15 April 08 16:55 GMT

A pensioner who created a labyrinth of tunnels under his house over 40 years has been forced to pay £300,000 for repairs carried out by a council.

Excavations by William Lyttle, 77, who is also known as the "mole man", almost caused the property in Mortimer Road, Hackney, east London, to collapse.

Hackney council evicted him in 2006 to allow work to stabilise the house.

The High Court ordered him to pay the amount within 14 days or the property could be sold to pay the bill.

It is understood Mr Lyttle inherited the 20-room four-storey detached property from his parents.

The house, which is dilapidated, could be worth more than £1m if renovated.

Public danger

On Monday the High Court also extended an order which bans Mr Lyttle from going near the property to ensure he does not damage the restoration work.

Since he was evicted he has been living in temporary council accommodation.

In 2001, his digging led to a 15ft-wide hole in the public footpath.

Fiona Fletcher-Smith, of Hackney Council, said: "Mr Lyttle's actions had led to his home becoming a danger to himself and to the general public.

"Making the property safe is a matter which has incurred considerable expense to the Hackney taxpayer over a number of years, and we are extremely pleased that the court has agreed we should be able to recoup the cost."

Following the order, neighbour Dean Dawson said: "The council has been pussy-footing around him for years.

"They would just check that any work he did had the right planning permission. There has been a distinct lack of action.

"I've got every sympathy with him (Mr Lyttle). He's just a bit eccentric and a bit of a recluse.

"But it does grate on residents when they're told to take down satellite dishes and you just look across the road at all that he's got away with."

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