You’ll have heard about the way in which the rich are digging down to create basements and super basements under their houses. You’ll have heard about the planning fees some of them have had to pay; about the swimming pools, gyms and cinemas; and you will have heard about the disruption to their neighbours’ peace.
But I wonder if you have thought about how it is done.
Ed Smith explains in the article. You somehow get a mini digger or two through your back doors or windows (just about possible without destroying the entire structure of the house). Then you dig.
But you then have the problem of having a digger that has dug itself so deep, it can’t drive out again (diggers can’t go up spiral staircases). So what do you do?
You could get in a crane and lift it out, but these diggers are only worth £6,000 or so, and cranes don’t come cheap in central London.
So, it turns out you get it to dig another hole big enough for it to fit into. Then you cover it up with a bit of gravel and a pouring of concrete and you leave it there.
The result? There are some 1,000 diggers buried in London (assuming this isn’t a joke – surely it is worth dismantling the diggers for scrap if they can’t come out whole).
And developers are now coming across a second generation problem: when they go in to dig another basement level down, their path is blocked by “abandoned diggers from the last round of improvements.”
This is clearly financially rational to a degree – why pay more to recover something than it is worth on the open market. But it is also completely bonkers – given that the average basement cinema is very unlikely to ever be actually used. Sacrificing the country’s mini diggers to create them seems rather unproductive.
• If anyone has any evidence that the above story (first read in the New Statesman) is nonsense, please do let us know. We have our doubts.