The city where excavators bury themselves
Up to 1000 excavators are buried under the expensive houses of west London, left there by wealthy homeowners who find it cheaper and easier to entomb the diggers in their own holes than to pay for a crane to lift them out.
A report by Ed Smith in the New Statesman says the only way to extend most of the prime properties in suburbs such as Belgravia, Chelsea, Mayfair and Notting Hill is to dig down, for which a digger is brought in. But once the hole is deep enough the excavator is unable to get out by itself.
"Initially, the developers would often use a large crane to scoop up the digger, which was by now nestled almost out of sight at the bottom of a deep hole," Smith writes.
"Then they began to calculate the cost-benefit equation of this procedure. First, a crane would have to be hired; second, the entire street would need to be closed for a day while the crane was manoeuvred into place. Both of these stages were very expensive, not to mention unpopular among the distinguished local residents.
"A new solution emerged: simply bury the digger in its own hole. Given the exceptional profits of London property development, why bother with the expense and hassle of retrieving a used digger – worth only £5,000 or £6,000 – from the back of a house that would soon be sold for several million? The time and money expended on rescuing a digger were better spent moving on to the next big deal."
The excavators simply dig their own grave below the basement and are covered with hardcore. The building works go on as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened, and the diggers sit and wait to be discovered by puzzled archaeologists in the next millennium.
Estates agents vary in their estimates of the number of ‘lost’ diggers, but they agree the number is between 500 and 1000.
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