An Englishman's secret castle...
Published 04/02/2010 | 07:39
A farmer who secretly built a castle and lived in it for four years while it was concealed behind bales of straw has lost a High Court bid to save it from being demolished.
A judge ruled Robert Fidler, 61, who took two years to build his dream home with ramparts and cannon, was not entitled to benefit from his deception of the local planning authority.
Mr Fidler, of Honeycrock Farm in Axes Lane, Redhill, Surrey, had been hoping for another chance at securing planning consent to keep the castle.
He and his wife Linda, 40, and son Harry, nine, moved into the castle when it was complete in 2002. For four years they kept it hidden from Reigate & Banstead Borough Council behind walls made of straw bales and tarpaulin.
Mr Fidler eventually took away the bales in May 2006, thinking by then his new home had become immune from planning enforcement controls as it was four years since the building works had been completed.
But the council issued an enforcement notice in March 2007 requiring that it be demolished on the grounds that the building had been erected without planning permission.
A Government planning inspector rejected Mr Fidler's appeal in May 2008, saying the removal of the straw bale camouflage constituted part of the building works.
The inspector stated the farmer could not rely on the four-year immunity period and must demolish the building.
The issue before the High Court was whether the removal of the hay bales and tarpaulin was, in the eyes of the law, part of the ongoing building operation.
Deputy High Court judge Sir Thayne Forbes ruled the inspector's approach to the case "cannot be faulted" and he was "plainly right to reach the conclusion that he did".