Farmer dismantles hidden mock castle after losing planning battle
A farmer who lost a 10-year planning battle to keep a mock castle which he built unlawfully on his land has begun demolishing it.
Robert Fidler, 67, was ordered by the High Court to dismantle the mansion, which he originally concealed behind hay bales, or face being sent to prison.
The judgment in November last year was the final stage in a long-running legal fight by the father-of-six to be allowed to keep the building on his land at Honeycrock Farm in Salfords, Surrey.
A spokeswoman for Reigate and Banstead Borough Council said: "We continue to monitor the situation at Honeycrock Farm. We can confirm there has been some progress in the dismantling of the unlawful building and other unlawful structures. For Mr Fidler to comply with the court orders he must demolish the structures completely before 6 June.
"We have already given Mr Fidler advice about the options available to him for providing alternative accommodation in existing lawful buildings on his site."
At a hearing at the High Court on November 9 last year, Mr Justice Dove found Mr Fidler in contempt of court for failing to comply with court orders to demolish the property and he was given a three-month prison sentence suspended until June 6 with the condition he demolish the house by then.
Following the judgement, the council spokeswoman said: "This is a situation of Mr Fidler's own making. He has had plenty of opportunity to comply with the outstanding enforcement notices.
"He previously admitted that he deliberately set out to circumvent planning rules. Also, he had another house on the site when he began building this new one.
"Local residents expect us to protect their countryside. The pleasant environment is one of the reasons they love living here.
"If we fail to act, it would give others free reign to build dwellings in the Green Belt without fear of recrimination."
The illegal structure first became apparent in 2006 when Mr Fidler removed the hay bales revealing the castle beneath which lead to the local authority issuing a series of enforcement notices which Mr Fidler appealed up to the High Court and the Secretary of State.
No-one was available for comment when the Press Association contacted Honeycrock Farm.