Council huffs over castle hidden by straw

A FARMER who secretly built a castle hidden behind walls of straw has vowed: “This house will never be knocked down.”

Robert Fidler, 61, voiced his defiance after the High Court refused to block an enforcement notice threatening his dream home with demolition.

Mr Fidler said desperation had driven him to build the house clandestinely at Honeycrock Farm on Axes Lane in Salfords, Redhill, Surrey, and without permission as he and his family had been denied a proper home.

Saying he would appeal all the way to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary, he said: “This must be the only 250-acre farm in the whole UK with no farmhouse.”

He constructed his castle, using two redundant grain silos to provide the castle shape topped with turrets.

He and his wife Linda, 40, and their son Harry, nine, moved in when it was complete in 2002, and for four years kept it hidden from the local planning authority, Reigate & Banstead Borough Council, behind its shield of straw and tarpaulin.

Mr Fidler acted in the belief that, having lived there for four years after the construction was completed without anyone taking action against him, he would have immunity under the planning laws.

But the council issued an enforcement notice in March 2007 requiring the demolition of the house.

A Government planning inspector rejected Mr Fidler’s appeal in May 2008.

The inspector said Mr Fidler could not take advantage of the four-year rule because the construction of his castle had not been completed until he had taken down the screen of straw.

Yesterday Sir Thayne Forbes, a deputy High Court judge sitting in London, agreed with the inspector and upheld the enforcement notice.


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