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Farmer Arrested for Building Castle Without Permission

A bench warrant has been issued for Robert Fidler, the farmer who refused to knock down the massive home he had hidden behind straw bales.

Mr Fidler failed to attend a scheduled hearing over an imitation Tudor castle he built without planning permission on his Surrey farm. Mr Justice Dove ordered his arrest after Mr Fidler, aged 63, did not show up for a recent committal hearing.

Mr Fidler built the four-bedroom property at Honeycrock Farm in Surrey in 2000, without having obtained planning permission beforehand. His family moved into the building two years later.

In 2006 Mr Fidler officially unveiled it when he thought he was in a position to take advantage of a legal loophole that stops enforcement action from being taken against a building if no objections have been made for at least four years. The local authority, however, pushed back by refusing to grant retrospective permission.

He has been working to save the castle from destruction since Reigate and Banstead Borough Council ordered him to demolish it in 2007. A year later, a Government planning inspector rejected his appeal. The inspector’s ruling was upheld by the High Court in 2010 and subsequently upheld in the Court of Appeal.

Contempt of court proceedings were initiated by the authority after Mr Fidler did not comply with the enforcement notices or an injunction that called for demolition.

Mr Justice Dove said he believed that Mr Fidler was aware of the hearing’s date and time in London, and given the potentially serious consequences for non-compliance, he should be provided with a final chance to explain why he disregarded the earlier orders.

The case was adjourned until 2:00 pm on Monday, November 2 to give Mr Fidler the opportunity to be present to answer the charges against him.

Earlier, Mr Fidler told the BBC that it would be “quite difficult” to demolish something he was very proud of, but he didn’t believe he had any choice.”

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“What they are saying now is if I don't demolish it within 90 days, they can put me in prison,” he stated.

The council ruled out the possibility that the castle could remain, saying that it would create an unacceptable precedent for green belt development.

A spokesperson said that the building violated national and local planning rules that were established to protect the green belt, and local authorities have a duty to uphold them.

When Mr Fidler bought the farmyard and ten acres of land in 1985, there was no farmhouse on the premises, so he started building the castle around two grain silos at a cost of £50,000.

He and his wife, Linda, went to such lengths to fool local residents and the authorities that they kept their son off play school on the day his class were due to paint pictures of their homes.

“We couldn't have him drawing a big blue haystack – people might have asked questions,” Linda Fidler explained.


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