In a legal battle that has lasted for more than 8 years, a farmer in Salfords, Surrey, England has been ordered by the High Courts to tear down the house he built in 2002. It’s an extremely bizarre story that ended with the threat of jail time.
Robert Fidler built a beautiful, castle-like home on his roughly 16 years ago and has lived there ever since. The only problem is, he never got the planning committees’ approval to actually to turn the old cowshed into a home. Fidler thought he could get away with it through a legal loophole, he told BBC News in 2008: "If I build the house and they don't see it for four years then it becomes legal and that's the way I went about it." So, for the next 4 years, he hid his new home in hale bales stacked higher than the roofline and, when his 4 years were over he removed them. One year later, in 2007, he received the enforcement notice from Reigate and Barnstead Council, ordering him to demolish it. One city councilman was worried about the precedent they would set if they allowed the building to stand. Next, he thought, people would hide any unapproved building for 4 years and be able to skirt the system.
He refused and for another two years, the council’s decision was appealed. It reached as far as The High Court, which is one of the Senior Courts of England and Wales, who ruled that the hay bales were part of the building operation. Therefore, the four year immunity rule started when the hay bales were removed. But, not even that stopped him. He wasn’t just going to hand over his family home.
After his planning application in 2014, which he sought to keep the house due to Agricultrual need. He again appealed to the High Court and was once again denied and ordered to tear it down. In 2015, a warrant was issued for his arrest after he missed a court hearing for contempt of court. Still refusing to demolish the house, Fiddler then told the High Court that he sold the building to an Indian businessman, so their order for demolition was no longer valid.
Fed up with his many attempts to avoid the inevitable, in October of 2015 the High Court threatened Fiddler with 3 months in jail if he did not demolish his house by June 2016 after he claimed that protected bats were inhabiting the house. A petition to save the house then gained ground support later that month, with over 1,200 people signing it. At that point, it was too little too late.
So after 9 years of legal battles, the building is finally being demolished. It’s certainly one of the strangest demolition stories we’ve covered and we’re not sure there will ever be another one like it. One things for sure, don’t build any unauthorized building in Surrey, England.
Full Story: Surrey farmer starts 'hidden castle' demolition | BBC News