We all make mistakes. We mess up our tax return. Or we back our car into a bollard. Or, you know, we build a mid-size mock Tudor castle on our farm without planning permission and try to hide it behind bales of hay whenever the council comes round.
This, at least, was the mistake made by the ironically named Robert Fidler, a farmer living on the Surrey greenbelt. He built a four-bedroom building that was a kind of mock Tudor/castle hybrid (yep) on his land without gaining planning permission first. While building it, he concealed the construction site using hay bales:
Image: Reigate and Banstead council.
Here’s a view of the castle side of the completed house:
Image: Maddie Stocker.
Reigate and Borough council eventually caught on (despite Fidler’s clever haybale trompe d’oeil). Frankly, they could have just taken a look on Google Earth:
Following a nine year battle, Fidler is now planning to tear down the four-bedroom house house and has been photographed removing roof tiles. Really, he didn’t have much choice: in 2015, a High Court Judge ruled that if he didn’t comply with the order by June 2016, he could go to jail for three months. There is a change.org petition calling for the property to stay, but it seems unlikely that the council will relent.
The whole situation is made all the more fraught because the building is situated on the green belt, where planning is tightly restricted. This may have contributed to Fidler’s decision not to seek permission in the first place, but it’s also why the council is sticking to its guns. The council’s member for planning and development, Mike Miller, told the Daily Mail in 2013:
We are pleased with the outcome of the appeal and the planning inspector’s decision. It supports our argument that the building is unlawful and that our earlier enforcement notices are valid. Had this appeal been allowed, it would have set an unacceptable precedent for development in the green belt.
There you have it folks. If you’re going to build an illegal mock Tudor, avoid the green belt for now.
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