Surrey

Surrey farmer accepts castle must be demolished

Robert Fidler's house
Image caption Robert Fidler built the house in 2002 and hid it behind hay bales for four years

A farmer who built a mock Tudor castle without planning permission says he has no choice but to demolish it after losing a seven-year legal battle.

Robert Fidler built the castle at Honeycrock Farm, in Salfords, Surrey, in 2002 and hid it behind hay bales.

Reigate and Banstead Borough Council first ordered it to be knocked down in 2008. The government backed the council after an appeal last year.

Mr Fidler said demolition would be like Rembrandt ripping up a masterpiece.

'Agricultural need'

The four-bedroom property, on green belt land, includes a kitchen, living room, study, a gravelled forecourt and a conservatory.

Mr Fidler, who keeps a herd of Sussex cattle at the farm, submitted a new planning application in February 2014 to retain the house, in Axes Lane, on the basis of agricultural need.

"Obviously it would be quite difficult to demolish something you are very proud of," he said.

"I don't think I have any choice really.

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

Image caption Robert Fidler said he had been told to demolish the house within 90 days

The Department for Communities and Local Government decision follows a High Court ruling in 2010 that the house must come down.

The council said if the house were allowed to remain, it would set an unacceptable precedent for development in the green belt.

"The construction breached national and local planning rules designed to protect the green belt, which local authorities like ours have a duty to uphold," the authority said in a statement.

"It has been previously established that the house and associated constructions were unlawful and this has been accepted by Mr Fidler.

"The Secretary of State's decision demonstrates that people who ignore planning rules set for the good of everyone, are likely to find themselves in this unfortunate position."

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