'Hidden castle' builder given suspended prison sentence

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Media captionRobert Fidler had argued that the property housed protected species and that it had been sold to another owner

A farmer who built a mock-Tudor castle and hid it behind a huge stack of hay bales has been given a three-month suspended prison sentence.

Robert Fidler, 66, built the four-bedroom home near Redhill in Surrey in 2000 without planning permission.

Reigate and Banstead Borough Council argued he was in contempt of court for not complying with enforcement notices.

A High Court judge agreed, saying he would be jailed for his "defiance" if the property is not demolished by June.

Image caption Robert Fidler claimed to have sold the house he built secretly in the Surrey greenbelt

Mr Fidler has told Mr Justice Dove that he had sold the house at Honeycrock Farm in Salfords to an Indian businessman and that the injunction ordering demolition was invalid.

The house was built on greenbelt land and Reigate and Banstead Borough Council first ordered its demolition in 2007.

In 2008, Mr Fidler said he hid the "castle" because he believed a house that stood for four years without objection had a legal right to remain.

Image copyright Reigate and Banstead Council
Image caption Mr Fidler hid the house behind hay bales after moving his family in

The council began contempt of court proceedings after he failed to comply with the outstanding enforcement notices and an order that required demolition.

Mr Justice Dove said Mr Fidler would be jailed for three months for his "intentional defiance" unless he complied with the order by 6 June.

A spokeswoman for Reigate and Banstead Borough Council said: "This is a situation of Mr Fidler's own making. He has had plenty of opportunity to comply with the outstanding enforcement notices.

"Mr Fidler can be in no doubt that the judge's expectation is for the house to be demolished and all the enforcement notices be complied with in their entirety before 6 June 2016."

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