The story of Fiddler’s Castle on Honeycrock Farm in Salfords England has been going on for years now. We first highlighted the story back in July 2008 and ironically because of the spelling mistake that post continues to be one of the highest traffic drivers to urbanneighbourhood.com. Yesterday the Homes From Hell feature of Fidler’s Castle must have been shown again because there was a spike of visitors. Because of all the interest we decided to do some more research and see if we could find any new news.
On November 19th 2009 Mr Fidler went before the British High Court in a bid to convince High Court Judge Sir Thane Forbes to overturn the decision of the government planning inspector who ruled that the structure had to be torn down in May of 2008.
The key aspect of the case revolves around a decision as to when the construction of the house was “substantially completed”. Mr Fidler and his counsel argue that the home was finished in 2002 when Mr Fidler and his family moved into the building and no further modifications were made to the structure for the next four years.
Planning law in the Reigate & Banstead Borough states that if a property is “substantially completed” for four years, it is legally allowed to exist.
In 2006 four years after construction of the house itself was completed Mr Fidler removed the barricade of straw bales and tarpaulin, believing that since the building had been completed for four years it should be granted planning permission.
The government planning inspector argued otherwise finding that “the removal of the straw bale disguise constituted part of the building works” and as a result the inspector found that Mr Fidler could not rely on the four year immunity period which starts from “substantial completion,” and the Reigate & Banstead Borough Council issued a demolition notice.
Mr Fidler’s appeal, launched on the 19th of November centres on the question of when exactly the castle was “complete.” The town argues that the removal of the hay bales was a substantial part of construction, the lawyers for the Fidler family argues that it was not. “The appellant’s case is that the removal of the bales was not part of the building operation against which the enforcement notice was directed.” The Fidler’s argue that the removal of the straw bales was a separate operation and as such doesn’t breach planning control. Consul argued that the building was “substantially complete” more then four years earlier in 2002 when the family moved into the home and that “no other reasonable conclusion is possible… construction was complete and it was in occupation… the removal of the bales cannot even be classified as part of a building operation. The decision was wrong in law and should be quashed”.
High Court Justice Thane Forbes Stated “The key point in your case is whether the inspector was right to conclude that the removal of the bales and the tarpaulin formed part of the building operation.”
At the end of the two days of arguments before the High Court Justice Forbes reserved judgment and is expected to give his decision in writing soon.
Of course even that may not be the end of it, Robert Fidler has already stated “We are determined to take this all the way to the top. We are quite sure that ultimately we will win”.
In Redhill Surry Robert fiddler created a massive pile of hay bales in his yard and his neighbours didn’t really think anything of it, he is a farmer after all. Then about six years later the bales came down and voila a Mock Tudor Castle. The fiddlers built the house in secret over the course of two years and then lived in it while it was hidden within the hay bales for four years in a bit to avoid needing to get planning permission for the structure. The town council wants it down but Robert fiddler is arguing that he followed the letter of the law. A law which states that if a structure has been built/erected for four years and there are no objections to it then planning permission is automatically granted.
The Banstead Council is arguing that the four year period is void because the fiddlers had the house hidden under a haystack and therefore no one could see it to object to it. I suppose that no one thought to wonder where all those bricks being delivered to the farm were going? (They are right there in the picture after all) The house was revealed in early January and the matter went before town council in February. While there are plenty of articles (much like this one) talking about the unveiling there are none that speak of what happened after it went to the council, or maybe he has hopefully taken the case to a higher court if they turned him down.
The question of Aesthetics aside I personally, while a fan of planning laws myself, think it is genius that this farmer found a loophole in the law and was able to use it. In terms of the legal aspect he did satisfy the terms of the law if not the spirit of the law. How often do we see people get off on technicalities in criminal cases? It is refreshing to see a farmer able do the same. Plus I have a feeling after my google map look at the property (which still shows the haystack) that this ‘castle’ is an improvement. I also find it funny that the biggest objection listed in the article is “Everyone else has to abide by planning laws, so why shouldn’t they?” That said the Banstead council and councils around the world would be smart to alter their regulations so that no one can use this loop hole in the future.
Read More Here at Urban Neighbourhood with ‘The Fight for Fidler’s Castle Continues’