Mock Tudor castle farmer plans to rebuild 'work of art' elsewhere


A farmer ordered to tear down a mock Tudor castle he built has told a High Court judge of his plans to erect the "work of art" elsewhere.

Robert Fidler, who says he has now "carefully dismantled" his "beautiful" home in Surrey, told Mr Justice Dove at a hearing in London on Monday: "Hopefully, it will be rebuilt on another site with full planning permission."

He built four-bedroomed Honeycrock Farm in Salfords without planning permission in 2000 and, in 2002, his family moved into the property, which was kept hidden behind straw bales for four years.

Reigate and Banstead Borough Council ordered it to be knocked down in 2007 and Mr Fidler's case was then rejected by a Government planning inspector, the High Court and the Court of Appeal.

The council, which had ruled out allowing the castle to stay because it breached national and local planning rules designed to protect the green belt, began contempt of court proceedings after Mr Fidler failed to comply with the outstanding enforcement notices and an order which required demolition.

Last November, Mr Fidler, 66, was given a three-month suspended jail sentence by Mr Justice Dove, who warned him that he would be sent to prison for his ''intentional defiance'' unless he complied with the order by June 6 this year.

When the case returned to court on Monday, Stephen Whale, counsel for the authority, told the judge that Mr Fidler had made "very good progress in terms of complying with the requirements of the enforcement notices", but that he had not "fully complied with the requirements".

The house had been "very largely" demolished, he said, but there was "still more to be done", including restoring the land to its former agricultural use.

Mr Whale said that although the council submitted that the "technical legal position" was that Mr Fidler remained in contempt of court, the parties had "entered into a consent order" for the matter to be adjourned for a month to give him "an opportunity completely to comply".

Representing himself, Mr Fidler insisted: "I broke no law. I was looking after my family. I acted in good faith. I am a law-abiding citizen."

He described the castle as a "work of art built lawfully", and said he had received letters of support from "all over the word".

Mr Fidler told the judge: "The point is that despite all this I began the process of dismantling it, but not just smash it up."

Mr Justice Dove said he appreciated he had "gone some considerable way to complying with the promises you have given to the court".

He told him: "I want to have this matter completed without having to send you to prison."

Mr Fidler assured the judge that he would carry out the work required to fully comply with the enforcement notices, stating: "I will do exactly what they (the council) want."

The judge told him that if he complied fully then he would have "purged his contempt".

He adjourned the case until July 4, but said he hoped it would not be necessary for it to return to court.

Mr Fidler told him: "I assure you we will not have to come back."

At the end of the hearing, he said to the judge: "When I rebuild my house, I want you to come and see it."