Judge rules Englishman's castle can't be his home

Wed Feb 3, 2010 8:29am EST
 
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LONDON (Reuters Life!) - A wealthy farmer who secretly built a mock Tudor castle complete with ramparts, turrets and cannon behind a wall of hay bales to evade planning laws in prime English countryside lost a court fight on Monday to save it from demolition.

Robert Fidler, 60, took two years to build his dream home and then lived in it with his family for another four in an attempt to take advantage of a loophole in local planning regulations.

A provision of the law allows buildings erected without permission to be declared legal if no objections are made after four years.

But a judge in London's High Court ruled that the building, near Redhill in Surrey, some 30 km south of London, was unlawful and that Fidler was not entitled to benefit from his deception, the Press Association reported.

The castle along with an associated conservatory, marquee, wooden bridge, patio, decking and even tarmac racecourse faces being torn down. In 2007 the local council issued an enforcement notice demanding the building be dismantled.

To make matters worse, it said the ambitious structure had been built on protected "green belt" land, making planning rules even more stringent.

"This was a blatant attempt to flout the law," said a spokesman for Reigate and Banstead Borough Council.

Fidler plans to appeal.

(Reporting by Stefano Ambrogi; Editing by Steve Addison)