A lot of hassle for a castle! Why planning permission is important.
Mr Fidler the farmer from Surrey has been ordered by the Court to knock down his mock-Tudor castle after hiding it from planning officers with a stack of hay bales.
Robert Fidler began building his family home in 2000 after he claims planning authorities failed to acknowledge his planning application. When visiting the farm on a separate matter, planning officers failed to spot the building due to the huge wall of hay bales blocking its view.
In 2006 Mr Fidler removed the hay bales to reveal his masterpiece. This didn’t go unnoticed in the public eye and in 2007 the local authority served an enforcement notice requiring the house to be demolished. Mr Fidler tried to argue that he was immune from the enforcement due to the “four-year rule”.
Under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 this rule stipulates that if a building is fully completed and equipped with the essential facilities required for day-to-day domestic existence and is continuously used as a dwelling for at least four years, then the occupants are entitled to apply for a Lawful Development Certificate. However there are exceptions to this rule, all of which are based around deliberate concealing or deceiving to the local authorities.
There have been previous cases to this effect, in Welwyn Hatfield v SSCLG the Court made it clear that it was only the deliberate deception which disqualified the defendant from claiming immunity under the four-year rule.
Although Mr Fidler appealed against the decision made in 2007, the judge found that the building was not complete until the hay bales had been taken down and therefore his four-year rule argument was unsuccessful. It is likely that this would have not succeeded in any event due to the concealing of the building.
Mr Fidler then took proceedings to the High Court where his actions were described as a “paradigm of deception”. As court battles continued and further planning applications were submitted, he was charged with Contempt of court after failing to knock down his home in August 2015.
Mr Fidler’s most recent argument is that bats are now living in the castle and so he cannot knock it down due to a European Law! He has now been given a three-month suspended sentence and has been ordered to knock down his home by 6 June 2016 otherwise he will be sent to prison.
This case is a good reminder of the importance of obtaining planning permission, and the problems that can occur if you don’t. It also goes to show that the Court will not take lightly to anyone who deliberately tries to use loopholes to avoid abiding by the law even if the end result takes over a decade!
All information is correct on the date of posting.