A Surrey farmer who built a huge mock Tudor style castle without planning permission whilst concealing the construction behind hay bales has been handed a three-month suspended prison sentence. Robert Fidler built the elaborate four-bedroom home at Honeycrock Farm, in Salfords, back in 2002, hiding the structure behind dozens of hay bales.
The 66-year-old was found to be in contempt of court for not complying with enforcement notices ordering him to pull down the home which was built on greenbelt land. The action was brought by Reigate and Banstead Borough Council, who first ordered its demolition in 2007.
He has been campaigning to keep his home ever since, saying in 2008 that he believed that if the house stood for four years without objection it could legally remain. In April this year he lost an appeal against a High Court direction to demolish the mansion by 24 June.
Fidler, who has kept a herd of cattle at the farm, claimed that he had sold the property to an Indian businessman. And at the hearing at the High Court in London Fidler claimed he had found protected bats and newts in the area.
"What I want to make clear to this court concerning my actions of complying with the order, is that I complied thoroughly until the presence of bats and newts was confirmed," according to the Daily Mail. "I started a demolition process within the 90-day period, but came across what I can only understand to be a criminal matter."
But High Court judge Mr Justice Dove said that he would be jailed for his "defiance" if the property is not demolished by June 6 next year. He said: "I hope that you have gathered I will not take kindly to giving you this opportunity and finding some more contrived or lame excuses have been found for non-compliance."
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."