Magazine article The Spectator

Character Building

Magazine article The Spectator

Character Building

Article excerpt

This magazine salutes Robert Fidler, the Surrey farmer who built a family castle in secret and is now fighting a court order that it should be demolished.

Mr Fidler had hoped, ingeniously, to foil local authorities by concealing his building behind a 40-foot enclosure of hay bales. He believed that, thanks to a legal loophole, if a house attracted no planning objection for four years after completion, it acquired immunity from demolition.

Reigate and Banstead Borough C ouncil thought otherwise, though, and a judge ruled that the removal of the bales in 2006 constituted part of the building work, so the council was right to demand its destruction.

Undeterred, Mr Fidler says he will appeal his case, if necessary, in the European C ourt of Human Rights.

Legally, this is a tricky business, and however tempting it may be to side against the meddling bureaucrats in favour of M r Fidler, it should be acknowledged that the authorities have a point. …

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