The planning decision has been upheld and the secret house now has to be demolished within 90 days…..
Robert Fidler was a landowner and farmer before he reached almost celebrity status by unveiling a secretly built house that had been hidden behind straw bales for a number of years.
The house that he constructed in 2001 without planning permission consists of two large curved castellated turret sections as well as a mock Tudor section to the other side. It has now been standing for almost 15 years, having been disguised behind a wall of 12m high straw bales which were removed seven years after the house was finished in an attempt to bypass the planning system.
Reigate and Banstead Borough Council commenced the legal battle against the owner Robert Fidler back in 2008 and it has been featured in the press a number of times over the years with the decisions going both ways. This latest release however looks to put a final seal on the matter and orders that the building should be demolished within 90 days. The previous decision by a planning inspector had deemed that that building could remain for a maximum of three years, although this has now been overturned by Eric Pickles, as the Communities Secretary. Eric Pickles stated that “no very special circumstances justifying the harm to the green belt and any other harm caused by the dwelling which would justify granting planning permission in this case whether permanently or on a temporary basis”.
The property in question is within the Green Belt area, which has more strict planning rules and regulations as to what can be constructed. The owner claims that they have done nothing wrong as this has merely sought to provide a family home on the farm itself.
This may be an extreme example of a project without planning permission, although the key message to take home from this matter is the strong need for planning permission to be sought for any activities that may need it! It may seem obvious to some, but to others who think that it’s easier to just get on with things, take heed of this story as it shows again the powers that are given to the Local Authorities and if you cross the line, don’t be too surprised if you get caught out. I am yet to see the costs incurred by the owner for this case, but as the losing party usually takes the brunt of these, it seems likely this will have cost a significant amount over the last 7 years!
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Let me know if you are planning to undertake works to your property and I’d be happy to come out and have a chat through with you to discuss the options and agree a route forward. Remember, if you own a Listed Building, then there is another level of restrictions entirely as all of the internal elements of the building are also protected, so even if you just wish to remove a wall, it will need permission!
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