Groundsure Case Study: Honeycrocks Farm

In April 2015, a Surrey farmer lost his long-running battle with the planning authorities to protect a mock-Tudor castle which he had constructed behind huge bales of hay.

Robert Fidler had built the four bedroom castle on Greenbelt land he owned since the 1970s at Honeycrocks Farm in Salfords, Surrey, while obscured by a blue tarpaulin and giant hay bales. (1) The elaborate mansion – complete with battlements, canons and a stained glass dome – was finished in 2002 but remained under cover until 2006, the aim being to use a loophole in planning regulations allowing finished structures which have stood for four years with no objections to be granted retrospective planning permission. (2)

In March 2007 Reigate and Banstead Council issued an enforcement notice requiring the building to be demolished as it had been erected without planning permission. Mr Fidler appealed the enforcement notice and in 2010 he appeared in front of the deputy high court judge Sir Thayne Forbes. The Council argued that the four year period was invalid as no one had been able to see the house and construction could not be deemed completely finished until the surrounding hay bales were removed and on this basis the appeal was dismissed. (3)

The latest ruling as of 18th April 2015 from Eric Pickles, the Local Government Secretary, imposed a time limit of 90 days to demolish the house and as Mr Fidler hasn’t yet complied he may be facing a prison sentence. (1) In latest reports, Mr Fidler has sold the property to an unknown buyer who believes ‘there is no legal basis for the property to be demolished’. (4) Overall it has been estimated the local authority have spent £50,000 on legal fees for this case. (5)

The farm yard and house lies deep within the London Area Greenbelt, intended to reduce urban sprawl from London and safeguard swathes of countryside. The National Planning Policy Framework, as published in 2012, states that planning permission should not be granted for new residential developments within an area of Green Belt. (6) An update to the National Planning Policy Framework in October 2014 suggested that Green Belts may restrict a local authority’s ability to reach its housing targets, (7) causing many councils to reconsider their Local Plan and may be less likely to reduce the amount of Green Belt land within their jurisdiction. (8)

References

(1) Daily Mail, 2015. Farmer given 90 days to tear down mock-Tudor castle he built without planning permission and hid under a giant haystack [online]. Available at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3044537/Farmer-given-90-days-tear-mock-Tudor-castle-built-without-planning-permission-hid-bales-hay.html [Accessed 4th June 2015]

(2) The Independent, 2015. Farmer told to tear down mock-Tudor castle after hiding construction behind hay bales [online]. Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/farmer-told-to-tear-down-mocktudor-castle-after-hiding-construction-behind-hay-bales-10186848.html [Accessed 4th June 2015]

(3) The Guardian, 2010. Farmer loses fight to save home he hid behind hay bales [online]. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2010/feb/03/farmer-castle-home-haystack-demolition [Accessed 4th June 2015]

(4) Surrey Mirror, 2015. Salfords farmer Robert Fidler: ‘I’ve sold my castle’ [online]. Available at: http://www.surreymirror.co.uk/Salfords-farmer-Robert-Fidler-ve-sold-castle/story-26759593-detail/story.html [Accessed 21st July 2015]

(5) Surrey Mirror, 2015. REVEALED: The amount council has spent fighting Salfords ‘castle’ [online]. Available at: http://www.surreymirror.co.uk/REVEALED-council-spent-fighting-Salfords-castle/story-26813746-detail/story.html [Accessed 21st July 2015]

(6) Department for Communities and Local Government, 2014. Protecting Green Belt Land Available at: http://planningguidance.planningportal.gov.uk/blog/policy/achieving-sustainable-development/delivering-sustainable-development/9-protecting-green-belt-land/ [Accessed 2nd July 2015]

(7) Department for Communities and Local Government, 2014. Housing and economic land availability assessment Available at: http://planningguidance.planningportal.gov.uk/blog/guidance/housing-and-economic-land-availability-assessment/stage-5-final-evidence-base/ [Accessed 2nd July 2015]

(8) Planning resource, 2014. Green belt guidance update prompts council to reassess local plan [online]. Available at: http://www.planningresource.co.uk/article/1323914/green-belt-guidance-update-prompts-council-reassess-local-plan [Accessed 2nd July 2015]

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