Sunday, February 03, 2008

The planning implications of an illegally built castle

Earlier this weekend, I read about a British farmer who built a castle on his property without the appropriate planning permissions. Apparently, this farmer, named Robert Fidler, kept this castle hidden from everybody by concealing it under hundreds of bales of straw for a period of four years. Upon revealing it to his neighbours in late 2006, he was served with a planning contravention notice in March 2007 that ordered the demolition of the castle.

So what's the rub? This structure was built in the green belt that surrounds London. This green belt of open country and farmland is intended to contain urban sprawl, by containing development within it. As such, it is difficult to receive approval to build on greenbelt lands.

A spokeswoman for the Religate Town Hall said the following with regards to this development.

The site is located on the Green Belt and the developments constitute inappropriate development, which is harmful to the openness of the Green Belt.

However, there is a provision in England that says that the building could stay if there are no complaints after four years. Fidler contends that because this castle has been there for the requisite four years, it should be allowed to remain in place. The local government is saying that since no one could see it while it was hidden, the four year count started when it was unveiled, so that the building is eligible for demolition.

This past Wednesday, after a lengthy appeal, Fidler began protesting the notice at a public inquiry at Religate Town Hall. He is also reportedly standing up to the borough council on an enforcement notice for the building of a go-cart course on his land along with 12 other enforcement notices.

I think this serves as a lesson to those who want to build buildings illegally, especially in areas where they are not permitted. There are reasons why structures like this are not permitted, and there is a process to follow if you do want to build something where it is not permitted. Trying to do something like this behind everyone's back isn't a wise thing to do, as people will eventually find out about it, and the outcome usually won't be a positive one.

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Unknown said...

I admire his determination. This is not a professional opinion on the subject.

acommonman said...

By building this beautiful building under the noses of the public and especially the building and zoning commissions, Mr. Fidler usurped their power. Most people in those positions thrive on the little bit of power they derive from those lowly public offices. Now it is a matter of flexing their power even if it makes them look stupid. The point will be "I am a small person but I am in charge! Roar!" Hopefully the town fathers will see this for the tourism opportunity it could be, instead of the narrow power struggle it has become. You know if the public didn't complain about those ugly bails stacked up then why should they mind the wildly beautiful castle that now adorns their neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

I would agree with Joseph, except Robert Fidler has in the pas built the following (all without planning permission): A Lake, An industrial unit, an office/house (very close to the current castle/house), an industrial unit. Unfortunatley, none of this has been reported in the press - but you can find information if you look very hard on the internet

Anonymous said...

I agree with joseph p completely! Those are excellent points to put across. It's a shame the authorities have lost sight of the purpose of a greenbelt- to preserve beauty, and that i feel is exactly what Robert has done. It's criminal to think that they would demolish such a creation for sake of some petty law.

Anonymous said...

Well I have just watched a program on this and apparently, An Englishman is entitled to have a castle, once they have a castle, legally no one is allowed to take it away from good luck to him. The property is beautiful and he should be allowed to keep it.
Mel xxx

Anonymous said...

The property looks like a fake castle on one side, and like a mock-Tudor mansion on the other. Anyone who thinks it is "beautiful" has either not studied the building, or has a very poor judgment of architecture. Or, possibly, is impenetrably stupid.