The battle between Surrey farmer Robert Fidler and every level of Local Planning Authority and court continues.
Mr Fiddler (appropriate name) gained notoriety in the planning world (and possibly more widely through the efforts of the tabloid press) when, without planning permission, he constructed the above house (more of a mock castle really) on his farmland in the Surrey Green Belt.
No one (in particular the Local Planning Authority) was aware of its existence because before construction began he erected a barrier of straw bales to hide it.
Construction was completed and he and his family moved in (making sure that no one knew). They lived there continuously for four years, after which time, ta ra, the bales were taken down.
As the law was believed to be at that time, if a building had been constructed without planning permission and the Council took no enforcement action within four years, the building became lawful.
Furthermore, if the building had been used continuously for four years, its use as as dwellinghouse also became immune from enforcement.
The Local Planning Authority said he could not rely on the four year rule because it had been concealed and so how could they have taken enforcement action?
The Local Planning Authority issued an Enforcement Notice requiring its demolition. Mr Fiddler appealed that Enforcement Notice but the planning inspector hearing the appeal agreed with the Council and upheld the Enforcement Notice.
Undeterred Mr Fiddler further appealed to the High Court, and having again lost made a further appeal to the Court of Appeal, unsurprisingly given the history, once again failing.
By that point in time another similar case had been heard in the Supreme Court (formerly the Appeal Committee of the House of Lords) which made it clear any further was bound to fail.
So that was the end of the story right, wrong,
The Local Planning Authority subsequently issued an injunction in the High Court which gave Mr F. until June to demolish the property. Failure to comply with an injunction is contempt of court and could lead to imprisonment.
Unsurprisingly the house is still standing, because Mr Fiddler (as reported to the Surrey Mirror) has sold the property (a clever ruse because the injunction is addressed to him personally and he can hardly knock down a house which no longer belongs to him). He says he intends to carry on living there until the new owner decides what to do.
Call Exeter Planning cynical but, to paraphrase Loyd Grossman, “who would buy a house like this” (given its precarious, to say the least, future). Exeter Planning smells something rather fishy such as selling it to a mate for £1 in order to thwart the operation of the injunction, and to force the Local Planning Authority to apply for a new injunction against the new owner (who just may sell it on to yet another new owner).
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