In 2001, Fidler began constructing the home, which is now called Honeycrock Farmhouse and resembles a castle, but he did not get permission to build it from the Reigate and Banstead Borough Council. He secretly lived in the castle, which he hid under a large blue tarp and behind giant 40-foot-high bales of hay. In 2007, Fidler was ordered to tear down the four-bedroom home.
The guidelines from the council state that any structure built without planning permission but unchallenged for four or more years does not have to be demolished. Reigate and Banstead refused to grant retrospective planning permission, and after six years of fighting through the appeals system, Fidler and his wife, Laura, are being told that the four-bedroom castle must come down. The high court’s reasoning is based on the fact that Fidler kept the home concealed and he “set out deliberately to deceive.”
The legal issues could be interesting but I’m more intrigued by the fact he was able to hide this home for years with a tarp and hay bales. A story from 2008 has both a picture and helps answer the question of whether any neighbors noticed:
After building the castle on the site of two grain silos at a cost of £50,000, he and his wife Linda went to extraordinary lengths to keep it secret. That included keeping their son Harry, now seven, away from playschool the day he was supposed to do a painting of his home in class.
“We couldn’t have him drawing a big blue haystack – people might asked questions,” said 39-year-old Mrs Fidler.
Mr Fidler, who has five children from a previous marriage, said: “We moved into the house on Harry’s first birthday, so he grew up looking at straw out of the windows.
“We thought it would be a boring view but birds nested there and feasted on the worms. We had several families of robins and even a duck made a nest and hatched 13 ducklings on top of the bales.”
But neighbours were unimpressed.
One said: “Nobody thought anything of it when the hay went up. It was presumed he was building a barn or something similar.
“It was a complete shock when the hay came down and this castle was in its place. Everyone else has to abide by planning laws, so why shouldn’t they?”
This seems like a place where neighbors leave each other alone.