A farmer has been ordered to knock down a mock-Tudor castle built without planning permission on his land – or he will be sent to prison.
A judge told Robert Fidler, 67, that he would be jailed for three months for his “defiance” of a court order unless he demolishes the property near Redhill, Surrey, by 6 June next year.
Mr Justice Dove handed Mr Fidler a three-month suspended jail term at the High Court in London on Monday (9 November), saying he must comply with a council order to demolish the four-bedroom home, called Honeycrock Farm.
Reigate and Banstead Borough Council started contempt of court legal proceedings after Mr Fidler failed to comply with an order to demolish the castle, which it said was built without planning permission on green belt.
Mr Fidler, who farms more than 100 cattle at the farm, started building the castle in 2000. He hid it behind a wall of straw bales for seven years before it was unveiled. In 2007, the council ordered the demolition of the property.
Earlier, he had accused the council of trying to “destroy” his life. He argued that the building could not be torn down because its roof was now home to newts and bats and would break European conservation laws.
Mr Fidler also said he had sold the property to an Indian businessman and was no longer the owner.
But Mr Justice Dove rejected both pleas, adding that the sale was not yet legally binding.
“This process has gone on now for many years. It is time now for those breaches of planning control to be remedied and that is what will happen. Otherwise there will be serious consequences,” the judge warned him.
Mr Fidler made no comment as he left court after the case.
Reigate and Banstead Borough Council released a statement, saying: “This is a situation of Mr Fidler’s own making. He has had plenty of opportunity to comply with the outstanding enforcement notices.
“Mr Fidler can be in no doubt that the judge’s expectation is for the house to be demolished and all the enforcement notices be complied with in their entirety before 6 June 2016.”