Court Files Legal Cannon at Man's Dream to Keep Castle

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A man's home is his castle — but not if British authorities say it has to be destroyed.

That's the situation faced by Robert Fidler, a farmer who lost a High Court bid Wednesday to protect the once-secret castle he built 40 miles south of London and kept hidden from planning authorities.

Fidler placed bales of hay and tarpaulin around his dream home in Salfords, Surrey, to keep the structure from being discovered, authorities said. The court ruled he could not benefit from his deception.

Mike Miller, a chief planner with the Reigate and Banstead Borough Council, said the council was delighted with the decision, which was viewed as a vindication of the decision to challenge Fidler in court.

"This was a blatant attempt at deception to circumvent the planning process," he said, adding that Fidler now has one year to destroy the castle, remove the ruins and return the property to its original state.

The unusual castle, complete with cannon and ramparts, was completed in 2002 and Fidler lived there with his family for four years before the authorities started legal action against him.

Fidler's lawyer, Pritpal Singh Swarn, said the decision would be appealed at the Court of Appeal because it raised important planning issues. A further appeal to European courts is possible if British courts again reject Fidler's bid to legitimize his castle.

He said Fidler was extremely disappointed with the ruling.

"Mr. Fidler and his family have lived in their home for over five years," he said. "Planning legislation states that if someone has substantially completed a property for more than four years, then they are immune from having the property knocked down."

He said no residents had complained about the castle.

"It has been pursued at the expense of the taxpayer which we find deeply regrettable — but Mr. Fidler will continue to fight for the right to live in his home," the lawyer said.

Fidler lives in the castle with his wife and son.

Authorities said he incorporated two grain silos into the design, covering them with material to give them a castellated appearance.

The court ruled that "Mr. Fidler made it quite clear that the construction of his house was undertaken in a clandestine fashion."