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Fight to save hay hidden castle

25 January 08 20:59 GMT

A farmer has been told to tear down a castle he built without planning permission behind some hay bales.

Robert Fidler of Salfords, Surrey, near Gatwick Airport, kept the building, complete with ramparts, hidden until he removed the haystacks in August 2006.

Since then he has been served with an enforcement notice from Reigate and Banstead Council to demolish it.

But Mr Fidler said a house that stands for four years without objection had a legal right to remain.

He claims he only started building the structure when the council did not answer his planning application to turn a cowshed into a house within two months.

'Set a precedent'

Mr Fidler said: "There are two ways of getting planning permission, you either apply for it, which I did and they refused to process my planning application, so I took the alternative.

"If I build the house and they don't see it for four years then it becomes legal and that's the way I went about it."

Councillor Lynne Hack said it was out of their hands but if Mr Fidler was granted planning permission then it would set a precedent that anyone could build things inside barns, haystacks and aircraft hangers and then be able to keep them.

A public inquiry into the matter is expected to conclude on 12 February.

If the panel finds against Mr Fidler he will have to knock down his home within six months.

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