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Wednesday, February 10, 2010


A farmer who built a castle behind hay bales to hide it from planners has lost his attempt to prevent it being knocked down.

Robert Fidler, 60, spent two years secretly building the fortress, which he concealed behind a wall of straw. But the High Court today confirmed the borough council’s order that it must be knocked down.

Mr Fiddler, of Redhill, Surrey, moved into the building in 2002 with his wife Linda, 40, and their son Harry, 8, and managed to live there for four years.

The four-bedroom property had many of the features of a modern suburban home, including gravelled forecourt, patio and conservatory. Two grain silos formed castellations on the corners and a stained-glass lantern hung over a central hall.

In May 2006, Mr Fidler removed the straw-bale fortifications, thinking that a four-year period granting him immunity from planning enforcement had elapsed.

But, in 2007, Reigate Council issued him with an enforcement notice demanding that the building be knocked down.

The claim to immunity was invalid, it said, because the building and removal of the bales constituted a part of the construction process.

In 2008, a government planning inspector rejected Mr Fidler’s argument that the bales had not been part of the building work
from The Times

I wrote once before, indeed had a newspaper letter published, on a similar case when Marshall Farms built 2 extra houses & hid them behind a pile of potato boxes.

I said then:

"Note that this is being enforced neither on grounds of building standards (they were admitted to be of a particularly high standard) nor aesthetic standards (unless piles of tattie boxes are considered high art). In this country a sizable part of most people's income goes on housing. This proves that the cost of housing depends not on the cost of building houses but on government regulations."

& have since calculated the proportion of house costs that is regulatory as at least 75% based on the fact that that is how much they have increased, beyond the retail price index, over a century. I doubt if hay bales are much prettier than tattie boxes so again it nothing to do with aesthetics & everything to do with government parasitism.

However this case shows the court's deliberate corruption. Mr Fiddler is clearly right & the council wrong in saying that the hay was part of the building. It was not connected to the building or required for the physical construction. It is a loophole certainly, but that is what lawyering is for. Laws should be interpreted for what they say not for what the people who wrote them would like them to have said if they had thought of it. I very much hope this is appealed all the way & that he finds a judge who doesn't make up the law on the way.

Incidentally Mr Fidler apparently built the house almost alone. While this proves him to be a man of considerable ability it also shows how backward our housing "industry" is. If one built one's a car, aircraft or computer from a kit it would be largely because one liked doing that sort of thing rather than because it would be a better product than commercially available. One would certainly not build one from scratch. Adam Smith pointed out the efficiency gains in teams working to create a product. If one individual can do this competitive with, or considerably better, than the professionals it shows how much the housebuilding industry is being kept in the dark ages by government Luddism & parasitism.

We can have inexpensive modern houses any time we are allowed to.

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