Incredible this wasn't in Cavan or Kerry.
Hay presto! Farmer unveils the 'illegal' mock-Tudor castle he tried to hide behind 40ft hay bales
By Daniel Bates
27th January 2008
Hiding a needle in a haystack is easy enough.
But Robert Fidler kept something much bigger concealed among the piles of straw down on his farm... a castle.
Over the course of two years, he managed to secretly – and unlawfully – build the imposing mock Tudor structure in one of his fields, shielded behind a 40ft stack of hay bales covered by a huge tarpaulins.
The family hid the house behind hay bales 40ft high for four years while it was being built - in a failed bid to avoid having to apply for planning permission
An Englishman's home is his castle: The Fidlers' dream home complete with ramparts and cannons.
Once it was finished, he and his family moved in and lived there for four years before finally revealing the development – complete with battlements and cannons – in August 2006.
Mr Fidler claims that because the building has been there for four years with no objections, it is no longer illegal.
But he is under siege from council planners, who say the castle at Honeycrock Farm, Salfords, Redhill, Surrey, will have to be knocked down.
"I can't believe they want to demolish this beautiful house," said 59-year-old Mr Fidler. "To me they are no different than vandals who just want to smash it down."
Mr Fidler, a farmer, erected the disguise in 2000 out of hundreds of 8ftx4ft bales of straw and covered the top with blue tarpaulin.
The Fidler's country kitchen is located in the turret of their 'castle'.
After building the castle on the site of two grain silos at a cost of Â£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?"
Problems began last April when Mr Fidler, thinking he had beaten the planning system, applied for a certificate of lawfulness which is given if a property is erected but nobody objects to it after four years.
But Reigate and Banstead Council says the four-year period after which the building would be allowed to stay is void – because nobody had been given a chance to see it.
The matter will now be decided in February by the council's planning inspector, who could give the Fidlers as little as six months to tear the castle down.
The family are not alone in falling foul of planning laws.
Last November pensioners Eileen and Eamonn Kelly were told they would face prison unless they demolished the one-bedroom extension on their semi-detached home in Swanley, Kent after planners said it was "out of keeping" with the area.
More recently around a dozen Britons living in Spain have had their homes torn down after a clampdown on illegally built properties built on the coastline.
A spokeswoman for the Reigate council said: "Mr Fidler has built the house without planning permission, not sought retrospective planning permission and now claims it is legal because it has been up for four years.
"We don't think the four-year rule applies because it had been hidden behind bales of hay."
Â© Daily Mail 2008