Arrest warrant issued for 'straw bale house man'

A High Court judge has issued an arrest warrant for a farmer who built a house and hid it behind straw bales in order to circumvent planning rules, following the man's failure to comply with an order to demolish the property.

Honeycrock Farm: long-running legal dispute continues
Honeycrock Farm: long-running legal dispute continues

Mr Justice Dove today said it was appropriate to issue a bench warrant after 63-year-old Robert Fidler failed to attend a committal hearing in London today.

Fidler built the four-bedroomed home at Honeycrock Farm, Salfords, Surrey, without planning permission in 2000.

In 2002, his family moved into the property, which was kept hidden behind straw bales for four years.

Fidler has been fighting to save it from demolition since Reigate and Banstead Borough Council ordered it to be knocked down in 2007 and a planning inspector rejected his appeal a year later.

The inspector's stance was backed by the High Court in 2010 and also upheld in the Court of Appeal.

The authority began contempt of court proceedings after Fidler failed to comply with the outstanding enforcement notices and an injunction requiring demolition.

Mr Justice Dove said he was satisfied that Fidler knew about the hearing and, given the "potentially extremely serious consequences" for him, he should be given one final opportunity to provide an explanation for breaching the orders.

He adjourned the case until 2pm on November 2 to ensure that Fidler was present to answer the case against him.

According to the Independent, Fidler claimed he had missed his case because he thought it was taking place later in the day.  The paper quoted him saying: "Apparently at some point, without my knowledge, it’s been changed and there’s a warrant out for my arrest. I’ve come with my friends and family to support me. It was me that applied to the court for this case."

In a statement, the council ruled out suggestions that the castle could stay, saying it would set an unacceptable precedent for development in the green belt.

"The construction breached national and local planning rules designed to protect the green belt, which local authorities like ours have a duty to uphold."

Reigate & Banstead Borough Council v Fidler. Case Number: IHQ/15/0508

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