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Demolition of house hidden by straw bales moves step closer

A house that was initially hidden behind a straw bales must be demolished, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has ruled.

The house was built on Green Belt land in 2000 and, despite boasting a mock Tudor facade and the castellated towers, was successfully concealed for six years behind the straw bales.

When the house emerged from its camouflage in 2006, owner Robert Fidler argued against an enforcement notice issue by Reigate & Banstead Borough Council on the grounds that the house had stood for four years without objection.

He later applied for planning permission to retain the building as an agricultural worker’s dwelling. 

The council refused this, and Fidler appealed, a move that suspended a High Court injunction won last year by Reigate & Banstead, which required him to demolish the farmhouse, conservatory, patio and associated features.

An inspector had recommended that the house should be allowed to stand for three years, but Pickles intervened on the grounds that the case raised novel issues of development control.

The decision letter said Pickles had overturned the inspector’s recommendation because of inappropriate development in the Green Belt, and rejected the claim that a beef farming operation required someone to be resident in the house to oversee it.

Stephen Whale of Landmark Chambers, who represented the council, said the suspended injunction now took effect, allowing Fidler 90 days within which to demolish the dwelling.

Mark Smulian

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