Surrey farmer starts 'hidden castle' demolition

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Media captionRobert Fidler built the home without planning permission

A farmer has begun to demolish his mock castle to avoid going to prison after almost a decade of legal battles.

Robert Fidler built his home at Salfords in the Surrey greenbelt without planning permission and hid it behind straw bales for four years.

He was ordered in November to tear it down by June or face three months in jail.

Mr Fidler confirmed on Wednesday demolition work had started.

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Media captionRobert Fidler gave the BBC a tour of his home in December

Last week he denied he had started to tear it down.

Reigate and Banstead Borough Council said it was monitoring the situation.

The authority told the farmer in 2007 he must demolish his property, prompting a 1,840-strong petition to save it.

Image copyright Reigate and Banstead Council
Image caption The property was hidden behind hay bales for four years
Image caption Mr Fidler used reclaimed materials in his home

A High Court judge gave Mr Fidler a three-month suspended sentence last November and warned he would be jailed for his "defiance" if the property was not demolished by June.

Mr Fidler said in December he might look at reducing his home in size, possibly to that of a bungalow.

Image caption The mock-Tudor castle is built on the site of the farm's yard
Image caption Mr Fidler told the High Court he could not demolish the castle as there were bats living there

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