High Court adjourns proceedings in long running straw bales planning case

Ref. Fidler v Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government (2009)

A well-known case concerning failure to comply with enforcement notices has re-emerged in the courts lately, as proceedings for contempt of court have been brought and adjourned. The case concerns a man who built a mock-Tudor house with crenelated towers in 2000, concealing it behind straw bales to avoid the need for planning permission. It is often cited as a legal example of planning enforcement procedures.

Despite his attempts to hide the property, the local authority did discover its existence and the Communities Secretary decided that it, and its associated structures, should be demolished. Reigate & Banstead issued an enforcement notice in relation to the house and other structures, and the two parties have subsequently embarked upon a long saga of planning appeals, inquiries and litigation.

Most recently, Reigate & Banstead Borough Council have lodged a claim for contempt of court against Robert Fidler (the owner) after he failed to comply with outstanding enforcement notices and an injunction order. The High Court was due to hear the claim on 22nd October 2015, as well as Fidler’s application for a variation to the injunction, but he failed to attend court.

The hearing has therefore been adjourned. A spokesperson for Reigate and Banstead stated:

“We accept the Court’s decision to adjourn the hearing to allow for Mr Fidler to be present and due process to be followed.

“The judge was satisfied that Mr Fidler knew about today’s proceedings because he was twice served with court papers and has himself made an application that was due to be heard today, but he has failed to attend.

“Due to the serious consequences of these proceedings the judge has afforded Mr Fidler a final opportunity to attend court. A warrant has been issued by the judge to apprehend Mr Fidler to ensure he is present on 2 November.

The spokesperson also noted that the council has been awarded costs in full.

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SRJ                                                                                                                                          01.11.15