Saturday, February 06, 2010

British court orders man to tear down his 'castle home.'

I now realize what I don't like about this story about a man who violated regulatory laws to build a home that resembles a castle in Britain:

LONDON – A man's home is his castle — but not if British authorities say it has to be destroyed.

That's the situation faced by Robert Fidler, a farmer who lost a High Court bid Wednesday to protect the once-secret castle he built 40 miles (65 kilometers) south of London and kept hidden from planning authorities.

The adverse decision means Fidler's roof must come down. He has one year to comply unless an appeal is successful....

There is no question that he violated what amounts to zoning laws and built it without permission:

"This was a blatant attempt at deception to circumvent the planning process," he said, adding that Fidler now has one year to destroy the castle, remove the ruins and return the property to its original state.

The unusual castle, complete with cannon, ramparts and stained glass, was completed in 2002 and Fidler lived there with family for more than four years before the authorities started legal action against him.

Fidler, who has had disagreements with planning authorities before, anticipated that his request for permission to build the castle would be denied, so he tried to take advantage of a rule that allows a structure to be legalized if it has been lived in for four years.

Nevertheless this bothers me. The reason why is now clear when I read through the article again. Nowhere does it say why (other than the fact that it was built without permission) that it has to come down. Generally building laws have a reason behind them. And I realize that there are a lot of real castles in England and presumably they don't want any tourists getting confused and taking pictures of a house that was built in 2002. But it seems to me that the proper way to handle this would be a (possibly very substantial) fine. To make a man tear down his home, not for any practical reason like safety, complaints from neighbors or illegal use of the land (such as if he were selling merchandise to his neighbors and getting an unfair advantage over merchants who built in designated commercial districts) but simply because they don't approve of the design, seems a bit over the line.

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