Farmer ordered to remove 'secret house' in Theydon Mount

Len Barker, 64, created secret doors, false walls and ceilings, a removable spiral staircase and strategically placed furniture to hide a large living space.

Len Barker, 64, created secret doors, false walls and ceilings, a removable spiral staircase and strategically placed furniture to hide a large living space.

First published in News East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter - Epping Forest

A farmer who boasted of creating and living in a secret house in a former dairy building to avoid planning rules has been ordered to return it to its original state.

Len Barker, 64, installed secret doors, false walls and ceilings, a removable spiral staircase and strategically placed furniture to hide a large living space.

It included a living room, kitchen, dining room, bathroom and bedroom, and Barker claimed it was valued at £1million.

He had also illegally converted a summerhouse on the site for residential use.

Barker told the Guardian about the secret home in Mount End, Theydon Mount, in 2010, claiming Epping Forest District Council was powerless to act as he and his wife had been living there for four years and were therefore entitled to retrospective planning permission.

An enforcement notice was served by the authority, but Barker appealed and the case ended up at the High Court.

But following a recent, similar ruling in favour of Hertfordshire County Council, the Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, rejected Barker’s appeal on July 1 as he was found to have deceived officers.

He now has six months to carry out the work and was ordered to pay £9,000 costs.

Reacting to the decision, Mr Barker said: “The council are just doing their job and they’re doing it correctly.

“I would like to apologise to the local authority and I will comply.”

For more on this story see this week’s Epping Forest Guardian – out Thursday.

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