More revealed on illegal €57m Provence Château Diter

More details have come to light on how the Château Diter - the €57m Côte d’Azur château that French authorities have ordered to be torn down - was able to grow to such an extent in the first place.

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Originally a snake-infested 200 metre square abandoned house, the property in Grasse (Alpes-Maritimes, Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur) is now a 1,200 metre square Tuscan/Renaissance-style villa, and includes a swimming pool and heliport.

Its owner, property developer Patrick Diter - who lives at the house with his wife Monica - originally bought the land in 2000 after failing to find a property in Tuscany.

He then sold the existing small house to an English couple separately, and set about extending the outbuildings on the site into their current form.

He reportedly rented the location out for weddings, private parties and film crews at €50,000 per night. It notably featured in the Sky Atlantic television production of Riviera.

The British couple - the neighbours in the original house - later took Mr Diter to court after claiming that house guests and wedding parties played extremely loud music in the small hours of the morning.

This week, the court of appeal in Aix-en-Provence found Mr Diter guilty of having extended the property, and cutting down protected woodland, without the correct planning permission.

The court awarded the neighbours in question €45,000 in damages, and ordered that Mr Diter return the property to its original state within 18 months.

Assistant public prosecutor Pierre-Jean Gaury branded the project as “pharaonic...delusional, totally illegal and built in an illegal manner” by an owner who had flouted safety and environmental rules, and whose “only concern was money”.

President Alexandre Julien said: “It has been ten years that you have been constructing without authorisation, and then trying to regulate it in your wake.”

It has since emerged that the full extent of the illegal building work only began to come to light in 2005, after a dispute with a neighbour over a separate construction incident.

At this point, Mr Diter attempted to obtain a permit for the work, and it is then that the local Mairie and building department became involved. Mayor Jean-Pierre Leleux ordered the work to be stopped on November 18, 2005.

However, construction continued. One year later, the Mairie awarded authorisation for a 500m² property, but this did not cover the extent of the completed work, despite Mr Diter making a further request for authorisation later that year.

In court, Mr Diter sought to explain how it had happened. He said: “We came from a Parisian suburb, [so] I wanted my family to have land that belonged to them, where the family could make wine.”

But when quizzed on the finer details of the building work, the owner reportedly became less certain, and sought to use photographs to try to remember exact dates and timings.

Professional architect Jean-Pierre Draillard, co-signatory of the 2006 request, and a friend of Mr Diter, also sought to defend the work. He said: “We were only talking about extensions.”

However, Mr Diter was also found to have cut down trees in a protected woodland area to build a long driveway from the main road up to the house.

The court has now ruled that the entire property must be destroyed within the next 18 months, and brought back to its original state as closely as possible.

Mr Diter has also been fined €450,000, which will be increased by €500 per day, for each day that he does not comply with the court ruling.

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