A gorgeous French Chateau located in the hills above the French Riviera has been ordered to be demolished after a 15-year court battle over the property finally came to an end. Patrick Diter bought a rundown 2,000-square-foot home on a huge parcel of land and started to expand on it. Chateau Diter, as he calls it, had been abandoned for years and regularly squatted in before he bought it. When Diter bought the property, a permit was obtained to put a small expansion onto the house. The problem is, Diter took it much further than that and over four years, the ramshackle 2,000-square-foot house grew to 32,000 square feet. Diter also put in a pool, a lake, heliports – everything you could possibly want or wish for in a property. There was only one problem – he never got the right permit for all those additions.
The construction on Diter's property began in 2005. Four years later, in 2009, a group of his neighbors led by Stephen and Caroline Butt took him to court, demanding that the building be stopped. An appeal court in Aix-en-Provence ruled that the chateau must be demolished in 2015. But Diter wasn't giving up on his dream house quite so easily. He took his case to la Cour de Cassation, the highest judicial court in France. Unfortunately for him, they upheld the decision of the appeal court and ruled that the chateau must be torn down and the surrounding land restored to its original state.
Diter is still not ready to give up hope. Reportedly, he's considering taking his case to the European Court of Human Rights. His neighbors' attorney, Virginie Lachaut-Dana said, "'la Cour de Cassation's decision is definitive under French law and cannot be overturned by a European court." Local officials also think Diter is barking up the wrong tree. They insist that no one has violated Diter's human rights."
Diter isn't too off in not obtaining permits as it turns out. There's a saying in the South of France: le permis Provençal. There is a widespread practice of starting to build before securing the proper permits and permissions, which effectively presents building authorities with, as the French say, a fait accompli. Diter was likely aware of this and also of the fact that it usually works out fine. Unfortunately for Diter that wasn't the case. In fact, he was probably doomed from the moment he sold part of his land to a wealthy British couple, who thought they were purchasing their own dreamy part of quiet Provence.
Unfortunately for Diter's neighbors, the loud parties held at his chateau have driven them around the bend. Caroline Butt gave an interview to MailOnline in 2019, saying, "Sometimes the music is so loud we cannot sit out on the terrace. You can't sleep and he has had parties that go on until 5 am. It means you cannot enjoy your own home." The Butts owns the 20-acre estate next door that was formerly part of Diter's parcel of land.
Diter bought the estate of Saint-Jacques du Couloubrier in 2000 for $1.8 million. He and his family moved into the rundown farmhouse. In 2001, he sold most of the land and the main house to the Butts for $3.6 million. Caroline Butts said her French home was "absolute magic with wonderful views…" until January 2005 when Diter started expanding his home.
Diter replanted thousands of trees destroyed by a fire. He collected doors, stonework, and fireplaces from around France, Monaco, and Italy. He filed for a building permit for an extension and had a verbal agreement from the mayor's office. He didn't wait to receive the permit before he started construction. The permit did eventually arrive a few months later. He had 90% of his chateau completed before Stephen and Caroline Butts took him to court for the first time in 2009.
The basic issue is that Diter did not have permission to tear down the original main house – not that he grossly expanded the scope of work on his original permit. It appears he should have gotten specific permission to demo the house. That rundown house, it turns out, was a protected site. It was an ancient pilgrimage stopover on the way to Santiago de Compostela to the shrine of St. James the Great on the Camino de Santiago.
Chateau Diter has 18 bedroom suites, a swimming pool, a cellar with a wine tasting room, two helipads, a bell tower, an orange grove, hand-painted murals, and centuries-old fireplaces. Chateau Diter has hosted celebrity parties, the "X-Factor," and multi-million weddings. In fact, when Simon Cowell got to the chateau after renting it in 2017 for an episode of the "X-Factor," he called it "the most beautiful property I have ever seen.
The Court of Cassation not only ruled that Chateau Diter must be demolished, it also issued Diter $550,000 in fines. Diter now has 18 months to demolish his chateau. If he doesn't comply, he will be fined $226,000 plus $56,000 for every single day it stands after the deadline.