Millionaire who built 'man cave' LOSES appeal bid against convictionNovember 5, 2021
Millionaire, 70, who built ‘Britain’s best man cave’ LOSES appeal bid against contempt of court conviction for refusing to tear down illegal 10,000sq ft ‘leisure complex’ including cinema and bowling alley
- Graham Wildin, who built ‘Britain’s best man cave’ in his garden, has lost appeal bid against conviction
- Millionaire, 70, constructed illegal 10,000sq ft ‘leisure complex’ in his garden without planning permission
- Rolls Royce driver’s extension included bowling alley, cinema, squash courts, private casino and bar
- He refused a court order to bulldoze the development and was handed a suspended jail term
- Following a hearing at High Court in London, his appeal against the finding of contempt was dismissed
- Mr Wildin now has to demolish the facility within 18 weeks and the council has been awarded costs
A millionaire who built ‘Britain’s best man cave’ in his garden has lost his latest court battle in a seven-year fight to avoid tearing down his illegal 10,000 sq ft ‘leisure complex’.
Wealthy accountant Graham Wildin, 70, failed to quash a suspended prison sentence given for not removing a bowling alley, cinema, squash courts, private casino and bar in the £200,000 extension to his home in Cinderford, Gloucestershire.
At the Court of Appeal this week, he was set a deadline of March next year to demolish the structure or face jail.
Mr Wildin first sparked outrage among his neighbours when he was later found to have carried out the work without the required planning permission in 2014.
He has always insisted that he did not think he needed planning permission, and that by digging 18 feet into the hillside he was taking advantage of a legal loophole which allowed him to construct the building for use by his family.
A lengthy legal fight followed, with a High Court judge handing down an injunction in 2018 and Mr Wildin initially being given until the end of April 2020 to remove the complex. But after failing to carry out the orders, he was found in contempt of court.
And following a hearing at the Court of Appeal, his appeal against the finding of contempt was dismissed by Lady Justice Elisabeth Laing and Lord Justice Edis. Wildin was given until March 10, 2022, to comply with the order to complete the required work, if he is to avoid prison. Forest of Dean District Council has also been awarded substantial costs as part of the hearing.
Lady Justice Laing also found that the council had no way of proving whether Mr Wildin could afford to demolish the building, as he has never made full disclosure of his assets.
But she described him as ‘entirely the author of his own misfortune’ and said there was ‘reasonable basis’ to believe he was a very wealthy man.’
Mr Wildin has previously told a court that demolishing the ‘man cave’ would cost him a staggering £720,000 and he would be forced to lay off 40 staff.
Councillor Tim Gwilliam, Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Planning, said: ‘Today’s result is the latest in a completely avoidable and long running case. If Mr Wildin had followed the guidance of experts and complied with the sentencing originally handed down, this further court date would not have been necessary.
Graham Wildin inside the leisure centre he has built for himself and his family in his back garden
Aerial view of the vast ‘man cave’ built by Graham Wildin in his back garden
Mr Wildin had always maintained that he did not need the permissions and that by digging 18 feet into the hillside he was taking advantage of a loophole which allows him to construct the building for use by his family. Pictured: The home cinema
Pictured: The relaxation area and games room in Mr Wildin’s huge ‘man cave’ in his home in Cinderford
Mr Wildin at the bowling alley in the enormous ‘man cave’ added to his home in Cinderford
Pictured: The indoor table tennis and badminton court inside Mr Wildin’s massive ‘man cave’ in Cinderford
Graham Wildin’s 18,000 sq ft ‘man cave’ contains:
- A bowling alley
- A home cinema
- Squash courts
- A gym
- A private casino
- A bar
- A 25ft three-storey doll’s house
‘As a Council it is important to ensure that development proposals improve the environments in which they live, whilst safeguarding the community. Every year, hundreds of people ask the Council for planning advice and follow it. This has not been the case in Mr Wildin’s instance.
‘The Forest of Dean District Council would like to again thank the people of the Forest for their patience during this lengthy process as we work to secure demolition of the building.’
Mr Wildin’s condemned leisure complex includes a bar and private casino – and a 25ft high three storey doll’s house and soft play area for his visiting grandchildren.
Council planners have said the ‘bulky structure’ is ‘totally out of scale and proportion with the surrounding development’.
Locals were outraged when Mr Wildin built the leisure centre by sinking it 18ft into his garden. The grandfather-of-five said he thought he did not need permission when he began construction.
Mr Wildin was first served with an enforcement notice by Forest of Dean District council in 2014 requiring him to bulldoze the development but he did nothing to comply.
In fact, the council found when they last inspected the site, that work had started on a new swimming pool on the land.
In June this year, Forest of Dean District Council made a successful contempt of court application at the High Court in Cardiff, citing Mr Wildin for breach of planning laws.
He had been warned that if he disobeyed the injunction issued against him to demolish the building he could be held to be in contempt of court, imprisoned and have his assets seized.
The injunction was handed out at Cardiff High Court in September 2018 when the council asked the judge to back an enforcement notice issued in March 2014.
Pictured: The casino at Mr Wildin’s private leisure centre, which he has been ordered to tear down
Pictured: Free weights and benches in the home gym in Mr Wildin’s ‘man cave’ in his garden
The injunction was handed out at Cardiff High Court in September 2018 when the council asked the judge to back an enforcement notice issued in March 2014
Although the judge accepted that there would be adverse impacts upon Mr Wildin, he granted the injunction – adding that his circumstances did not outweigh public interest. Pictured: The development under construction
It was then that Mr Wildin told the court that an injunction would ruin him – stating that demolishing the man cave would cost him £720,000.
Although the judge accepted that there would be adverse impacts upon Mr Wildin, he granted the injunction – adding that his circumstances did not outweigh public interest.
Mr Wildin began building the luxury complex in 2013 and finished it the following year.
He claimed that by digging it 18ft into the hillside he was taking advantage of a loophole which allows him to construct the building for use by his family.
It is thought that demolition could take months – with the council having to compile a timetable to complete the job.
A council spokesman said: ‘In committal proceedings brought by Forest of Dean District Council in June 2021, His Honour Judge Jarman QC concluded that Mr Wildin was in contempt of court for non-compliance with an injunction order dated 2018.
‘This required Mr Wildin to soft strip and decommission services to the building, with the judge sentencing Mr Wildin to six weeks imprisonment suspended for 12 months, on the condition that the building be permanently stripped and decommissioned within 18 weeks.
‘Mr Wildin subsequently appealed the decision on the grounds that the Council gave no evidence of costs set out for the works to be completed and that 18 weeks was not an adequate time period to carry out the works.
Mr Wildin began building the luxury complex in 2013 and finished it the following year. It is thought that demolition could take months – with the council having to compile a timetable to complete the job
‘The appeal was heard at the Court of Appeal in the Royal Courts of Justice in London before Lady Justice Elisabeth Laing and Lord Justice Edis on 28 September 2021, with judgment suspended and handed down today (Thursday 4 November).
‘Lady Justice Elisabeth Laing found that the Council had no way of proving whether Mr Wildin could afford to demolish the building, since the relevant facts were in Mr Wildin’s exclusive knowledge and that Mr Wildin had not at any stage made full disclosure of his assets.
‘She reiterated that Mr Wildin was entirely the author of his own misfortune, going on to dismiss the appeal against the findings of contempt and against the sentence passed by HHJ Jarman QC.
‘Lord Justice Edis agreed with these findings, that disclosure of material concerning Mr Wildin’s financial situation was wholly inadequate and that there was ‘reasonable basis’ for the hypothesis that Mr Wildin is a very wealthy man.
‘Lord Justice Edis pointed to the money spent by Mr Wildin to build a large sports hall in his back garden without planning permission, adding it was unlikely that any rational person would take such a risk unless the potential risk was easily affordable.
‘With the appeal dismissed, Mr Wildin has been given until 10 March 2022 to comply with the order to complete the required work, if he is to avoid prison.
‘The Council has also been awarded substantial costs as part of the hearing.’
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