Millionaire accountant Graham Wildin, 69, has today been handed a suspended jail term for flouting a court order to demolish the private 10,000 square foot leisure centre he built without planning permission for himself and his family at his home in Cinderford, Gloucestershire.
Dubbed ‘Britain’s biggest mancave,’ the building includes a bowling alley, 16 seat cinema and squash courts.
Rolls Royce driver Mr Wildin was 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.
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Graham Wildin, 69, has today been handed a suspended jail term for flouting a court order to demolish the private 10,000 square foot leisure centre. He is pictured above inside the leisure centre casino
The council found when they last inspected the site that work had started on a new swimming pool on the land.
Yesterday 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.
In November 2018 the Council had obtained an injunction against Mr Wildin and he had until 25th April last year to demolish the leisure building he built in 2014 and return the land to its original state.
He was warned that if he disobeyed the injunction, he could be held to be in contempt of court, imprisoned and have his assets seized.
A council spokesperson said today (June 25) ‘When planning officers visited the site in 2020, they found that no action had been taken to comply with the injunction. When they returned to the site after the first Covid-19 lockdown, they saw that additional works had started to construct a building to house a swimming pool next to the leisure building.
‘When the Council first had reports of building works in 2013, Mr Wildin received advice that the building he planned to construct required planning permission and that to continue with its development would be unlawful.
‘Since then, the Council’s position has been continually upheld, first by the Planning Inspectorate and subsequently by two High Court Judges, all of whom Mr Wildin has ignored.
‘On Thursday this week, the High Court in Cardiff heard evidence from Stephen Colegate, the Council’s Principal Planning Officer and Helen Blundell, the Council’s solicitor, about Mr Wildin’s response to previous court orders.
Council planners have said the ‘bulky structure’ is ‘totally out of scale and proportion with the surrounding development’ in Cinderford
In November 2018 the Council had obtained an injunction against Mr Wildin and he had until 25th April last year to demolish the leisure building he built in 2014 and return the land to its original state
‘Mr Wildin candidly accepted that he had not completed the required works. He said that he could not comply for various reasons, including being unable to find contractors and the inability to find the necessary money.
‘Due to the claimed lack of funds, the judge was not prepared to find Mr Wildin in contempt of court for the requirement to demolish the building entirely, but he was satisfied that he was in contempt of court for not soft stripping the interior of the building, for not decommissioning services and in four other respects.
‘His Honour Judge Milwyn Jarman QC handed down the sentence today after hearing submissions by counsel for the local authority Stephen Whale and Charles Auld for Mr Wildin.
‘The judge refused to adjourn for sentencing, commenting that until recently Mr Wildin had made no effort to comply with the injunction, but instead had made threats of legal action against the Council, had made complaints about the Council’s solicitor and had continued to make vexatious requests for information.
‘Giving his decision, HHJ Jarman QC handed down a custodial sentence of 6 weeks, suspended for 12 months on the condition that he strip the interior of the building including removing all sports equipment, the cinema, bowling alley, all doors, lighting, radiators, fixtures, fittings, sanitary ware and furniture, along with disconnecting electricity and water supplies within 18 weeks.
‘The requirements of the injunction and the original Enforcement Notice to demolish the entire building remain in force.
‘He noted the long history of the building and that Mr Wildin knew before, or within a couple of months of starting work, that the building would not constitute permitted development, but he carried on regardless knowing that he was risking costs.
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
Mr Wildin told the court at an earlier hearing that it would cost him £72,000 to demolish the ‘mancave’ and this would affect the livelihoods of his 50-strong staff at his accoountancy firm
‘The judge found that Mr Wildin had great difficulty accepting the harm the building has caused locally and stated that it was in the public interest that the planning controls are observed to deter others who might be tempted by Mr Wildin’s example.
‘The Council has been awarded substantial costs as part of the hearing.’
Cllr Tim Gwilliam, Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Planning said: ‘Today’s result was completely avoidable. If Mr Wildin had followed the advice of the many experts who advised him to comply with the law, he would not have faced this outcome.
‘The Council’s determination to see this matter through was not borne out of malice or trying to attack someone who has been a businessman in the district for many years, but simply out of doing what is right and fair.
‘Every year, hundreds of people ask the Council for planning advice and follow it. The Council does its best to assist people in securing permissions for development proposals that improve the environment in which they live whilst safeguarding the community. It is important that the planning rules and policies are adhered to.
‘The Forest of Dean District Council would like to thank the people of the Forest and the people of Cinderford in particular for their patience while we followed the lengthy process of making this happen.’
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’ in Cinderford.
Locals were outraged when Mr Wildin built the leisure centre by sinking it 18-feet into his garden. The grandfather-of-five said he thought he did not need permission when he began construction,
Mr Wildin told the court at an earlier hearing that it would cost him £72,000 to demolish the ‘mancave’ and this would affect the livelihoods of his 50-strong staff at his accoountancy firm.