A COUNCIL say its is still pursuing enforcement action against a millionaire over his illegally-built luxury ’man cave’, despite his claim in court to have sold it to “a Mexican gentleman” for £1.
Graham Wildin, who was jailed for six weeks for contempt of court last year over his failure to demolish the 10,000 sq ft garden structure, told a hearing on Wednesday the leisure complex – complete with cinema, bar, bowling alley and casino – is no longer his responsibility.
But the 70-year-old accountant’s appeal against his jail sentence was dismissed by High Court judges and he was also ordered to pay the Forest Council’s costs amounting to nearly £10,000.
Speaking afterwards, Forest Council leader and Cabinet member for Planning Cllr Tim Gwilliam said: “I want to state, in the strongest possible terms, that we will continue to pursue enforcement action against Mr Wildin to ensure that he complies with the order to decommission services at the leisure building. Our teams are working tirelessly to bring this situation to a successful conclusion.”
Mr Wildin built the complex at the back of his Meendhurst Road home in Cinderford without planning permission in 2014.
He was jailed last August by HHJ Jarman KC, who activated a suspended sentence imposed in 2021, because he had failed to comply with most requirements of a court ruling when he was found to have breached an injunction.
Cllr Gwilliam added: “We are pleased that Mr Wildin’s appeal hearing was dismissed.
“This complex and lengthy case was completely avoidable, and has caused unnecessary difficulties for the Council and the residents of Cinderford…
“As the planning authority, it is our job to protect communities from unlawful development, where it impacts the lives and wellbeing of residents.
“Every year hundreds of people work with us to bring their planning ambitions to fruition lawfully. However, we will pursue those who do not adhere to the law.
“The Forest of Dean District Council would like to again thank the people of the Forest, and in particular those that have been personally affected by this case, for their patience during this lengthy process as we work to resolve the matter.”
Mr Wildin told the court that in deciding to send him to prison, the judge had overlooked a number of factors.
He stated that it was impossible to remove the radiators and bowling alley and that he had sold the building to a ‘Mexican gentleman’ for £1 so that it was "no longer my problem.”
Stephen Whale, counsel for the council, reminded the court that there had been compliance with only one of the requirements of the suspended sentence, which was to remove a bar.
Mr Wildin had failed to provide any evidence of most of the assertions he made to the High Court, including his lack of means.
Mr Wildin’s appeal was unanimously dismissed by all three judges.
Lord Justice Holroyd delivered the judgement.
After outlining the history of the case, he accepted the council’s submissions that any sale of the leisure building was irrelevant to this appeal.
He found that HHJ Jarman KC had come to the correct decision in deciding to commit Mr Wildin to prison, after taking into account all the relevant factors, including the ‘significant culpability’ of Mr Wildin and his persistent disobedience of court orders.
He noted that he “sought to use his own disobedience of orders as a means to deter further enforcement against him,” and that he could have no complaint about the decision to send him to prison.
The council applied for its costs of defending the appeal and was awarded these in the sum of £9,662, to be paid within 14 days.
Mr Wildin has argued in the past that he did not need planning permission for the construction, and that having to pull down the luxury leisure complex would ruin him and force him to lay off 40 staff
The latest deadline for Mr Wildin to soft strip and decommission services at the leisure building expired in early January.
Before and since that deadline, officers have been gathering evidence to support the next stage of enforcement action, said a spokesperson.