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Court of Appeal to live stream contempt of court appeal next week from builder of “Britain’s biggest man cave”

The Court of Appeal will next week hear an appeal by a defendant found in contempt of court for failing to demolish a leisure building housing a cinema and bowling alley that he was ordered to take down in 2018.

The background to the hearing, which will be livestreamed at 10:30 am on 28 September, is that Forest of Dean Council obtained an injunction against Graham Wildin in November 2018, following numerous warnings dating back four years.

He had until 25 April 2020 to demolish a building he built in 2014 without planning permission. He was warned that disobeying the injunction would mean he could be held to be in contempt of court, imprisoned and have his assets seized.

However, planning officers who visited the site in 2020 found no action had been taken to comply with the action. On a second visit, after the first Covid-19 lockdown, they saw that additional works were underway to construct a building to house a swimming pool next to the leisure building.

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In June 2021 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.

Mr Wildin 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. He also said he could not 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 a custodial sentence of 6 weeks, suspended for 12 months on the condition that Mr Wildin strip the interior of the building, including removing all sports equipment, the cinema, bowling alley, all doors, lighting, radiators, fixtures, fitting, sanitary ware and furniture, along with disconnecting electricity and water supplies with 18 weeks. The requirements of the injunction and the original Enforcement Notice to demolish the entire building remained 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.

The judge found that Mr Wildin had great difficulty accepting the harm the building had caused locally and stated that it was in the public interest that the planning controls were observed to deter others who might be tempted by Mr Wildin's example.

The council was awarded “substantial” costs as part of the hearing.

Mr Wildin appealed.

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