A millionaire who illegally built “Britain’s best man cave” has reportedly bought neighbours’ homes to stop the council from tearing it down.
Graham Wildin, 69, allegedly bought the surrounding homes for his family and has been accused of going to war with his neighbors to do everything to try and save the 10,000sq/ft leisure complex at the back of his home.
After an eight-year battle, he has been ordered by the courts to destroy the complex that includes a cinema, squash court and a bowling alley.
The final deadline to pull it down to avoid jail for contemplation of court passed nearly a month ago, but the structure remains in place.
And after initially moving his classic car collection onto the street to create “parking chaos”, it is now claimed he has purchased neighboring land and property for his family – to block any attempts by Forest of Dean District Council to have it forcibly removed.
Sources say land registry records now show that property to the front and side have been transferred or sold to a company owned by other members of Wildin’s family.
It is understood relatives or neighbors would now have to give permission for the bulldozers to pass over their land to reach Mr Wildin’s man cave to forcibly take it down.
Mr Wildin didn’t respond to requests for comment – but neighbors were split on his latest tactic – with some saying he has “dug his own grave” as the council could seek a further court order to access, while others praised his “ingenuity. ”
One neighbour, who praised the plan, said: “The council can’t now knock it down, as legally they have to have permission from the land owner to cross the land to get to the building.
“He has given ownership of that land, to his children, who aren’t going to allow that permission. They can’t force them. Like it or loathe it, it’s clever.”
But another neighbor said they felt it wouldn’t end well for him.
They added: “He builds his oversized ‘man cave’, without planning permission and has spent about eight years of his life, fighting the council and lost at every point.
“He now has a suspended sentence, with prison time, if he fails to comply with the court order, and now that he hasn’t complied with those orders he is now in contempt of court.
“He thinks he has now outsmarted the authorities, by surrounding his property, with land that is the ownership of his family members, so the council cannot get to the man cave to demolish it.”
Another neighbor added: “He’s digging his own grave and the council will bury him.”
Mr Wildin first sparked outrage amongst his neighbors when he was found to have carried out the work without the required planning permission in 2014.
A lengthy legal fight followed, ending with a High Court judge handing down an injunction in 2018. Mr Wildin was initially given until the end of April 2020 to remove the 10,000sq/ft complex.
However, after failing to carry out the court’s orders, he was found in contempt of court.
Mr Justice Jarman handed down a custodial sentence of six weeks, suspended for 12 months in November last year and a new deadline was set for 10 March this year.
Mr Wildin has now reached the deadline to comply with the order to complete the required work under the threat of prison if he failed to do so.
The council has been contacted for comment.
But speaking after an earlier hearing, Cllr Tim Gwilliam said the whole process had been completely avoidable.
He said: “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.”