Demolition of illegal "biggest man cave" begins as owner watches on

An illegal 'man cave' built at a millionaire's mansion, which had a bowling alley, casino and cinema is being torn down. Graham Wildin built the 10,000 sq ft leisure complex on Meendhurst Road in Cinderford in 2014 - without having planning permission.

This morning (June 4) construction workers plotted how they would navigate diggers through the narrow routes available. And a lonely figure watched on from the mansion this morning before the owner appeared, leaving the house and opening the gates to let out a delivery van.

He was asked if he had any comment and if he thought the demolition was fair but did not answer questions and promptly returned inside the property. The forecourt at the home displayed a dozen vehicles, including models of Rolls Royce, Mercedes, Porsche, Range Rover and Bentley.

A resident, who wished to remain anonymous, said she was relieved the man cave was being demolished because it was loud and an eyesore.

“It’s about time," she said. "We get a full view of it from here. Absolutely, I’m happy to see it go. I can hear his ball when he’s playing 10 pin. He’s just something else, that man. I think all the people down the bottom (of the road) are very happy.”

But some residents declined to answer questions due to a “request” they stay silent.

“As neighbours we have decided not to say anything,” one said. Another responded: “We’ve all decided we don’t want to talk to the press.”

One neighbour said the council had urged them to keep silent, while another referred to Mr Wildin when he said: “I’ve been told not to say anything at all. He came out this morning and had a word with the people who were there.”

Patrick Grindle, 60, a resident who works as a delivery man, played down the impact that the man cave has had. He said: “I can’t see what the big hoo-hah is about it.

"He shouldn’t have built it without the right planning permission. It’s all going to go in landfill now isn’t it? So what happens now is the environmental argument.”

Mr Grindle said his shed fell over during the initial construction, which Mr Wildin immediately promised to rebuild. “I never expected him to but he did, with concrete blocks - he did it properly,” he said.

The council said demolition of the man cave began on Friday and it will "look to recover the full cost of the demolition from the landowner in due course".

A Forest of Dean District Council spokesperson said: “As a council it is our duty to ensure that planning and development proposals comply with the law and bring benefit to the local area, whilst also safeguarding the community.

"Hundreds of people every year follow the correct process for planning applications and development, sadly this has not been the case at this location.

“It is important to note that the cost of this process should not be borne by the taxpayer, and we will look to recover the full cost of the demolition from the landowner in due course.

“We will work closely with our demolition contractor, to limit any disruption for residents. We would like to also take this opportunity to thank the people living in close proximity to this property for their patience during this lengthy legal process.”

After receiving approval to proceed with the demolition, the site was secured on May 31, 2024, with demolition planned over the next six to eight weeks.

This follows a lengthy legal process where Defendant Graham Wildin received multiple court orders to demolish the building and served time in prison for contempt of court, the council said. Mr Wildin first took steps to construct a leisure centre in the back garden of one of two adjacent houses he then owned at Meendhurst Road in November 2013, prompting a member of the public to submit a complaint to the Forest of Dean District Council, the council said.

Shortly after the start of construction various council officers advised Wildin that the proposed building was not ‘permitted development’ and required planning permission, a statement said.

Following a series of warnings, in November 2018 the council obtained an injunction against Wildin, and he was given until 25 April 2020 to demolish the leisure building. In legal proceedings brought by Forest of Dean District Council in June 2022, Wildin was found in contempt of court for non-compliance with the injunction.

The judge sentenced him to six weeks imprisonment suspended for 12 months, on the condition that the building be permanently stripped and decommissioned within 18 weeks. Wildin subsequently appealed the decision.

The appeal was dismissed, and he was given until March 10 2022 to comply with the Order to complete the required work, if he was to avoid prison. Again, he did not comply with the injunction and was sentenced to six weeks imprisonment in August 2022.

In March 2023 Wildin appealed the prison sentence, this was also dismissed. The latest deadline for Wildin to comply with the injunction expired in early January 2023.