UK

Council probing potential breaches of law after demolition of landmark pub

The remains of The Crooked House pub near Dudley which has been demolished two days after it was gutted by fire (David Davies/PA)
The remains of The Crooked House pub near Dudley which has been demolished two days after it was gutted by fire (David Davies/PA) The remains of The Crooked House pub near Dudley which has been demolished two days after it was gutted by fire (David Davies/PA)

A council is investigating potential breaches of the law after the total demolition of a landmark pub within 48 hours of a severe fire.

South Staffordshire Council said its officers had carried out a site visit to the Crooked House in Himley, near Dudley, on Monday but had not agreed to “the demolition of the whole structure” or deemed that it was necessary.

Police and fire service experts are investigating the cause of a fire late on Saturday, which gutted the 18th century pub, two weeks after it was sold by brewer Marston’s to a firm based in Warwickshire.

Crooked House pub fire
Crooked House pub fire The burnt-out remains before Monday’s demolition (Jacob King/PA)

Dudley North MP Marco Longhi has said he is “completely devasted and angry at what has taken place” at the pub, and has written to Staffordshire Police “to question them on how they are conducting their investigation.”

The Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, is calling for the inn – known as “Britain’s wonkiest pub” due to mining subsidence – to be rebuilt brick by brick and for a ban on any other future use for the site.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, a day after a mechanical digger was used to reduce the remaining structure to rubble, the leader of South Staffordshire Council, Councillor Roger Lees, said: “Our officers carried out a site visit to the site yesterday, prior to the demolition of the building.

“Officers agreed a programme of works with the landowner’s representative to ensure the safety of the building and the wider site.

“The agreed course of action included the removal of three elements of the first-floor front elevation only. This was only to avoid the weak parts of the structure from falling.

“At no point did the council agree the demolition of the whole structure nor was this deemed necessary.”

Crooked House pub fire
Crooked House pub fire Flowers and a sympathy card left on signage near the pub (Matthew Cooper/PA)

Cllr Lees said: “This council finds the manner in which the situation was managed following the fire completely unacceptable and contrary to instructions provided by our officers.

“As such, we are currently investigating potential breaches of both the Town and Country Planning Act and the Buildings Act.”

The councillor’s statement said demolition of a building should be carried out in accordance with Schedule 2 Part 11 Class B of The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015.

Mr Lees added: “The steps required by the legislation were not carried out in this case. We have referred these matters to our legal team with a view to taking enforcement action.

“As soon as we were made aware of the breaches during the demolition, we notified the Health and Safety Executive.

A blocked road leading to the burnt out remains of The Crooked House (Jacob King/PA)
A blocked road leading to the burnt out remains of The Crooked House (Jacob King/PA) Emergency services found roads to The Crooked House were blocked by mounds of dirt (Jacob King/PA)

“We are also liaising with many other relevant statutory bodies, including Historic England, the police and fire services, amongst others.

“These bodies will take the lead on investigating the issues surrounding the fire, safety of the unauthorised demolition and securing the ongoing safety of the site.

“Our own investigation is in its early stages and whilst it continues at pace, we as ask for time to consider the facts thoroughly to ensure any future actions are meaningful and proportionate.

“The council is incredibly saddened by the loss of the building which, whilst not listed, was a heritage asset and important landmark to the local area and community.

“Over recent months, the council had been in conversation with the relevant national bodies regarding how best to protect and preserve this important heritage asset.”

There have been multiple reports that mounds of dirt were blocking access roads to the pub after the fire started, something Mr Street confirmed in a letter to the police and fire services.

Staffordshire Police have said the force is progressing a number of lines of enquiry alongside South Staffordshire Council and continues to ask anyone with any information relevant to the inquiry to get in touch as soon as possible.