UK

Agreement reached to keep bricks and foundations on Crooked House pub site

People inspect the rubble remains of The Crooked House pub in Himley, near Dudley in the West Midlands (Matthew Cooper/PA)
People inspect the rubble remains of The Crooked House pub in Himley, near Dudley in the West Midlands (Matthew Cooper/PA) People inspect the rubble remains of The Crooked House pub in Himley, near Dudley in the West Midlands (Matthew Cooper/PA)

South Staffordshire Council has said it will closely monitor work at the Crooked House pub after securing an agreement that bricks and foundations will be kept at the site.

The local authority said the “positive step” at the fire-hit and now demolished structure in Himley, near Dudley, followed ongoing engagement with the site’s owners, a contractor, the Health and Safety Executive, and police.

Campaigners took direct action, including a sit-down protest, on Monday, after heavy machinery and staff moved on to the site, amid claims that checks for the presence of asbestos were taking place.

The burnt-out shell of the landmark pub, famed for its wonky walls and floors due to mining-related subsidence, was demolished within 48 hours of a suspected arson attack on Saturday August 5.

Crooked House pub fire
Crooked House pub fire The remains of the pub on August 8 (David Davies/PA)

In a statement issued on Tuesday, South Staffordshire Council said: “Following reports of activity at the Crooked House site on the morning of Monday, August 21, a number of council officers attended the site to ascertain what works were being carried out.

“Officers spent a considerable time on site and following detailed discussion with the contractors it was agreed that the contractors’ work would cease so that a comprehensive schedule of works could be submitted by them and reviewed by the relevant authorities.”

As well as confirming that the council was not the enforcing authority for safety of works on site, the statement continued: “As the local planning authority, the council has been engaging with the site owners and contractors to understand the scope of works proposed on site.

“We are very pleased that we now have agreement that the bricks will remain on site, and that the foundations and slabs will remain to assist our future investigation.

“This is a positive step and the council continues to engage with the site owners, contractor, HSE, police and other partners to ensure the site is made safe from hazardous substances.

“However, this means that there will be activity on site over coming days to remove hazardous waste and to make the site safe, and this will be closely monitored.”

The council has said it is undertaking a thorough and active investigation and is committed to working with partners “using the legal powers available to us”.

Its statement added: “As was stated at the beginning of the investigation, this will be a long process and the council needs time to investigate properly and take appropriate action.”

Crooked House pub fire
Crooked House pub fire A sit-down protest took place on Monday (Matthew Cooper/PA)

Councillor Roger Lees, leader of the council and local member for Himley, said: “The council is continuing to work behind the scenes with the relevant organisations and it’s important our focus is on a robust and thorough investigation.

“I would ask that we are given time to do so and I can reassure the public that we are doing everything in our power to investigate the matter thoroughly.”

Campaigner Paul Turner, whose online Save The Crooked House petition has attracted more than 21,000 signatures, said he had met with a contractor at the site and a representative of a second firm overseeing work taking place.

Mr Turner, from nearby Wombourne, said in a Facebook post on a group calling for a brick-by-brick rebuild of the pub: “I have seen the Method Statement which has been agreed with South Staffs District Council and I fully trust that the work that has been described within that is the only work that will be taking place.

“Basically, they will be using a grabber to pick up bricks with as much care as possible to avoid damage.

“These will be laid aside for the specialist asbestos workers to clean by hand and stack on pallets. There may be bricks which are too badly damaged to be of any use and these will be put aside.

“Other items in the rubble which are clearly unable to be used will be placed in a skip for disposal but South Staffs Council will need to examine and approve any waste that is removed from the site.”

Staffordshire Police have said their inquiry into the suspected arson attack is ongoing, with a CCTV trawl, forensics and witness accounts continuing to be worked through.