'Menacingly dangerous' Bilston bar closed after landlord's murder will not be demolished
A 'menacingly dangerous' Wolverhampton bar where a landlord was gunned down almost a decade ago will not be knocked to the ground, council planning chiefs have ruled.
Developers wanted to demolish the former Gavin’s Sports Bar in Bilston after claiming it had become a ‘magnet for vandals and squatters’ since Swinder Singh Batth’s murder.
But Wolverhampton council denied developers the chance to flatten the Grade II listed building, also known as Pipe Hall, after declaring it can be preserved.
Councillor for Bilston East Stephen Simkins said he was ‘all for’ proposals which would bring the historic building back into use for the community.
He added: “Pipe Hall is iconic for lots of people in Bilston. For a lot of families, their parents got married and held receptions there. It’s really precious to people in Bilston.
“It’s right next to the tram stop so there should be lots of business opportunities which could bring employment to people living in Bilston.
“It does look like it’s tired. Everything should be done to bring this building back into use. We can’t afford to have it lay empty for another ten years. But if it’s unsafe, that has got to be addressed.
'Get the best for Bilston'
“The developers should talk openly and frankly with our officers so we can get the best for Bilston.”
Property development company WV14 LTD claimed the site, next to the Bilston Central tram stop, had fallen into a ‘grave state of disrepair’ after closing following Mr Batth’s death in 2009.
Heantun Housing Group bought the site and proposed to transform it into a cafe and job training centre but was unable to secure a government grant needed for restoration.
In their application to the council, developers said they wanted to ‘clear the eyesore building’ to create a ‘very promising future development’ at the site but did not reveal any detailed plans.
They added: “It is necessary to demolish the building as it has been established that there is no economical or viable use today or in the foreseeable future for this property.”
The original building, which dates back to 1810 and was built for the Pipe family, became female private school Pipe Hall Academy in April 1869 before later being turned into a hotel and pub.
Father-of-four Mr Batth, who ran the bar with his son Gavin, was shot in the chest outside the Hall Street venue in July 2009.
The landlord was hit by a bullet aimed at someone else, the trial had heard at the time. The innocent bystander, who lived in Hughes Road, Moxley, had intervened in a trivial row over a laser pen when he was killed.
Gunman Sukwinder Sanghera, of Albion Road, West Bromwich and accomplice Jasbir Takhar, of Birmingham New Road, Coseley were jailed for life after being convicted of the 47-year-old’s murder.
Sanghera was ordered to serve a minimum of 28 years and ringleader Takhar at least 29 years.
In a structural report commissioned last June, Daniel Paul claimed the derelict building was ‘menacingly dangerous and hazardous’ and in need of extensive structural repair and renovation.
Wolverhampton South East MP Pat McFadden has called for a further assessment of the building’s condition, adding: “This is a valued local building and the issue in recent months has been trying to get a professional independent view of the condition of the building.
“The owner wants to knock it down but I don’t believe local people would want to see it knocked down if there is a viable alternative that would mean it could be repaired and brought back into productive use.”
A Wolverhampton council spokesman said Historic England objected to the proposals after stating demolition would cause ‘the loss of a significant heritage asset’.
The council added: “Following this, the council rejected the planning application and has strongly advised the applicant to put forward a restoration plan, or consider marketing the property, to achieve a development solution that conserves its heritage value and contribution to the conservation area.
“There are many acceptable uses for this building, including residential.”