Express & Star

MPs back call to do more to protect old pubs and stop another loss like Crooked House

Calls for better protection to be given to heritage pubs following the demise of the Crooked House have been unanimously backed by MPs.

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The Crooked House burning. Photo: Chris Green

The matter was aired in Westminster Hall on Thursday afternoon after Dudley North MP Marco Longhi successfully applied for a House of Commons debate.

His action followed the destruction of the infamous leaning Himley Road public house which burned down and was then demolished in August, prompting a police investigation and public outrage.

Dudley North MP Marco Longhi

Addressing a near empty chamber due to most MPs heading to their constituencies ahead of the weekend, Mr Longhi demanded tightening of legislation governing the special listing of heritage pubs and better communication between councils and emergency services to tackle incidents better.

He said heritage pubs on the market should be first offered to potential pub operators for an initial 12-month period, followed by a six-month period as a community asset to minimise the risk of developers purchasing and then knocking them down before they can be saved.

He also asked when long-awaited new laws for tougher Building Preservation Notices will be brought into force. Council planners may serve such a notice on the owner and occupier of a building which is not listed, but which they consider is of special architectural or historic interest and is in danger of demolition or of alteration in such a way as to affect its character.

In response, newly apppointed minister for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Simon Hoare, said he welcomed Mr Longhi's efforts and said there were already laws in place to protect treasured properties including old pubs of historic significance.

The minister said "local authorities have powers to enforce total rebuilding" of heritage buildings knocked down without permission and can use "fines if those responsible fail to comply".

"There are powers and I would encourage councils to use them," Mr Hoare said.

However, he cautioned that no-one wanted to see "buildings for the sake of sentiment fall into a state of disrepair on our high streets" if they do not attract a buyer when put up for sale.

Mr Hoare said his department would be looking at all the issues raised in the wake of the Crooked House blaze in partnership with the Home Office and the Department of Culture Media & Sport to prevent a repeat at other sites in the UK and to safeguard heritage pubs for future generations.

Five men and a woman have been arrested in connection with the blaze that destroyed the 18th century pub in Himley, near Dudley, on August 5.

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