Express & Star

People who demolished Crooked House 'should pay for its rebuild', says Andy Street

The elected mayor for the West Midlands is hopeful the Crooked House will be rebuilt, and that those responsible for its demolition will be made to pick up the tab.

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The Crooked House ablaze. Photo: Chris Green

Andy Street said the people responsible for the demolition of the famous pub at Himley, near Dudley, had 'chosen the wrong authority' with which to flout planning regulations.

The Crooked House, famous for being "Britain's wonkiest pub", was demolished without planning permission on August 7, two days after it was severely damaged in an alleged arson attack.

During a visit to the Express & Star offices, Mr Street repeated his calls for the pub to be rebuilt, and said he was hopeful that the pub would once more rise from the ashes.

Mr Street said local authorities had the power to order the reconstruction of buildings which had been demolished without planning permission.

"I think the people who demolished the pub without permission will find they have chosen to the wrong authority to mess with," he said.

"I believe South Staffs are very determined to see this through. I'm really encouraged they are not prepared to allow this to happen, this is an unprecedented removal of a heritage asset.

"These powers have up until now been little used to demand a rebuild, but there is precedent on this," he said.

"It should be paid for by the people who ordered the demolition."

The Crooked House in the aftermath of the fire

Mr Street said pubs were an important part of the West Midlands' heritage, and supported measures by the Campaign for Real Ale to draw up a list of pubs at risk.

The Crooked House, which dates back to 1765, was put on the market by pub company Marston's in January, with an asking price of £675,000. In July this year it was sold to Bedworth-based A T E Farms for an 'alternative use'.

The pub was gutted by a massive fire on August 5 this year, and two days later it was allegedly demolished on the orders of the owner, without planning consent.

The cost of rebuilding the Crooked House has been estimated as costing up to £3 million. The last accounts filed by A T E Farms suggest the company would not have the funds to cover the cost of a rebuild.

The Crooked House after it was demolished

Councillor Roger Less, leader of South Staffordshire Council, said council officers had agreed a programme of works with representatives of A T E Farns to ensure the safety of the building.

“The agreed course of action included the removal of three elements of the first-floor front elevation only," said Councillor Lees.

"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.

“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 steps required by the legislation were not carried out in this case."

Andy Street

Councillors Lees said the matter had been referred to the council's legal team with a view to taking enforcement action.

South Staffordshire Police launched an investigation into an alleged arson attack following the fire.

To date, six people have been arrested in connection with the fire.

On August 24, a 66-year-old man from Dudley and a 33-year-old man from Milton Keynes were arrested on suspicion of arson with intent to endanger life.

Last month, a 34-year-old woman and a 44-year-old man from Leicestershire were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit arson. A 51-year-old man from Buckingham was also arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit arson. A 23-year-old man from Leicestershire was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit arson on October 3. All are on conditional bail.

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