Express & Star

Mayor blasts Planning Inspectorate for 'pandering' to Crooked House owners after inquiry postponed

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street has accused the Planning Inspectorate of "pandering" to the owners of the Crooked House after it agreed to postpone an impending public inquiry.

Last updated
The burnt out remains of the Crooked House before it was demolished

The famously wonky pub was destroyed by fire in August last year, and the remains were demolished 48 hours later.

South Staffordshire Council ordered owners ATE Farms to rebuild the beloved Himley pub within three years, however, the owners contested the ruling and a public inquiry was due to start in August.

The Planning Inspectorate has agreed with the owners that it should be delayed, which has infuriated Mr Street, who fired off a letter immediately to the Bristol-based organisation.

He said: "I write to you with dismay having learnt that the appeal of ATE Farms Limited in regards to the Crooked House has been delayed by a year – from August ’24 to Spring 2025.

"As you will know this is one of the most high-profile alleged breaches of planning regulations in recent years, and one that has caused immense anger and upset across the Black Country community. This building was part of our heritage, and was snatched away by what Staffordshire Police suspect was arson followed by the infamous demolition.

"Whilst I accept that criminal proceedings are ongoing in regards to the suspected arson – and it is unclear yet whether the six people arrested and bailed will be charged and court proceedings will begin – that should not, in my opinion, affect this appeal as the fire and the demolition should be treated as separate incidents.

"There is no enforcement notice served by South Staffordshire District Council for the alleged breach of planning control under paragraph B. 1(c) of Part 11 of Schedule 2 to the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 2015.

"There is a significant inconsistency in your citing of ongoing criminal proceedings for the delay of the appeal, because at the same time you have said you will not let the criminal proceedings cause an indefinite delay. So either the arson investigation is linked to this appeal or not, and given you have agreed to only a partial delay it’s clear you do not believe it is. Therefore there is no good reason to hold the planning appeal up at all, and I would put it to you that you are simply pandering to the applicant and their legal team."

He added: "This unnecessary delay sends an awful message for future enforcement notices – particularly those brought about by much smaller authorities IE a district council in this case – that the Planning Inspectorate will side with appeal applicants and leave you in limbo for a substantial amount of time. I’m sure you would agree that the last thing you would want is for authorities to shy away from enforcement action when they believe a planning breach has been committed, but I’m fearful that this decision to delay will do exactly that.

"I would respectfully ask you to reconsider your decision, find a new mutual date for the appeal as soon as feasibly possible, and draw this case to a concrete conclusion."

Staffordshire Police has made six arrests in connection with the destruction of the pub, which it is treating as arson.

Sorry, we are not accepting comments on this article.