- Written by Vanessa Pierce
- BBC News, West Midlands
Campaigners say the vital heritage will be lost unless planning laws change to protect the historic pubs.
An open letter to government from the Campaign for Pubs highlighted the “appalling” condition of The Crooked House pub in the black country, which had been burned down in a fire and then demolished.
Activists said the outrage over the incident should serve as a “catalyst for change”.
Mayor Andy Street said whoever did this messed with the wrong community.
He strengthened his call for the pub at Himley, near Dudley, to be rebuilt “brick by brick”.
The West Midlands Metro Mayor said: “Whoever targeted this beloved landmark in this way has messed with the wrong pub, the wrong community and the wrong authorities.”
Staffordshire Police are treating a blaze on Saturday night as arson.
The 18th-century building, famous for its sloping floors and walls, was bulldozed less than two days after the fire, to the outrage of residents and former customers.
“Many historic pubs are being lost across the country as owners seek to capitalize on the value of pub development, even though the pub is profitable and even where there is a potential owner who wants to buy the pub, as a pub campaign group that aims to promote, protect and support pubs across the country said. .
“The government must act to prevent pubs from being lost where there is a buyer as a pub as well as to introduce more severe penalties for unauthorized conversions and demolitions.”
Dudley North MP Marco Longhi said he would campaign to close a “potential loophole” that could prevent property destruction during a possible criminal investigation.
He said the police should have been able to take control of the buildings while the arson investigation was underway.
“The site should have been cordoned off for investigation and forensic medicine the moment the police and firefighters arrived at the site,” he said.
“I will support any initiative to close this potential loophole that the police are relying on in The Crooked House case.”
James Stephens of the Chapel House pub in the nearby Journal echoed the call for new legislation to protect public institutions.
“I can think of no legacy more appropriate to our place than to use his name to prevent another community from being stolen from its crooked home.”
The Crooked House was sold by Marston’s in July to ATE Farms, based in Bedworth, Warwickshire.
ATE Farms is run by Carly Taylor, with George Adam Taylor, 44, the former manager. Mr Taylor was previously also a Director of Hemley Environmental Ltd, which owns a 15-hectare Oak Farm quarry and tailings site next to Crooked House and is registered at the same address as ATE Farms.
The BBC has contacted them for comment.
Mr Taylor owns the Sarah Mansfield pub in Wylie, Warwickshire, which is empty and for sale after internal demolition in 2021.
Through one of his other companies, AT Contracting Ltd, Mr Taylor had two approved planning applications to refurbish the first floor of the pub to allow bedrooms and to build either one or two dwellings in the car park.
One source, who asked not to be named, said the pub was once a thriving center in the village, but has since become “depressing”.
“One day during lockdown a load of men showed up with skip machines and burned down the pub,” they said.
“When we mean destroyable, we mean no wiring or plumbing, just an empty shell.
“It’s so sad to look at it. It’s such a loss, every time we get over it it saddens us more.”
A planning application submitted by ATE Farms to convert former quarry land near Lutterworth, Leicestershire, into a solar farm and residential lodge has raised some objections from local residents.
One complainant described the schemes as “a blot on the landscape” while another accused the applicant of “significant removal of shrubbery on the site”.
On Thursday, West Midlands Mayor Andy Street met the leader of South Staffordshire Council to discuss the incident.
The council is considering whether the demolition of the building is illegal.
Mr Street said the design had tightened up to re-establish the pub after meeting with the local authority, and encouraged members of the public to stay away from the site.
He added, “We are as saddened, angry and frustrated as anyone by what happened to The Crooked House, but the last thing we want is the community’s well-meaning action to unintentionally damage any positive future for the site.”
“The Crooked House will not go down in history on our watch.”
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