Crooked House pub fire and demolition

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Jun 7, 2020
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Couple of weeks ago I read this pub had sold and then at the weekend it burned fairly badly, and was almost immediately demolished. Very coincidental timing!

The Crooked House scandal 'must be catalyst for change
The Crooked House

A change in the planning law is needed to protect heritage pubs, says a campaign group
By Vanessa Pearce
BBC News, West Midlands

Vital heritage will be be lost unless planning laws change to protect historic pubs, campaigners say.
An open letter to the government from the Campaign for Pubs has highlighted the "appalling" case of The Crooked House pub in the Black Country, gutted in a fire then demolished.
Anger over the incident must act as a "catalyst for change", said campaigners.
Mayor Andy Street said whoever did this messed with the wrong community.
He strengthened his call for the pub in Himley, near Dudley, to be rebuilt "brick by brick".
"Whoever has targeted this beloved landmark in this way has messed with the wrong pub, the wrong community, and the wrong authorities," the West Midlands Metro Mayor said.
Saturday night's fire is being treated as arson by Staffordshire Police.
The 18th Century building, famed for its sloping floors and walls, was bulldozed less than two days after the fire, prompting anger from residents and former customers.

"Many historic pubs up and down the country are being lost as owners seek to cash in on the development value of a pub, even despite the pub being profitable and even when there is a potential owner who wants to buy the pub, as a pub," said the campaign group, which aims to promote, protect and support pubs across the country.
"The government must act to prevent pubs being lost when there is a buyer as a pub as well as introducing far more serious penalties for unauthorised conversions and demolitions."
Remains of the pub site

Marco Longhi, MP for Dudley North, said he would campaign to close a "potential loophole" which could prevent the destruction of property during a potential criminal investigation.
Police should have been able to take the premises under their control during the arson investigation, he said.
"The site should have been cordoned off for investigation and forensics the moment the police and fire service came to the site," he said.
"I will support any initiative to close this potential loophole which the police is relying on for The Crooked House case."
Sign reading: Was bostin now bosted

James Stevens of The Chapel House pub at nearby Gornal echoed the call for new legislation to protect public institutions.
"I can't think of a more fitting legacy for our place than to use its name to stop another community from being robbed of their Crooked House."
James Stevens

The Crooked House was sold by Marston's in July to ATE Farms, based in Bedworth, Warwickshire.
ATE Farms is run by a Carly Taylor, with George Adam Taylor, 44, a previous director. Mr Taylor was also previously a director of Himley Environmental Ltd, which owns the 15-hectare Oak Farm Quarry and Landfill site adjacent to the Crooked House and is registered to the same address as ATE Farms.
They have been approached for comment by the BBC.
Mr Taylor owns the Sarah Mansfield pub in Willey, Warwickshire, which is empty and up for sale after being internally gutted in 2021.
Carly Taylor

Carly Taylor runs ATE Farms which acquired The Crooked House from Marston's last month
Through another of his companies, AT Contracting Ltd, Mr Taylor has had two planning applications approved to renovate the pub's first floor into letting bedrooms and to build either one or two dwellings in the car park.
One source, who did not want to be named, said the pub had previously been a thriving hub in the village, but had since become a "depressing eyesore".
"One day during lockdown, a load of guys turned up with skips and machines and literally gutted the pub," they said.
"When we mean gutted, we mean no wiring, no plumbing, it's just an empty shell.
"It's sad looking at it. It's a loss, every time we walk past it it saddens us more."
A planning application made by ATE Farms to convert former quarry land near Lutterworth, Leicestershire, into a solar farm and residential lodges attracted some objections from locals.
One complainant called the plans "a blot on the landscape" with another accusing the applicant of "considerable removal of existing hedgerow on the site".
On Thursday, West Midlands Mayor Andy Street met with the leader of South Staffordshire Council to discuss the incident.
The council is considering whether the demolition of the building was unlawful.
Mr Street said resolve had been hardened to recreate the pub after the meeting with the local authority, and encouraged members of the public to stay away from the site.
"We feel the sadness, anger, and frustration as much as anyone over what has happened to The Crooked House, but the last thing we want is for well-intentioned community action to inadvertently damage any positive future for the site," he added.
"The Crooked House will not be consigned to history on our watch."
Couple of weeks ago I read this pub had sold and then at the weekend it burned fairly badly, and was almost immediately demolished. Very coincidental timing!

Does seem a huge coincidence.

Ex-landlord toasts Crooked House after 'wonkiest' boozer is demolished​


The 18th-century building, known as Britain's wonkiest pub, was damaged by a fire before swiftly being taken down by a digger.

Its destruction has outraged locals and police are investigating the blaze, which happened two weeks after Marston's brewery sold it to a company in Warwickshire.

The demolition is also being probed by South Staffordshire Council.

Tom and Laura Catton, who ran it between 2006 and 2008, joined more than 100 people at the site in Himley, Staffordshire to toast it farewell.

"It means so much to us this place. This is where I met Laura. I proposed to her here," he said as he enjoyed a can of Banks's mild - which is produced just a few miles away.

"It held a lot of memories. Even after 15 years away it means a lot to us."

The pub was iconic for its slant, thanks to subsidence, amusing punters who are appalled about the building's rapid demise.

Tom said: "A lot of people thought they were drunk when they walked in because everything was all over the place.

"It doesn't do it justice, the name Crooked House. It had to be seen to be believed and it can't be, unfortunately, any more."

Laura said the "crazy" pub was "wonkier upstairs than downstairs".

Strong calls to rebuild the pub have been backed by West Midlands mayor Andy Street, who said it should be put back together brick by rick.

A Facebook page set up before the sale has seen its followers swell to more than 6,000 since the fire.

"My parents used to have a pub in Dudley in the late 60s and early 70s, and they used to bring us here 50 years ago. To see what it's like today is gut-wrenching, it really is."

He added: "Pubs - that's a big, passionate thing for Black Country people.

"Yesterday I was at home and people were messaging me on Facebook. About five o'clock last night they just completely destroyed it. Anger was there and I am not an angry person."

A petition to Save the Crooked House has also reached more than 12,000 signatures.

The petition's starter, Paul Turner, from Wombourne, said: "I remember driving down this road with my parents when I was about six years old and laughing at this funny building. It was part of my childhood. The landlord would show us the marble rolling up the ledge on the wall. It was something we were proud of as Black Country people - it was ours."

He hopes "some sort of replica" will be built in its place.

Campaigner Stuart Hall, who set it up, said: "It was just a shock on Saturday to find out it was on fire - absolutely devastating. I could get emotional, it's terrible.

The pub was sold to ATE Farms Ltd, owned by Carly Taylor, 34, from Warwickshire, on July 27.

It is registered with the same address as Himley Environmental Ltd, which operates a landfill next to the pub.

Locals had claimed people were partying inside the building before the fire on Saturday night, but police said nobody was inside when the blaze began.

Fire crews from Staffordshire and West Midlands raced to the scene but one of the first firefighters at the scene revealed his crew's access was hampered because a mound of dirt blocked the rural road.

They were left having to park a third of the way up the lane and roll out 40 lengths of hose to get to the fire.

South Staffordshire council leader Roger Lees was furious at the demolition work that followed the fire.

"The agreed course of action included the removal of three elements of the first-floor front elevation only. This was only to avoid the weak parts of the structure from falling," he said.

"At no point did the council agree the demolition of the whole structure nor was this deemed necessary."

The authority is investigating potential breaches of the Town and Country Planning Act.

The pub was not listed but it was considered a heritage asset and a landmark to the community.
Two men have been arrested on suspicion of arson over a fire that tore through the Crooked House pub.

Once known as "Britain's wonkiest" inn, it was set alight on 5 August, leaving it gutted.
Despite being derelict, it was a popular landmark in the Dudley area and its swift demolition prompted criticism from the local community.

A 66-year-old man from Dudley and a 33-year-old man from Milton Keynes are being questioned over the blaze.

The suspects were arrested on suspicion of arson with intent to endanger life and remain in custody, Staffordshire Police said.......

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