Police are treating the fire at the historic Black Country pub The Crooked House as arson while CAMRA has described the case as a “national tragedy”.
In a statement last night (Wednesday, 9 August), Staffordshire Police said the fire was deliberately started but investigations were currently unable to determine the cause.
It said: “Our investigation into a fire at the Crooked House on Himley Road last Saturday continues as we try to understand the circumstances, which we are now treating as arson.
“A specialist fire investigator examined the scene to try and determine the cause of the fire. In this case, we believe the fire may have been started deliberately and police are now leading the investigation.”
“This fire has shocked and upset so many given the, albeit not listed, cultural importance and heritage of the building. This is not lost on us and a robust investigation using all available information and forensic opportunities is being carried out.”
The Campaign for Real Ale’s (CAMRA) chairman Nik Antona said police and the council “must act swiftly” to investigate the fire and demolition.
He said: “The destruction of this iconic pub has brought a nationwide scandal to the forefront of people’s minds.
“Despite the Government granting full planning protection to pubs in 2017 – meaning that change of use or demolition requires planning permission – we continue to see developers flouting the rules with pubs routinely converted or demolished without that permission in place.
“Figures released by CAMRA just last week showed that up to a third of closures and demolitions may be happening without the required planning permission, denying the local community the opportunity to save their local pub.
“This damaging practice must stop, and those found to have converted or demolished pubs against planning rules must be required to restore the original building brick by brick. If local authorities won’t provide adequate planning enforcement, then central government needs to step in to make sure that unscrupulous developers know that they will face action if they do the same.”
CAMRA’s Pub Campaigns Director, Gary Timmins, has also now written to Rachel Maclean MP, Housing and Planning Minister, asking for central government to take action to deter unscrupulous developers and ensure that illegally demolished pubs are rebuilt ‘brick by brick’.
In the letter, Timmins wrote about the Crooked House: “The complete destruction of this iconic pub has brought the nationwide scandal of the non-enforcement of pub protection legislation to the forefront of people’s minds.”
CAMRA Chairman, Nik Antona, added: “This damaging practice must stop, and those found to have converted or demolished pubs against planning rules must be required to restore the original building brick by brick. If local authorities won’t provide adequate planning enforcement, then central government needs to step in to make sure that unscrupulous developers know that they will face action if they do the same.
“It is a tragedy that loved community pubs continue to be converted or demolished without planning permission in England, and that weak planning rules in Scotland and Wales allow this to happen legally. Government across the UK and at all levels needs to step up and get serious about protecting the UK’s treasured pub stock.”
This article was originally published by the drinks business and has been shared with permission.