BOSTIN’ NEWS FOR CROOKED HOUSE CAMPAIGN AS COUNCIL ORDERS PUB REBUILT

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Staffordshire Police have confirmed that six people remain on conditional bail in relation to the investigation into the alleged arson and unauthorised demolition of the Crooked House pub at Himley, near Dudley in the West Midlands in August last year.

The news comes as South Staffordshire Council announced that it had issued an enforcement notice requiring the 18th century pub building to be rebuilt
in the form it had before it was gutted by an as yet unexplained fire.

Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service reported that access to the burning pub was hindered by a mound of earth piled up across the single access road which necessitated firefighters laying around a kilometre of hoses to reach the blaze.

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The burnt out remains of the pub were demolished by its owner less than two days later without the permission of South Staffordshire Council, the local planning authority. An action which is contrary to both planning regulations and heritage guidelines.

The Enforcement Notice confirms also that, at the time of the fire, the Crooked House, where customers could famously enjoy an optical illusion, caused by the pub subsiding because of old mine workings, which made it look as though a coin was rolling up the bar, was under consideration both for local heritage listing and for national listing by Historic England.

A statement from Historic England issued on X-Twitter welcomed the “robust” action taken in the case, adding that the national heritage body had supported the investigation into the Crooked House fire by both the Staffordshire Police and South Staffordshire Council and would continue to do so.

An appendix to the enforcement notice records that the Crooked House had, in fact, been added to the local Historic Environment record [HER] in June 2023, just weeks before the suspicious fire. In planning terms the Crooked House had then become “a non-designated heritage asset”, which made the preservation of the pub a material consideration in the event of any planning application being submitted.

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The notice specifies that reclaimed materials salvaged from the fire are to be used where possible and it is understood that some 25,000 bricks were recovered from the demolished pub and are currently in secure storage.

The enforcement notice was issued to two individuals, Mr George Adam Taylor [known as Adam Taylor], and Ms Carly Taylor who are reported to live near Lutterworth in Leicestershire, as well as to the company secretary of ATE Farms Ltd and the owner/occupier of the land on which the historic and much loved pub had stood.

The entry for ATE Farms Ltd at Companies House reveals that Mr George Adam Taylor is currently the company’s only director, while Ms Carly Taylor was also a director of the company until she resigned in December 2023.

Mr Taylor was also briefly a director of Himley Environmental Ltd. That company owns a landfill site next to the site of the Crooked House.

Those named have thirty days to lodge an appeal against the notice to the Government’s Planning Inspectorate.

In August 2023 the Police announced that they were treating as suspected Arson the fire which gutted the famously crooked former farm house, which had been purchased by ATE Farms Ltd from brewer Marston’s just two weeks before the devastating fire.

In the course of the investigation a 66-year-old man from Dudley, and a 33-year-old man, from Milton Keynes as well as a 51-year-old man from Buckingham were arrested and bailed.

A 23-year-old man, a 34-year-old woman and a 44-year-old man, all from Leicestershire were also arrested and bailed.

Police announced that the individuals arrested were questioned on suspicion of conspiracy to commit arson with intent, or being reckless as to whether life was endangered.

Meanwhile, local campaigners will hope that the enforcement notice will be as successful as that issued after the similarly unlawful demolition of the Carlton Tavern in Maida Vale, North London, which was bulldozed by its property developer owner CTLX in 2015, shortly after the company was denied planning permission to convert the pub into flats and just days before was to be listed Grade 2.

Rebuilt, the Carlton Tavern opened again for trade in the Spring of 2021.

It is there that the wider importance of the decision by South Staffordshire Council to issue the Taylor’s and ATE Farms Ltd with an enforcement notice may lie.

While it would be wrong to connect the Taylors and ATE Farms Ltd with the fire, the subsequent demolition has been connected with them directly by the council and it serves as a lesson to the owners of historic buildings that shortcutting process does not work and could turn out to be very expensive if local planning authorities choose to use their powers to the full.

There is also a warning implicit in the story of the Crooked House [so far] to those same local authorities and planning bodies.

That is do not operate outside of the consent of the local community.

As the elected mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street told the Save the Crooked House Facebook group,

“Hi everyone, today is obviously a monumental day in the campaign to get the Crooked House rebuilt.

“South Staffordshire District Council deserve enormous credit for holding their nerve and pursuing this enforcement action.

“However it would never have happened if it wasn’t for the tireless work of each and everyone one of you in this group. What you have done to
keep the Crooked House at the forefront of people’s minds has been exceptional, and as Mayor I want to personally thank you all.”

Mr Street concluded,

“I said at the time of the tragedy that the owners had messed with the wrong community, and you haven’t half proved that right. Thank you.”

Campaigners on the FaceBook group greeted the news of the enforcement notice with a combination of joy that the Crooked House could rise phoenix like from its own ashes, and sense of schadenfreude that the owners appear to have been held responsible for the unauthorised demolition.

However, some cautioned that the Taylors and ATE Farms could appeal to the planning inspector, or even allow the company to go into liquidation to try to avoid having to rebuild the pub.

Others were even concerned that building regulations would require the Crooked House to be rebuilt straight!

Generally though the sense at the end of this week is that the news is, to use the famous Black Country word for something really rather good, “bostin'”.

 

 

 

 

Lead Image: Edited from MIDI via Wikipaedia CC BY-SA 4.0

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