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Crooked House owners ordered to rebuild wonky pub

In the latest twist in the ongoing story surrounding the destruction of the UK’s wonkiest pub, the owners of the site have been issued with an enforcement notice.

Matt Girling / CC-BY-SA-3.0:

The news comes after Gavin Williamson MP, who represents the South Staffordshire constituency where the historic pub once stood, called for the pub to be made an Asset of Community Value so that it could be rebuilt in order to “bring back an important piece of Staffordshire heritage”.

Today it was announced that South Staffordshire Council has issued an enforcement notice the “demolition of an unlisted building” without “planning permission”. The fire that destroyed The Crooked House came swiftly after the pub had been bought by private buyer, husband and wife Adam and Carly Taylor, having been placed on the market by Marston’s Brewery in March 2023. What was left of the historic structure was then swiftly demolished by wrecking crews, prompting outrage.

The enforcement notice “requires the building to be built back to what it was prior to the fire”, and that the “time for compliance is three years from 27 February 2024”, with the Taylors having a 30 day appeal period where an independent planning inspector can hear the owners’ case.

“If the notice is not appealed and not complied with within the time limit it will be considered that an offence has been committed and the council can prosecute for failure to comply with the notice,” it explained.

“The Crooked House was not a listed building,” the council said in a statement, “but was a non-designated heritage asset, registered on the Historic Environment Record as a building of local importance.”

The notice further clarified: “In the week prior to the fire, Historic England received two applications for listing of the Crooked House. These were in the process of being considered, but due to the timing of the fire the process had only just started.”

Though The Crooked House came to be at a 16° degree angle due to a mining subsidence causing the ground to sink in the 19th century, the 61 page notice specified that the rebuilt pub would have to honour its name and be restored to its skew whiff glory: “[The rebuild has to] recreate it as similar as possible to the demolished building as it stood prior to start of demolition on 5 August 2023.”

It was also specified that reclaimed bricks from the site would have to be used in the build – shortly after the demolition, South Staffordshire Council ruled that rubble from the destroyed Black Country boozer would have to remain on site.

Gary Timmins, pub and club campaigns director for the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), said: “The destruction of the Crooked House was a national tragedy, so it’s fantastic news that the owners have been ordered to rebuild the pub brick-by-brick. This is exactly what we were hoping to hear from South Staffordshire Council, and it’s a testament to the hard work of all the dedicated campaigners who stepped up and fought for the Crooked House.”

However, Timmins warned that there are plenty of pubs whose destruction has not attracted the same media attention as that of The Crooked House: “Unfortunately, CAMRA is still investigating eight cases from 2023 where pubs appear to have been demolished or converted without apparent planning permission. We’re calling for the government to bolster planning policy so that unscrupulous developers know they will face action if they breach the law.”

Just before The Crooked House was destroyed, CAMRA published data that revealed that a third of pub losses happened without the required planning permission.

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