Crooked House pub blaze treated as ‘arson’

By Amelie Maurice-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

'Tragedy': CAMRA called for more regulations on developers
'Tragedy': CAMRA called for more regulations on developers

Related tags Staffordshire Health and safety Property Marston's pub company

A fire, which tore through Britain’s ‘wonkiest’ pub just a month after its sale, is being treated as arson, according to police.

This comes after its demolition sparked anger, with the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) calling it a “national tragedy”.

The Crooked House​ pub on Himley Road in the West Midlands burnt down on Saturday night (5 August) and was then bulldozed on Monday morning, shocking the public.

Staffordshire Police said the investigation into the fire was continuing as they tried to understand the circumstances which they are treating as arson.

They are working with Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service and liaising with their fire investigators who have confirmed that the cause of the fire cannot currently be determined.

The pub was previously owned by Marston's.

However, police are following up on a number of lines of enquiry, and continue to engage with the owners.

Ongoing investigation

Detective chief superintendent and head of specialist crime Tom Chisholm said:  “We understand the significance of this much-loved building and the upset and anger felt by many so want to reassure you we’re doing all we can to understand more about what happened, and who was responsible.

“There is lots of misinformation circulating within communities and online and this is unhelpful. We’re trying to provide accurate and timely updates, but as I am sure you can appreciate, there is a lot of work and liaison with a number of partners which needs to be completed and this takes time.”

However, he said there were also certain things police and fire did not have the powers to deal with. For instance, the decision around partial demolition of the building was given to the owner.

“We are working hard with our fire colleagues to understand the cause of the fire and are in contact with the landowner, we will keep you updated with any further significant developments," Chisholm added.

Firefighters​ initially responded to try and extinguish the flames, supported by colleagues from West Midlands Fire Service, and police officers closed the road and managed the scene.

A specialist fire investigator then examined the scene to try and determine the cause of the fire.

Police believe the fire may have been started deliberately and are now leading the investigation.

They are closely supported by colleagues from the fire services, who brought a specialist accelerant detection dog to the site yesterday to investigate.

'National tragedy'

CAMRA chairman Nik Antona said the Crooked House blaze was a “national tragedy”.

He continued: “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.  

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.” 

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