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'Unlawfully' destroyed pubs should be rebuilt 'brick by brick' amid 'nationwide scandal' in wake of Crooked House loss
14 August 2023, 08:35
The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has slammed the "unlawful" demolition of pubs across England as a "nationwide scandal" calling for them to be rebuilt "brick by brick."
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The organisation said following the controversial razing of the historic Crooked House pub in South Staffordshire they had more than 30 sites may have suffered such fates in the past six months.
The Crooked House in Himley was hastily demolished just days after a fire gutted the interior, despite claims from South Staffordshire Council that full demolition was not necessary on safety grounds.
CAMRA said over 30 pubs may have been illegally converted or demolished in the last six months, flouting 2017 planning laws requiring permission.
In a strongly-worded letter to Housing Minister Rachel Maclean, CAMRA director Gary Timmins decried the "complete destruction" of the "iconic" Crooked House. He wrote: "This has brought the nationwide scandal of the non-enforcement of pub protection legislation to the forefront of people's minds."
CAMRA chairman Nik Antona also hit out, saying: "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 unscrupulous developers know they will face action."
Antona also criticised "weak planning rules" in Scotland and Wales allowing legal demolition, arguing all UK governments must "get serious about protecting the UK's treasured pub stock."
Camra chairman speaks out over Crooked House fire
The full letter from CAMRA to Rachel Maclean:
Dear Rachel Maclean,
I am writing on behalf of CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, about the case of the Crooked House in Himley and the wider scandal of property developers flouting planning rules that protect pubs without serious and consistent consequences across the country.
CAMRA campaigns to support and save pubs (and social clubs) across the UK and we take a keen interest in planning matters, having been a part of the successful campaign to secure the removal of Permitted Development Rights (PDRs) relating to pubs in England in 2017.
Following the recent sale of the Crooked House by Marstons PLC, a fire destroyed much of the interior of the building on the weekend of 5 August. Under 48 hours later, the remaining structure of the building was demolished without planning permission.
From public statements by South Staffordshire Council, we now understand that the full demolition of the building was not required by the safety inspection that took place after the fire.
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.
Despite the removal of PDRs relating to pubs in England six years ago, we continue to see developers flouting the rules with pubs routinely converted or demolished without that permission in place. Figures compiled and 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.
In the period January to June 2023, 64 pubs were converted or demolished in England with planning permission, however we are aware of a further 31 conversions or demolitions where we cannot find a planning application registered in respect of the pubs – and therefore may have taken place in contravention of planning laws.
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, as in the case of the Carlton Tavern in Maida Vale and the Punch Bowl in Cockfosters.
This is a widespread failure of local planning authorities to deliver their enforcement duties, partly due to fear of costly appeals or legal action from developers. Central government now needs to step in bolster planning policy if necessary, so that unscrupulous developers know that they will face action if they breach the law.
The decisive and celebrated actions that the Government took to protect pubs – a national cultural treasure – in 2017 will be undermined if this situation is allowed to continue.
We would welcome to chance to meet with you to discuss our data and how planning enforcement can be strengthened to deter developers from flouting legislation and ensure that illegally demolished or converted pubs are restored brick by brick.
CAMRA National Director and Chair of Pub Campaigns