CAMPAIGNERS battling to save The Fiddlers Arms in Lower Gornal have hit out at property firm bosses, accusing them of "dirty tricks", after discovering the historic pub is to be demolished imminently.

NewRiver Retail wants to redevelop the pub site in Straits Road - with a new Co-op convenience store favourite to replace the locally listed boozer, which dates back to 1860.

No planning application has yet been submitted but property company NewRiver Retail, which bought the pub along with a number of others across the borough with a view to developing them, has now sent Dudley Council a notification of demolition for The Fiddlers.

Pub campaigner Martin Day explained: "This means the plans do not need to go to the planning committee and the council’s only responsibility will be to ensure the demolition is carried out safely.

"The popular pub's locally listed status ceases to be effective under this piece of national planning law.

"The risk is that the developers can finish with an empty piece of land if the new plans are subsequently rejected, but it seems a risk NewRiver are prepared to take in order to avoid opposition to the demolition."

He believes The Fiddlers Arms "should be retained for future generations and not demolished" and he added: "It feels like pure vandalism knocking it down and we will be losing another piece of local history.”

Meanwhile - West Midlands UKIP MEP Bill Etheridge has slammed the property company's bid to bypass the planners and said: "NewRiver are now playing dirty tricks in their quest to wilfully destroy listed buildings."

Mr Etheridge, also councillor for Sedgley and a member of CAMRA, said: “The pub trade has enough troubles of its own, without ruthless opportunists reducing the local heritage - without even being overseen by democratically elected councillors."

Pub regular Kate Humphries said “This is very shocking and sad news for our local pub and other listed buildings out there. Something needs to be done to prevent this happening and give local councils more power to act."

A recent petition objecting to the loss of the pub garnered 740 signatures and Gornal councillors Anne Millward and David Stanley have also written letters objecting to the 19th century building being demolished.

Cllr Millward said: "We are losing much of our local heritage and I strongly feel that we need to protect this for future generations."

While cllr David Stanley said: "The building has quite a unique character in this area of Lower Gornal. It would be sad to see another part of our history disappear."

The Victorian Society, which has also objected to the demolition, describes the pub building as a "significant part of the townscape of Gornal" and "one of a depleted number of historic buildings to remain in the area".

News of the pub's fate has also devastated members of one of the oldest pigeon flying clubs in the borough which may be forced to close following the closure and subsequent demolition of The Fiddlers which is expected to face the bulldozers this month.

No-one from NewRiver Retail was available for comment at time of publishing.