A COUNCIL is investigating potential breaches of the law after the total demolition of a landmark pub within 48 hours of a severe fire.

South Staffordshire Council said its officers had carried out a site visit to the Crooked House in Himley, near Dudley, on Monday but had not agreed to "the demolition of the whole structure" or deemed that it was necessary.

Dudley News: The remains of The Crooked House pub near Dudley (PA)The remains of The Crooked House pub near Dudley (PA)

Police and fire service experts are investigating the cause of a fire late on Saturday, which gutted the 18th century pub, two weeks after it was sold by brewer Marston's to a firm based in Warwickshire.

Dudley North MP Marco Longhi has said he is "completely devasted and angry at what has taken place" at the pub, and has written to Staffordshire Police "to question them on how they are conducting their investigation."

The Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, is calling for the inn - known as "Britain's wonkiest pub" due to mining subsidence - to be rebuilt brick by brick and for a ban on any other future use for the site.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, a day after a mechanical digger was used to reduce the remaining structure to rubble, the leader of South Staffordshire Council, Councillor Roger Lees, said: "Our officers carried out a site visit to the site yesterday, prior to the demolition of the building.

"Officers agreed a programme of works with the landowner's representative to ensure the safety of the building and the wider site.

"The agreed course of action included the removal of three elements of the first-floor front elevation only. This was only to avoid the weak parts of the structure from falling.

"At no point did the council agree the demolition of the whole structure nor was this deemed necessary."

Dudley News: The fire damaged Crooked House pubThe fire damaged Crooked House pub (Image: Jacob King / PA)

Cllr Lees said: "This council finds the manner in which the situation was managed following the fire completely unacceptable and contrary to instructions provided by our officers.

"As such, we are currently investigating potential breaches of both the Town and Country Planning Act and the Buildings Act."

The councillor's statement said demolition of a building should be carried out in accordance with Schedule 2 Part 11 Class B of The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015.

Mr Lees added: "The steps required by the legislation were not carried out in this case. We have referred these matters to our legal team with a view to taking enforcement action.

"As soon as we were made aware of the breaches during the demolition, we notified the Health and Safety Executive.

"We are also liaising with many other relevant statutory bodies, including Historic England, the police and fire services, amongst others.

"These bodies will take the lead on investigating the issues surrounding the fire, safety of the unauthorised demolition and securing the ongoing safety of the site.

"Our own investigation is in its early stages and whilst it continues at pace, we as ask for time to consider the facts thoroughly to ensure any future actions are meaningful and proportionate.

Dudley News: The remains of The Crooked House pub at Himley (PA)The remains of The Crooked House pub at Himley (PA)

"The council is incredibly saddened by the loss of the building which, whilst not listed, was a heritage asset and important landmark to the local area and community.

"Over recent months, the council had been in conversation with the relevant national bodies regarding how best to protect and preserve this important heritage asset."

There have been multiple reports that mounds of dirt were blocking access roads to the pub after the fire started, something Mr Street confirmed in a letter to the police and fire services.

Staffordshire Police have said the force is progressing a number of lines of enquiry alongside South Staffordshire Council and continues to ask anyone with any information relevant to the inquiry to get in touch as soon as possible.

Chief Inspector Chris Cotton said: “We recognise the cultural heritage and significance of the building within communities in the area and we understand that people are concerned about what happened over the last few days.

“I’d like to reiterate that speculation into the cause of the fire is not helpful at this time.

“Officers have been working hard to examine all of the evidence available and continue to speak to members of the public who have been forthcoming with information which can help our investigation.

“A cordon was in place temporarily whilst we carried out inquiries at the scene, but, due to the unsafe structure of the building, officers were pulled back and the scene was stood down.

“Since then, the area has been in the care of the landowners.”

Conservative MP Mr Longhi said in a statement posted on Facebook: “I refuse to believe that what has taken place is normal procedure.

“I have written to the police to question them on how they are conducting their investigation.

“Surely, they would have needed access to the site to carry on their investigation with the help of forensics? How are they going to do this now that the building has been demolished?

“Did the Police intervene during demolition? There are many questions that need answering and a thorough investigation needs to take place.”