THE mayor of the West Midlands has urged local residents and former patrons of the Crooked House pub to avoid taking items from its ruins to maximise the chances of it being rebuilt.

Andy Street said the site should be left alone to maintain the chance of the property being rebuilt after the 18th-century pub in Himley, near Dudley, burned down on Saturday and was demolished without permission on Monday.

Local residents, former patrons and politicians have visited the site in recent days, with several reports of items including bricks and sign lettering being taken as mementoes.

Speaking in Birmingham's Centenary Square on Friday afternoon, Mr Street urged residents to leave the site to allow emergency services and the local authority to fully investigate what happened after police said arson caused the fire.

He said: "[We had a] very positive meeting with South Staffordshire District Council and we're absolutely in lockstep.

"They are doing their investigation, and my role is to support that, they're the planning authority, and I want the message to go out that I've got utter confidence in their approach to this and I want the public to give them the time and the space to do their investigations.

"My message is please leave the site alone.

"People initially wanted to go to make their feelings heard.

"They have been heard loud and clear, so you don't need to go and do that.

"The kindest thing you can do is leave the site alone so that the investigations can continue and then as much material is there as possible for any potential rebuild."

The Crooked House burned down just two weeks after it was sold by pub operating firm Marston's to a private buyer.

Mr Street previously said that the loss of the site, known as Britain's wonkiest pub, was a "tragedy" and said he and South Staffordshire Council were "laser-focused" on rebuilding the site "brick by brick".

The site was totally demolished by a mechanical digger on Monday evening, which the council later said went against what it had agreed or deemed necessary with the site's landowners.

Council officers had inspected the remains of the pub earlier that day and agreed the first floor should be demolished for safety reasons but had not sanctioned the levelling of the entire building and are now investigating potential breaches of the law.

Also on Friday, Staffordshire Police said that detectives were working through "a number of lines of enquiry" including looking at CCTV footage, forensic evidence and witness accounts, but said no arrests had been made.

The force said it also had no control over the demolition, due to the site having been handed back to its owner, and said online speculation about what had happened was "understandable" but "unhelpful" and called for patience.

The pub's loss has prompted an outpouring of anger from the local community, with Mr Street saying those responsible for the demolition had "messed with the wrong pub".

He said: "I feel very strongly about this because my job is to represent the people of the West Midlands and they are making it very, very clear this week that they are very, very cross that this has happened, particularly in Dudley and the Black Country.

"This is a part of our heritage, our history, and somebody thought it could literally just be confined to rubble. That is not right.

"The community has spoken with one voice and said this is not right, and not in our name, and as I said in my social media posts this afternoon, the wrong pub, with the wrong community, and the wrong local authority.

"It made me feel very resolved to try to get to the bottom of what was going on and if humanly possible to get the pub rebuilt."

Mr Street also said that he wanted to look at the law surrounding the protection of heritage assets, following calls by pub campaigners for rule changes to ensure historic pubs remained open.

The Campaign For Pubs wrote to the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, on Thursday demanding a change to planning laws which would mean pubs aged 50 years or older would have to be marketed as a pub for at least a year before they could be converted, demolished or have their use changed.

Mr Street said the Crooked House was a "test case" of heritage laws, which he believed should be reviewed.

He said: "There are two eventual outcomes. Number one is that the pub is rebuilt.

"But the wider issue, and why this is a test case that goes beyond the Black Country, is that we really want to look at the law to see whether the protection for heritage assets like this is good enough."