THE Campaign for Pubs has written to Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, urging him to act to change the law to stop the predatory purchasing and asset-stripping of historic pubs, following the destruction of the Crooked House at Himley.

Locals and people across the country have expressed shock, anger and sadness at the loss of the landmark leaning pub which was demolished on Monday after a severe last Saturday August 5, which police are treating as arson.

The Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, has called for the pub to be rebuilt brick by brick and the Campaign for Pubs is also calling for the iconic boozer to be reconstructed.

The campaign group has said the case of the Crooked House has highlighted the weakness of the planning system in protecting pubs and that what has happened to the much-loved wonky pub must be the catalyst for change to prevent unscrupulous owners from buying pubs to close and redevelop without the community having any say - when the pub could be viable in alternative hands. The Campaign for Pubs says the asset-stripping and predatory purchasing of pubs, with a view to running them down and profiting from conversion to alternative use or development must end.

It is calling on the Government to introduce it’s Give Pubs Protection policy which would mean that any historic pub (50 years old or more) couldn’t be sold for alternative use until it had been marketed at the independently assessed value as a pub for at least a year. This would stamp out the way owners seek to profit from selling pubs well in excess of their value as a pub for development or conversion. The group says this simple change would have prevented Marston’s from selling the Crooked House to Oak Farm Quarry Landfill and would have allowed local buyers or the community to buy the pub, as a pub.

Members of the campaign group called for the end to ‘permitted development rights’ for pubs, leading to a change in the law in 2017, but more action is needed – it says - including the Give Pubs Protection change.

The campaign also wants to see penalties for unauthorised demolitions or conversions increased substantially.

Greg Mulholland, campaign director of the Campaign for Pubs, said: “What has happened to the historic and unique Crooked House pub is a national scandal, as well as a loss to the local community and its history and heritage.

“As well as a full investigation and appropriate action, this sad and unnecessary destruction of a world-famous pub must be the catalyst for change, to stop cynical and unscrupulous owners buying up pubs to convert and develop them and to stop the endemic asset-stripping of our historic pubs.

“We need a simple change to planning law so that no historic pub can be sold for alternative use, converted or demolished until it has been properly marketed for at least a year at the independently valued price as a pub.

“This would stop the cynical destruction of pubs and allow licensees, local breweries, entrepreneurs and communities to buy our historic pubs and make a success of them”.

James Watson, pub protection adviser of the Campaign for Pubs, added: “All pub lovers up and down the country are deeply shocked and appalled at what has happened to the iconic Crooked House pub.

“The Government must act to prevent pubs being lost when there is a buyer as a pub as well as introducing far more serious penalties for unauthorised conversions and demolitions.

“Many pubs, especially in big cities, are at risk because the value of a pub as a development opportunity is much greater than the list value as a pub, despite the fact the pub plays a key community role and also contributes to the local economy. “The Government is keen to claim it supports pubs, but without changes to planning law, stricter guidelines for councils and much harsher penalties, we will lose more of our historic pub stock, with a loss to local communities and our history and heritage.

“If he cares about stopping the unnecessary destruction of our nation’s pubs, the Prime Minister will instruct his Ministers to act.”