Hurst Green's Punch Bowl demolition saga continues as authorities explore the West Midland's Crooked House pub fire

It's been more than five months since it was ordered that the Punch Bowl pub in Hurst Green had to be rebuilt.
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Following news that an investigation has begun this week into the sudden demolition of the famous West Midlands pub the Crooked House, Catherine Musgrove looked into what’s happening at the site of the Ribble Valley pub thrown into the national spotlight.

The background

Andrew Donelan, Nicola Donelan, and Rebecca Donelan, all of Carr Hall, Whalley New Road, Wilpshire; David Cotterell, of Percliff Way, Philips Road, Blackburn; and Brian Ingleby of Hollowhead Avenue, Blackburn, were found guilty after a trial last year of unlawfully demolishing the Punch Bowl in Longridge Road, Hurst Green, in June 2021.

How The Punch Bowl Inn looks in August, five months after it was ordered to be rebuilt.  Photo: Kelvin Lister-StuttardHow The Punch Bowl Inn looks in August, five months after it was ordered to be rebuilt.  Photo: Kelvin Lister-Stuttard
How The Punch Bowl Inn looks in August, five months after it was ordered to be rebuilt. Photo: Kelvin Lister-Stuttard
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After losing an appeal in March 2023, they were fined a total of £69,075 and the owners ordered to restore the building to its former state within a year.

Click here for more about the court case and appeal

Holiday let application twist

For months there was no obvious sign of work at the site, with Donelan Trading even applying for permission just days after the court case to build seven holiday lets "in the precise form and appearance of the previous buildings".

How The Punch Bowl Inn looks in August, five months after it was ordered to be rebuilt.  Photo: Kelvin Lister-StuttardHow The Punch Bowl Inn looks in August, five months after it was ordered to be rebuilt.  Photo: Kelvin Lister-Stuttard
How The Punch Bowl Inn looks in August, five months after it was ordered to be rebuilt. Photo: Kelvin Lister-Stuttard

Their agent claimed that while the owners were happy to rebuild the former building, they were "concerned that to re-build the buildings in their exact previous form would prove unacceptable as it would continue various aspects of the previous buildings which have proved unsatisfactory in its previous incarnations."

He also said there was no viable future for a pub on the site.

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The application was rejected last month by Ribble Valley Borough Council, who said if approved, the holiday let application would "have the effect of regularising the unauthorised demolition of the original public house, which is the breach of planning control stated in the enforcement notice."

What's the latest?

Piles of rubble have been sifted through and sorted by experts.Piles of rubble have been sifted through and sorted by experts.
Piles of rubble have been sifted through and sorted by experts.

Now discussions are ongoing regarding the suitability of on-site material for use in rebuilding.

Historic Buildings Consultant Chris O'Flaherty has been on site and inspected the materials.

He found many 20th century building materials used for recent additions which "were agreed to possess negligible heritage value and were thus separated as waste from the older/traditional materials."

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In his report he added: "Of those older/traditional materials, the bulk was found to be in very poor condition.

This is how the Punch Bowl used to look.This is how the Punch Bowl used to look.
This is how the Punch Bowl used to look.

"Virtually no timber (joinery and structural) was salvageable due to decay and fire damage. No usable roofing slates were uncovered. No whole lintels or cills were uncovered, however fragments of broken pieces were found.

"The majority of the rubble stone walling was found to be seriously eroded and crumbling in texture, including fragments of stone etc used for rubble fill walling and internal backings.

"Some salvageable stone was however reclaimed and the pile of usable stone has been separated out from the crumbling material."

The Crooked House

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Petitions have been signed by thousands of people calling for The Crooked House in Himley, Staffordshire, to be rebuilt after it was devasted by fire and demolished without council permission this week.

The pub named Britain’s wonkiest after it began to sink due to mining in the area, and featured on TV and on social media clips showing items appearing to roll up the bar.