Brick-by-Brick Enforcement Case

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Built in the 18th century, the Crooked House was a distinctive landmark of local importance, known as “Britain’s wonkiest inn”, as one side of the building began to sink in the early 19th century due to mining in the area. The Crooked House pub was demolished last year soon after a fire broke out. The sudden fire and swift demolition of the building drew the attention of the national press and the condemnation of many in the local community.

The Law

Demolition work constitutes “development” within the meaning of section 55 of the Town and Country Planning Act, and therefore requires permission from the local planning authority. As such, the demolition of the Crooked House was unlawful and represented in a breach of planning control.

The Crooked House is owned by ATE Farms Limited, and the South Staffordshire District Council served an enforcement notice for the unlawful demolition of the pub on to the company as well as its directors on 27 February 2024. The Enforcement Notice states that ATE Farms Limited and its directors have 30 days to lodge an appeal, otherwise, the notice will take effect on 28 March 2024 and obliges the landowners to rebuild the pub painstakingly, brick-by-brick, within three years.

The enforcement notice specifies that the building must be recreated as similarly as possible, including materials, to the demolished building as it stood before the start of the demolition on 05 August 2023. Failure to comply with the enforcement notice could result in prosecution and/or remedial action by the council.

Landowners/Developers Take Heed!

This is not the first time national news has been made of developers/landowners being forced to rebuild a building after its demolition. In 2015, Westminster City Council issued an (at the time) “unprecedented” enforcement notice ordering a developer to rebuild the Carlton Tavern pub in Kilburn brick-by-brick after it was unexpectedly demolished.

For ATE Farms Limited, this represents a very costly and time-consuming mistake and brings home the importance local authorities place on locally-significant buildings. Landowners and developers must be conscientious when making decisions about their property, as “development” also means demolition under the Act. Developers must be vigilant and follow the procedural requirements outlined in planning law and policy to mitigate any possible breaches, and should take care to assess risk when purchasing historic and/or locally-significant buildings they plan to demolish, even if they are not protected.

In this case, it remains to be seen if the enforcement notice will be appealed, or what additional engineering and rebuilding costs the landowners will have to bear to intentionally re-build Britain’s wonkiest inn.

Planning policy is constantly evolving. If you would like advice on how planning law and policy might affect you, please contact Tom Jones.