Campaigners mount sit-in protest as contractor works on Crooked House rubble

Staffordshire Police said a CCTV trawl, forensics and witness accounts continue to be worked through as part of its inquiry.

Campaigners have taken direct action near the remains of the Crooked House pub, after staff and machinery from a specialist demolition and waste management firm moved on to the site.

A lorry owned by Putnam Construction Services was delayed by a sit-down protest on the lane leading to the now-demolished pub on Monday, more than two weeks after it was gutted by a suspected arson attack.

The burnt-out shell of the landmark pub, famed for its wonky walls and floors due to mining-related subsidence, was demolished within 48 hours of the blaze on Saturday August 5.

Crooked House
Protesters gathered at the site after a mechanical digger was delivered (Matthew Cooper/PA)

Workers at the site told reporters that work had begun to “clean” and store bricks at the site and assess any asbestos risk from rubble, which is now home to signs condemning the pub’s destruction.

In a statement, South Staffordshire Council said it was liaising with the contractor after workers moved on to the site in Himley, near Dudley, West Midlands.

A statement from the local authority on Monday read: “The council is aware of a contractor onsite and is engaging with the site owners and contractors to investigate what works are taking place.

“We are still currently ascertaining all the facts so cannot comment any further on this specific matter.

“The council is still investigating the full incident and formalising next steps and we cannot comment on any element of the ongoing investigation, so that we do not potentially prejudice our enforcement action. We will provide updates on our website as soon as we are able.”

Crooked House protest
Jane Baker, who is calling for the rebuilding of the Crooked House, takes part in the sit-down protest (Matthew Cooper/PA)

While more than a dozen campaigners demanded access to the lane leading to the rubble to witness the work taking place, two of the protesters sat in the path of a lorry and trailer exiting the site, and another vehicle attempting to enter Crooked House Lane.

Holding a protest banner, Jane Baker, from nearby Halesowen, said: “We’re doing this, and all the people who have arrived today, because we care very much about our heritage, our history and the Crooked House.

“She’s always stood there at the bottom of this lane. She means a lot to us all. What’s happened is wrong and we need to make a stand, all of us.”

Ms Baker, 59, a housewife added: “We just want her back where she was. It’s affected all of us, far and wide. We just want it rebuilt – by hook or by crook.

“We’re making a stand for a very iconic building. This is why we are sitting in the road.”

Dudley North MP Marco Longhi urged anyone with concerns about issues at the site to continue to report them to his office.

Mr Longhi said in a post on Facebook: “The council is a statutory body and it has the most significant influence on this matter at present.

Crooked House pub fire
The burnt-out remains of the pub before its demolition (Jacob King/PA)

“I am grateful to everybody for reporting what is happening as I do have a direct line of communication with South Staffordshire District Council and I have made sure they are informed of all occurrences as reported by locals.

“The council is fully aware of its statutory roles, and it is fully aware of the very high levels of interest locally, nationally and internationally. What I have observed so far is that it is very much on top of things and it is undertaking its statutory roles admirably.”

Staffordshire Police said it had received reports that a group of protesters had turned up at the site and officers were “in attendance as a precaution and to reassure the community”.

The force said: “We recognise the strength of local feeling following the loss of a significant cultural landmark.

“Our investigation is live and ongoing. A CCTV trawl, forensics and witness accounts continue to be worked through as we try to piece together the circumstances which led to the fire.”

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