Denial issued over Crooked House demolition work

A former director at a plant hire firm whose excavator was pictured on TV demolishing an 18th-century pub in the West Midlands has denied that the firm carried out the work.

South Staffordshire District Council has launched an investigation into potential breaches of planning and building laws after the historic Crooked House pub in Dudley was demolished on Monday (7 August), two days after being severely damaged by fire.

News footage of the demolition shows work being undertaken by a Hyundai excavator bearing the logo of Northamptonshire-based plant hire firm Lyndon Thomas.

But Declan Thomas, who was a director at the firm until last month, told Construction News this morning (9 August): “I can tell you for certain it is not one of our jobs. We don’t do demolition any more.”

The company’s website lists the supply of demolition specification equipment to demolition contractors “on a self-drive or operated basis”.

Construction News has made repeated attempts to speak to the firms’ current directors, Lyndon Thomas and Samantha Thomas, but our calls had not been returned by the time of publication.

The case hit the headlines at the weekend, when the much-loved pub, which had famously sloping floors due to subsidence, suffered severe fire damage.

The pub had recently been sold by brewing firm Martson’s to a property firm called ATE Farms Ltd.

Staffordshire Police announced on Monday that it was investigating the cause of the fire, saying it was “working hard to examine all of the evidence available and continue to speak to members of the public who have been forthcoming with information which can help our investigation”.

That same day, officers from South Staffordshire Council attended the site and agreed with the landowner’s representative a programme of works to make the charred remains of the building safe.

A statement from council leader Roger Lees said: “The agreed course of action included the removal of three elements of the first-floor front elevation only. This was only to avoid the weak parts of the structure from falling.

“At no point did the council agree the demolition of the whole structure nor was this deemed necessary.

“This council finds the manner in which the situation was managed following the fire completely unacceptable and contrary to instructions provided by our officers.”

He said the council was investigating potential breaches of both the Town and Country Planning Act and the Buildings Act.

“Demolition of a building should be carried out in accordance with Schedule 2 Part 11 Class B of The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015, he said.

“The steps required by the legislation were not carried out in this case.

“We have referred these matters to our legal team with a view to taking enforcement action.”

A Health and Safety Executive spokesperson said: “We are aware about the concerns around this site and liaising with South Staffordshire Council to understand if there is a role for us.”

On its LinkedIn profile, Lyndon Thomas Group describes itself as a family-run “group of companies” that was founded in 2009.

The group includes separate contracting, haulage and plant arms.

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