Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans has called for a "thorough investigation" into how a renowned listed building in his constituency was demolished without any apparent warning.
The Punch Bowl, a once thriving pub and restaurant on the outskirts of Hurst Green, near Longridge was demolished last week. It dated back to the late 18th century and was reputed to be haunted.
There were reports that during the demolition there had been one digger on site, a lorry at the roadside and a woman directing traffic by the building, which had fallen into disrepair in rececnt years. The site, which is now reduced to rubble, has since been fenced off.
The MP who is also Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons, said: "I'm absolutely horrififed by it. This is a historic pub dating back centuries ... This would have been an incredible visitor attraction. It's supposed to have ghosts there."
Local legend says notorious highwaymen Dick Turpin and Ned King stayed there and the ghost of ‘Old Ned’ was said to roam the pub.
Calling for a thorough investigation by Ribble Valley Borough Council Nigel Evans said: "This needs to be looked at as a matter of urgency to ensure other similar buildings are not going to meet the same fate. They need to look at what measures they can take - the ultimate is if it can get rebuilt. I know they're doing a full enquiry. We can't have historic things like this just knocked down."
On a wider issue he said that buildings left unused could fall into decay, adding: "That's the problem - it's not surprising (they) get decay ... that must not be a back route used to have buildings of historic interest demolished."
Last week Historic England commented: “We are saddened to hear reports that the grade II listed Punch Bowl Inn has been demolished without consent, and we will be investigating this with our regional partners. All listed sites are of national importance and are protected by law. In the very rare instances where a listed building needs to be demolished, Listing Building Consent is needed."
Its website states that planning permission is in principle required for demolition of listed buildings and notes carrying out unauthorised works to a listed building is a criminal offence.
However in certain instances where demolition is urgently necessary in the interests of safety or health and other conditions are met the developer must, as soon as reasonably practicable, give the local planning authority a written justification of the demolition.
Nigel Evans added: "If any rules have been broken the culprit must be brought to book. If the owner has not followed the rules and regulations by which the owner was supposed to operate as far as a historic listed building is concerned the book has to be thrown at the owner and the council has to ensure other people do not use lack of maintenance as a back route to demolition."
The previously renowned pub and restaurant has been closed since 2012. The Punch Bowl had been the subject of numerous planning applications. In 2018 planning permission was granted for the Longridge Road building to be converted into five holiday lets and a cafe. Most recently in March 2020 permission was refused for an application by A. Donelan of Donelan Trading Ltd of Whalley Road, Wilpshire, to remove an unsafe roof and replace with a new truss and slate roof and remove defective building render to assess stonework underneath. A heritage statement at that time noted that the building was in a poor state of repair with extensive dry rot and collapsed floors.
Formerly known as The Fenton Arms it was renamed as The Punch Bowl in 1910. Its roots could be traced back to cottages built in 1793. A previous application to convert the pub and create 20 static holiday units on site was refused.
A Ribble Valley Borough Council spokesman said: “We have contacted the landowner and are seeking a full understanding of the events that led to the demolition of this listed building. Our investigation is ongoing.”
Historic England said: "We understand that the local authority are reaching out to the owners on this matter ... The local authority will consider the necessary measures, including potential enforcement action. We will continue to work closely with the local authority on this issue and offer our advice.”
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