PART of a landmark former pub was destroyed when a suspicious blaze tore through it.

Firefighters went to the Bull and Butcher in Manchester Road, Burnley, which has been closed for several years, after reports the wooden extension at the back was in flames.

They received the call about 2.30am on Saturday and crews from Blackburn, Accrington and Burnley spent around an hour bringing the fire under control.

The extension was razed to the ground but the pub was only slightly damaged.

The team finally left the scene at around 6am after damping the area down and carrying out an investigation.

Plans to turn the building into an Italian restaurant and build 10 homes on the site were rejected by the council last year.

Coun Shah Hussain, executive member for regeneration and economic development at Burnley Council, called for the owner of the building to meet planners and discuss what can be done with it.

He said: “I want to see the building back in use. It was a popular restaurant and pub for some time. It’s a real shame how the recession has hit businesses. The owner should sit down with planning officers and have a chat to see what can be done with the building.”

Developers the Lugano Group, based in Preston, were refused permission in October with planners saying the site was outside the urban boundary and citing concerns that residents would be disturbed by noise.

The applicant said: “The building is unused and is becoming increasingly dilapidated.

“Unless some positive use is found for the building, and its surroundings, it will continue to deteriorate, creating a very negative impression upon approaching Burnley.”

The last tenant there was the Indian restaurant Ashoka before it closed in 2010.

Crew manager Simon Wright said: “We are investigating how the fire started but the police have been informed and we are looking at the possibility it was deliberate.”

Nobody from Lugano or Punch Taverns, which owns the building according to the council planning papers, was available to comment yesterday.