An engineer has told a court that a listed pub which was knocked down didn’t require demolition.

Burnley Magistrates Court saw the beginning of the trial of five people who are accused of unlawfully demolishing the Punch Bowl Inn in Longridge Road, Hurst Green.

Andrew Donelan, 60, Nicola Donelan, 58, and Rebecca Donelan, 28, all of Carr Hall, Whalley New Road, Wilpshire, David Cotterell, 57, of Percliff Way, Philips Road, Blackburn and Brian Ingleby, 69, are accused of demolishing the former Punch Bowl Inn in Hurst Green, and have all pleaded not guilty.

Ribble Valley Borough Council, which brought the case to court, believe the pub, which was Grade II listed, was razed to the ground unlawfully in June 2021.

At a previous hearing, all five accused pleaded not guilty to the charges put to them, and after a long wait the trial got underway yesterday.

The Donelans and Ingleby have been charged with executing the demolition of the building, while Andrew Donelan, Cotterell and Ingleby have been charged with failing to notify the local authority of the intended demolition.

Lancashire Telegraph: Five people deny charges of unlawfully demolishing the pub, which was Grade II listedFive people deny charges of unlawfully demolishing the pub, which was Grade II listed (Image: Public: Katherine Turner)

Prosecuting barrister Killian Garvey brought forward a witness, Gez Pegram, a director at construction engineering company Mason Clark Associates.

Mr Pegram is a chartered structural engineer and an engineer accredited in building conservation.

Before its demolition, he provided a joint report on the pub with Ian Smeatham, owner of chartered structural engineering company Norman Williams Partnership, which assessed its structural integrity.

Mr Pegram believed there was a low risk of collapse, but a high risk of injury if it were to collapse, making a medium risk overall.

Mr Smeatham believed there was a medium risk of collapse and a medium risk of injury, also making for a medium risk overall.

In court, Mr Pegram was shown a range of photographs taken of the Punch Bowl in 2021, between May 14 and June 2, and asked to give his thoughts on what they showed.

Speaking about a photograph of one part of the pub, which was taken on May 17 by Jimmy Mulkerrin of Ribble Valley council, he said: “My interpretation of that is that I’m seeing a stone-faced building with an intricate roof and there are no signs of separation at the corners of the building.

Lancashire Telegraph: Punch Bowl Inn, Hurst GreenPunch Bowl Inn, Hurst Green (Image: Newsquest)“There are no signs of bulging, bowing or cracking of the masonry walls. The chimneys and chimney pots are still in place.

“I can’t see any evidence of movement between the two buildings. There is no sense of separation between the buildings or cracking in the masonry.”

He added: “It is my understanding the building has been owned by the company since 2015 and over that period there was ample opportunity to carry out appropriate investigations, building and appropriate maintenance or temporary repair.”

Mr Pegram added he believed demolition wasn’t necessary for the building.

In cross examination, Richard Dawson, for the defence, referred to two photographs, one from May 14 and one from June 2.

Mr Dawson focused on an interior shot of a window in the pub, pointing to the appearance of a wooden lintel on the first picture and then the lintel having gone on the second picture.

He asked Mr Pegram whether he thought he could have predicted the lintel having decayed, to which he replied that he could have warned of it potentially happening, but he couldn’t have predicted it.

Also regarding a chimney Mr Pegram had highlighted as leaning to the side in his report, Mr Dawson asked him how likely he thought it would be to bring down a wall if it fell, to which Mr Pegram replied it would be likely.

In re-examination, Mr Garvey asked Mr Pegram what he thought was the most likely reason for the wooden lintel to be missing, having previously identified that it would either be due to vandalism or decay.

Mr Pegram said: “Of all the masonry I’ve seen in this derelict condition, I’ve very rarely seen an actual lack of a lintel due to decay.

“I would suggest it’s a rare occurrence.

“Vandalism would have been my first thought on seeing those two photographs.”

A number of planning applications were submitted by Donelan Trading Ltd of Wilpshire, following their purchase of the pub, which was listed for sale in 2013.

The company originally applied for permission to convert the pub into five holiday lets and a cafe, which included the demolition of certain parts of the building and the erection of an extension, as well as a pitch for 20 static caravans, but the plans were rejected by Ribble Valley Borough Council in 2016.

A second application was submitted in 2018 for a similar development but this time with a 'pitch holiday lodge park with 15 units'. This was approved with conditions by the council in the same year.

In December 2021, a planning application was submitted to the council, seeking permission for a change of use to land at the rear of the old pub so that a 15-strong static caravan holiday park could be built on the site.

The case continues.