Fire-damaged Whitburn Lodge pub 'should be demolished' after suspected arson attack

The former Whitburn Lodge pub in Marsden was badly damaged by a fire on New Year's Day. Credit: Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service

A pub which was destroyed by a fire on New Year's Day should be demolished, council and fire brigade chiefs have said.

Whitburn Lodge Pub was badly damaged after a suspected arson attack on 1 January, with large sections of the roof destroyed.

Crews spent several hours bringing the fire at the derelict site in Mill Lane, Marsden, under control after it broke out around 4:30pm, eventually declaring it “completely extinguished” at about 11:40pm.

At the latest meeting of East Shields and Whitburn Community Area Forum (CAF) on Thursday 9 February further updates were given on the state of the building and what the future holds.

Steven Bewick, station manager at Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, said the blaze has been put down as a “suspected malicious ignition”, although the investigation had to be done externally for safety purposes.

He said: “We don’t know how it started, we can only speculate because we can’t get in because it was that dangerous.

“To me it still looks as though it could do with being brought down but we have limited powers with the fire service.”

Firefighters spent several hours tackling the fire on New Year's Day. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

He added conversations have since taken place with the owners to help secure the site and advising them of their responsibilities, noting it was his understanding talks are currently ongoing around the sale of the land.

The meeting also heard firefighters have attended the premises on 13 occasions for separate incidents over the past five years, with 2018, 2019 and 2020 seeing two incidents each year, while five were reported in 2021.

One fire was then recorded the following year, before the large blaze on New Year’s Day 2023.

South Tyneside council leader Councillor Tracey Dixon stressed although the site is not owned by the local authority, officers and ward representatives are trying to make the site made safe.

She said: “The council is actively in conjunction with the fire service trying to get a solution to this eyesore.

“For me this is a safety risk as well to the people and the community of Whitburn. I do not feel that that building is secure enough.

“We need to get a solution as quickly as possible, but the council is actively working with the fire service, and with the owners to try and get this resolved.”

Meanwhile George Mansbridge, council director of regeneration and environment, said the owners are negotiating with third parties with a view to a sale of the land and a planning application being lodged to redevelop the site.

He said: “Nothing would give me more pleasure than to see that building come down, it’s probably beyond saving really and it probably does need to be demolished.

“My personal view is there is no reason why the building can’t be demolished.

“It’s not in anyone’s interests for this to keep going on like this, not least the fact it is an eyesore isn’t it, but it’s also taking up an awful lot of capacity in my team.

“We’re doing everything we possibly can to at least get everybody to come to the table and have a conversation.”

He stressed as it is private land the council does not have the powers “just to go in and demolish it” and would therefore face legal action if they did.

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