Council pledge to protect arson-hit Leopard pub as plans lodged

Drone footage of The Leopard Hotel in Burslem
-Credit: (Image: Ash Thomas Films)

A council has pledged to protect one of Stoke-on-Trent's most historic buildings destroyed in a fire as long-awaited plans have been lodged. The Leopard remains a burnt-out wreck after flames ripped through the Burslem town centre building.

But more than two years on, the owner has drawn up proposals to breathe new life into the once bustling grade II-listed hotel which dates back to 1765. It involves turning The Leopard, in Market Place, into shops and 17 assisted-living flats.

Now Stoke-on-Trent City Council has promised to take enforcement action if the scheme does not progress as hoped.

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The pledge comes after a Listed Building application has been submitted for the site. It will focus on the special heritage aspects of the building, such as windows, doors and roof.

The building had operated as a pub for almost 300 years and Josiah Wedgwood and James Brindley once met there to discuss the building of the Trent and Mersey Canal. It has been through various reconstructions and re-modelling over the years and latterly became known as a ‘haunted’ hotel which was popular with ghost hunters.

But the venue fell victim to the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 and never reopened.

The council has been working with the owner of the landmark building about potential future uses.

A Stoke-on-Trent City Council spokesman said: “We remain committed to protecting this major heritage site and are keen to see it brought back into use to the benefit of local residents but we have made it very clear to the owner that we will not hesitate to take enforcement action if they fail to make any progress.

“We have made it a priority to ensure the building is safe and that there is no risk to the public and nearby businesses and officers from Stoke-on-Trent City Council and representatives from Historic England visited the site last week to ensure the building remains secure.

“We will continue to work with the owner, and Historic England, to bring forward a more detailed planning application. This building is of significant historical importance to the local community, and once hosted a meeting between Josiah Wedgwood and James Brindley, so we are committed to ensuring its historical characteristics are preserved for future generations.”

Staffordshire Police arrested four Stoke-on-Trent men on suspicion of arson and burglary in the aftermath of the 2022 fire. But the men were later released without charge and police warned the exact cause of the fire may never be known.

The plans will now be considered through the council’s usual planning processes, and the authority will consult Historic England before making any decisions.

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