Residents have been left saddened, confused and angry after an historic Grade II listed pub, which had been left to fester for years, was demolished.

The Punch Bowl Inn in Hurst Green was razed to the ground on Tuesday, leaving many residents upset, with the council saying they are 'looking into the matter'.

The Punch Bowl Inn has a colourful and symbolic history, as it was visited by highwaymen Dick Turpin and Ned King in the late 1730s and the ghost of ‘Old Ned’ was said to still roam the pub.

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Nearby resident Katherine Turner said: "Very sad to see the Punch Bowl in Hurst Green demolished today.

"Apparently the roof was stolen a while back and it had been raining in - it's just been left to ruin since it was bought up several years ago.

"I'm not sure how they got permission to demolish a Grade II listed building though.

"I believe some people took it over in around 2011/12, and that's when it got worse - all the fittings were ripped out.

"They ran the kitchen from a caravan at the back but never properly opened.

"Prior to that it had been empty for a few years."

Standing in Longridge Road since the 1720s, the Grade II listed building was put up for sale for £375,000 in 2013.

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After it was sold to Donelan Trading Ltd of Wilpshire, the company applied for permission to convert the pub into five holiday lets and a cafe, which included demolition of certain parts of the building and the erection of an extension, as well as a pitch for 20 static caravans.

This was rejected by Ribble Valley Borough Council in 2016.

However, a second application was lodged in 2018 for a similar development but this time with a 'pitch holiday lodge park with 15 units'.

This was approved with the conditions by the council in the same year.

In 2019, Donelan's applied to the council for an unsafe roof to be removed and replaced with new truss and slate roof, as well as removal of defective render to assess the quality of stonework beneath.

The application stated: "If good quality stonework, to be cleaned and kept. If not suitable rendered areas to be renewed with K render."

This was refused by the council.

Mrs Turner added: "I think partial demolition was passed but as far as I'm aware Ribble Valley Council didn't even know about the total demolition of the pub until yesterday. "

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A Heritage statement issued when the last planning application was lodged said: "The building is in a very poor state of repair having suffered vandalism and deterioration associated with vacancy.

"This includes what is reported as a serious outbreak of dry rot and the collapse of various floors."

However, the statement went on to say: "As heritage assets are irreplaceable, any harm or loss should require clear and convincing justification.

"Substantial harm or loss to a Grade II listed building should be exceptional."

The Heritage statement also said that where a development proposal would lead to less than substantial harm to the significance of the heritage building, the harm should be weighed against the public benefits; and rather than harm the building, any changes should enhance its significance and give it a new lease of life.

One resident said: "Dreadful if this has been done without permission."

While another commented: "Who ever owned it made sure it went to rack and ruin on purpose - they had a bigger plan and obviously it worked."

A Ribble Valley Borough Council spokesman said: “We are aware of the matter and are looking into it.”