In Depth

How campaigners are trying to save Britain's pubs

Public houses are closing at the fastest rate since a law change in 1904 that decimated the sector

England's streets are losing more pubs than at any time since the turn of the last century, according to new figures.

Separate studies carried by the Lost Pubs Project and the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) agree that around four pubs a day, or 29 a week, are closing their doors, the Daily Mail reports. There are now thought to be around 48,000 pubs in England, with around 29,000 having been 'lost', or closed.

The figures would mark the fastest closure rate since a law change under the 1904 Licencing Act decimated the industry, as magistrates were given the right to refuse to renew licences for thousands of pubs deemed surplus to the requirements of the community.

Campaigners are seeking to arrest the trend. Here are three ways they are hoping to save local pubs from closure:

1. Close planning loopholes

Tom Stainer, Head of Communications at Camra, said pubs are often "seen as soft targets for property developers". This is not least because they often come with permitted development rights that allow the building to be redeveloped for commercial or, more often, residential use without obtaining new planning permission.

Campaigners want more pubs to apply for listing as an 'asset of community value', meaning planning permission would be required for any change of use or development on the site, and for the government to do more to close loopholes. Earlier this year it introduced laws to remove certain permitted development rights for listed pubs facing closure.

2. Tax changes

The pub closures come at a time when beers sales are rising, posting gains of 3.9 per cent in the third quarter over 2014 levels. Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the BBPA, told the Mail there is "a real opportunity to build on these strong figures" if the government were to take further action to reduce beer duty. Despite three one penny duty cuts in recent years, taxation "still places far too great a burden on British brewers… compared to our main competitors in the European Union," she added.

3. Form co-operatives

Some communities that face losing their only pub have buying the business themselves. Development Finance Today reports that 13 co-operative pubs are operating in England, Scotland and Wales, many of which been set up with the support of the charity Plunkett Foundation.

A spokesman for the Plunkett Foundation said: "Currently, most co-operative pubs are made up of communities that have purchased the building; however, if they feel it is appropriate, communities may choose to take on a lease initially, with a view to purchasing the property in the future. 

"A co-operative pub can distribute profits to its members as a dividend, reinvest the profit back into the business or distribute it through community projects to the wider benefit of the community."

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