Watchdog call to keep pubs open
The Government is being urged to do more to help pubs survive after new figures showed that 28 were closing every week.
The Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) said the figure had increased by two a week since last year. The campaign group said more needed to be done to protect pubs.
It called for a pubs watchdog to protect licensees from high rents and beer prices charged by large pub companies and pressed for the ending of planning "loopholes" to prevent pubs closing in such large numbers.
Camra also asked ministers to freeze the rate of beer duty in next month's Budget.
Mike Benner, Camra's chief executive said: "Pubs are unnecessarily closing as tied licensees struggle to make their businesses succeed thanks to increased rents and inflated beer prices.
"It is vital that the Government step in to redress the balance with the implementation of an independent pubs watchdog and an option for licensees of large pub companies to opt for market-rent-only agreements, allowing them to buy beer on the open market at cheaper prices."
Camra said there needed to be a fair power balance between the large pub companies - pubcos - and their licensees.
The so-called tied pub model, under which licensees have to buy supplies from a pubco, has come under increased criticism as recent research suggested 57% of licensees tied to the big companies earn less than £10,000 a year.
The latest closure figures show that leased and tenanted pubs account for 16 of the 28 pub closures every week.
Camra said it was possible to convert a pub into a betting shop, pay-day loan store or supermarket without the need for planning permission, making it "far too easy" for valued community pubs to be lost.
Last week over 5,000 Camra members contacted their MP to call for beer duty to be frozen in the Budget.
Mr Benner added: "Britons pay the second highest rate of beer duty in the European Union which puts the pubs sector under pressure. We were delighted when the Chancellor cut beer duty in last year's Budget and are urging him to build on this with a freeze or further reduction this year."
A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman said: "Local pubs are part of the social and cultural fabric of this nation and we are determined to protect them. That's why we are cutting taxes for small community pubs by doubling small business rate relief for three and a half years, and reducing corporation tax to 20%.
"We have also called time on the unpopular beer tax, cutting a penny off a pint, which is good news for pubs and punters alike.
"On top of this, the Community Right to Bid is already giving local people the power to step in and save their treasured pub from closure, with 300 now registered as community assets."