Page last updated at 15:54 GMT, Thursday, 31 December 2009

New powers may halt pub closures

Drinking a pint
Pubs are at the heart of towns and villages, councils say

Council bosses in Tyneside and North Yorkshire have called for more powers to protect pubs from being closed when they are sold by national chains.

Newcastle and Ryedale councils want an end to "restrictive covenants" which are imposed by companies to prevent sold properties reopening as pubs.

The Local Government Association (LGA) has backed the call, which has been put to Communities Secretary John Denham.

Recent research has revealed almost 2,400 UK pubs closed in 2009.

Paul Rubinstein, Newcastle City Council's director of policy, said: "Local councillors and communities gave us clear feedback that doing something to support the sustainability of pubs as a key part of life in local neighbourhoods was important."

Keith Knaggs, the leader of Ryedale District Council, added: "We are committed to helping to maintain local services in local communities, such as pubs, shops and post offices, all of which are vital to the future well-being of rural towns and villages."

Research by the British Beer & Pub Association suggests pubs are closing at a rate of 52 a week, with local authorities claiming this is damaging community life.

The organisation says many pubs could be maintained as viable businesses and that restrictive covenants are imposed purely to protect trade at other bars owned by the chains in the same area.

A spokesman for the LGA said: "Pubs are at the heart of towns and villages across the country.

"Boarded-up pubs and shops are a sad reflection of the recession in which the country is mired.

"Not only do they signal a local economy in decline, they also become a hotspot for anti-social behaviour and drag down the whole feel of an area."

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