CAMPAIGNERS appear to have lost their fight to save the last pub in a city community from being turned into a convenience store.

But they claim they may still be able to pull the boozer back from the brink if people oppose a supermarket’s bid for an alcohol licence. Regulars have been fighting to save the Stoneham Arms in Bassett Green Road, Southampton, after it shut in August – and one even stepped forward to take it over.

However, pub owner Enterprise Inns’ property arm has struck a deal with Co-operative Food to convert it into a store.

Now the district the pub serves, which has about 30,000 people, is set to have no community facilities for miles.

Pub campaigners including Itchen MP John Denham and the Campaign for Real Ale are calling for change in planning rules which currently allow shop conversions without change of use permission.

But campaigner Paul Dixon hopes the Co-operative Food’s plans may be foiled if neighbours object to its alcohol licence application before a deadline of Wednesday, January 8.

He said: “There is a slim chance it could be saved. It would be devastating if this went ahead. The whole social aspect of the area will be lost, it is quite scary really.

“The pub used to be a place where people mingled to get to know each other and created community spirit. That will be lost within a couple of years.”

Paul’s uncle, Steven, 61, had spent £600 on the required training and was ready to plough his own money into the pub. But while he prepared his bid Enterprise Inns struck a deal with the Co-op.

He said: “It is heartbreaking. I was prepared to take the pub on and to put a substantial amount of money into it as the lease holder.”

Enterprise Inns said: “After careful consideration and a review of all options for the site, the decision was made to lease the property to a convenience store operator.”

Deric Payne, pub preservation officer for Southern Hampshire Campaign for Real Ale, said: “It is another pub turning into a convenience store and I think it is just wrong.”

Itchen MP John Denham, who has been fighting pub closures, said: “There seems to be a depressing regularity of these stories.

“The law has to change so that companies have to apply for planning permission for change of use – it is the only way we can save our pubs.”

The Co-operative Food will move its existing store down the road at 109 Bassett Green Road to the pub in early summer 2014.