THEY have the bedrock of their local communities for decades – but they are shutting their doors at a rate of almost 30 a week.

Now hundreds of pubs across the country and in Southampton could be given greater protection from closure in a move to save popular drinking holes.

Campaigners in Southampton are urging people to nominate pubs – and other public and private buildings or land – to be included on the Assets of Community Value Register.

An Asset of Community Value (ACV) is a listing placed upon a building or land which gives the right to community groups to register it as being “vitally important” to the wellbeing of the local community.

The group must then declare interest in purchasing the asset within six weeks and a further six months in which to assemble a bid in the event that the building is put up for sale by the owner.

The listing removes ‘permitted development rights’, meaning that a pub, for example, cannot be converted to a shop without the need for planning permission.

ACV status was introduced due to outrage at the loss of key local services such as pubs, local stores, church halls and even skate parks.

Buildings nominated must usually further the social wellbeing of the community and can only be put up by genuine community groups, charities and neighbourhood forums.

Alternatively unincorporated groups with 21 members registered to vote in Southampton or adjacent local authority.

As previously reported, one of the Bittern in Thornhill Park Road reopened this summer after plans to turn it into a McDonald’s were thrown out in September following a public inquiry into the controversial application.

Other ACVs include the White Horse in Keyhaven Road, Milford on Sea, which reopened last year after shutting its doors.

Southampton City Council leader, Simon Letts, hailed it as a “fantastic opportunity” and added: “In recent years, we have seen a regrettable trend of local pubs closing across the UK. By allowing community groups in Southampton to nominate these local hubs we hope this will allow future generations of people to continue to enjoy these facilities.”

Kevin Wooton, secretary of the South Hampshire branch of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) said it makes pubs a “badge of honour” adding: “It is a mark of quality and a clear sign that locals value the pub. With pub closure figures remaining high, it’s even more vital they are given protection.”

Groups must also submit an application with a description of the nominated land, as well as the names of the people currently in possession of the land and the reasons why it is considered to be of community value.

The council must process the application within eight weeks and make a judgement on whether the application should stand.