THE Campaign For Real Ale is calling on the Government to tighten up planning law in an effort to protect pubs from demolition or conversion - and its Bradford arm is backing it.

More than 170 pubs in Bradford have closed down over the years - nationally pubs are closing at the rate of 31 per week - with many never to return because of a loophole in the law.

Now, CAMRA is calling on the Government to listen to its Pubs Matter campaign and make a simple change to the law in England so a planning application is always required before a pub is demolished or converted into another use.

Currently pubs can be demolished or converted to supermarkets, estate agents and a range of other uses without planning permission. More than five pubs are closing every week in north and north-east England.

In Bradford, pubs have been converted into builders' merchants, wedding clothing shops, restaurants, a Costa Coffee shop, gaming outlets, supermarkets, textile shops, shoe shops, solicitors, betting shops, cultural and education centres, medical centres, and meat shops.

Three pubs in close proximity to each other in the Whetley Hill area have all been converted to a different use.

The Melborn Hotel was on White Abbey Road. It closed in 2006 and is now an Asian clothes shop. The Upper Globe on Toller Lane, which closed in 2001 after being damaged in the Bradford riots, is now a DIY shop. The Woolpack, on Whetley Hill, is now a shoe shop.

Another nearby former pub was the Lower Globe, which has now been demolished.

David Boothroyd, chairman of Bradford CAMRA, said: "It is a loophole that wants shutting. The door needs closing on it.

"I am sure there are a lot of pubs put up for sale that needn't be. They sell quite easily because they can be knocked down or changed. We need to make it more difficult.

"I was looking at one of our old beer guides, and on page after page pubs had gone."

He added: "We have been losing far too many pubs all over the country over the last few years. We, and others, must highlight the problem.

"The pub is not just a place for a booze. It is a place to meet your mates and have a chat, and maybe a meal. It is a hub for the community.

"Use it or lose it is an old phrase, but it's also true."

The future of the Cock and Bottle pub in Barkerend Road has been a long-running issue in Bradford.

In January, the owner of the historic pub - who wanted to re-open it as a restaurant - was been given permission to make some alterations, despite objections from heritage campaigners.

However, a For Sale sign has now been put up on the pub.

Peter Down, of Bradford CAMRA, said a legal process was ongoing in relation to the pub.

David Ward, MP for Bradford East where the Ring O'Bells pub became a Co-op supermarket, said pubs were places that had become part of the local community.

He added: "I absolutely back the proposal. Pubs are regarded as being part and parcel of local communities, as much as community centres and churches. They are part of the fabric of local communities."

Mr Ward said the proposal could give pubs an opportunity to remain as pubs.

"It gives the opportunity for pubs to be saved," said Mr Ward. "It would give an opportunity that does not exist at the moment."

Tom Stainer, of CAMRA, said: "Popular and profitable pubs are being left vulnerable by gaps in English planning legislation as pubs are increasingly being targeted by those wishing to take advantage of the absence of proper planning control."