Struggling licensees are fighting to “Save the Great British Pub” in the face of the smoking ban and the economic crisis.

Government figures show that 52 pubs have been lost in Bradford in four years.

William Wagstaff, licensee of the New Beehive Inn in Westgate, will celebrate 20 years there next Sunday and says things have never been worse for the British pub.

“I have certainly weathered a few storms, and this is by far and away the worst the situation has ever been,” he said.

“We are one of the last bastions in Manningham. When we came here in 1989 there were 28 pubs, now there are half a dozen. We’re facing higher overheads and the latest things are the smoking ban and the credit crunch.

“We’re now looking at ways to overcome the problem – people need to use the pubs or lose them. If we don’t support our local pubs now they will be lost forever.”

Tony Payne, chief executive of the Federation of Licensed Victuallers Association based in Brighouse, said: “We have spent many hours with licensees looking at ways of coping with the trend, helping them assess their premises and looking at ways to save money.

“We’re in a difficult situation because of the recession but if we pull together we can survive this.”

But David Haigh, chairman of Bradford Inner City Licensees Association (BICLA), said: “It’s just endless. The trade is just disappearing, I’m always driving past a new pub that’s closing down.

“If we continue at this rate in ten years’ time there won’t be an English pub left.”

Bradford South MP Gerry Sutcliffe, who was among the ministers quizzed at tonight’s emergency summit, said: “Ministers take very seriously the concerns. We all have pubs in our constituencies we know are facing difficult times. There are things Government can do but also things industry can do.

“I believe community pubs can have a brighter future.”