EAST Lancashire politicians have backed calls for changes in the law to make it harder for pubs to be turned into shops.

The Campaign for Real Ale said it was ‘perverse’ that inns could be demolished or converted into shops and other business uses without planning permission. It wants the government to tighten legislation so developers have to apply for perm-ission to convert pubs.

Tory MPs Andrew Stephenson and Nigel Evans have backed the consumer group, as has Blackburn with Darwen Labour councillor Phil Riley.

CAMRA says 31 UK pubs have closed every week this year, compared with 26 a week in March 2013, with two a week becoming super-markets or stores since 2012. Pendle MP Mr Stephenson backed Cam-ra’s campaign.

He said: “The Greyhound at Bar-noldswick was saved from housing when people had time to rally round.”

Coun Riley, involved in the unsuccessful bid to save the Stanley Arms, said: “Making sure such changes go through the planning process gives time to save a pub from being sold. We have seen too many pubs turned into businesses like The Plane Tree in Little Harwood into a shop.”

Ribble Valley MP Mr Evans: “We need to shut this loophole to stop pubs being closed. We need these community centres. There are several at risk in my constituency, including the Black Bull, Rimington, The White Bull, Gisburn and Coach and Horses, Bolton-by-Bowland.”