closed pub
Over 1,000 British pubs have closed in the last two years (Reuters/Andrew Winning)

Sixteen pubs a week are now closing in Britain, spurring campaigners to demand that the government acts quickly.

Community pubs that play an important role both economically and socially are closing down faster than ever, according to research by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR).

Over the past two years 1,078 pubs have disappeared from Britain's suburbs.

They are closing for a number of reasons, including cheap alcohol in supermarkets, changing lifestyle habits and the economic downturn.

"While high street city centre venues are showing a degree of resistance in the current climate, both suburban and rural areas are under threat as wholesale pub closures deprive more local people of a community centre," said Campaign for Real Ale chief executive Mike Benner.

"Pubs are vital for social cohesion and cultural integration. The government must act swiftly to repair the damage inflicted upon local communities by offering genuine support for enterprising and hard-working licensees."

The IPPR thinktank's report calls for business rate relief of 50 percent for pubs that "act as local community hubs", a minimum price on units of alcohol to stop them being too far undercut by off-licences and more freedom for landlords of pubs owned by big chains, among other recommendations.

There is no mention of the controversial smoking ban, introduced in 2007, which campaigners say has forced many pubs to close.

"Government must stop using a one-size-fits-all approach to licensed premises, which is killing off our community pubs," IPPR associate director Rick Muir said.

"Instead, responsible well-run community pubs should be encouraged and supported.

"Our research shows community pubs aren't just places to drink but also places where people meet their neighbours, where local clubs hold meetings and events, and which support many important local services, such as village post offices and general stores."

Communities minister Bob Neill insists that the government is already taking action to prevent more pub closures.

"We have doubled small business rate relief for two and a half years, which gives up to 100 percent rate relief for small firms, including pubs," he said.

"Country pubs may also be eligible for rural business rate relief.

"On top of this, we have abolished the last government's cider tax, are cutting red tape on live music in pubs and are stopping unfair sales of alcohol below cost-price by supermarkets."

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