CALLS have been made for a new watchdog to regulate big pub chains — as the number of Bolton pubs closing increases.

The Campaign for Real Ale has collected more than 43,000 signatures asking for more legislation to help pubs which are at risk of closure.

David Crausby, MP for Bolton North East, joined a group of licensees, consumers and brewers to present the petition to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

They hope that terms for a new Pub Watchdog — which would ensure rents on premises and wholesale prices do not leave publicans out of pocket — will be included in this year’s Queen’s Speech.

Mr Crausby said: “Pubs are a key part of our local community and contribute a great deal to our economy, but we are seeing many facing closure.

"A government consultation in 2013 concluded that a change in the law is needed, but they’re running out of parliamentary time and our pubs can’t afford to keep on waiting.

"I hope that the government will listen to this petition and take action to help our pubs before the end of this parliament.”

Don Chattwood, treasurer and pubs officer at Bolton CAMRA, has charted the demise of pubs in Bolton as part of the group’s ongoing campaign to keep pubs alive and vibrant in the town.

Between 1982 and 2005 he has found 51 pubs closed in Bolton — an average of two a year — but since 2006, more than 60 have shut.

The petition wants more action taken to control prices set by big pub operators, such as Punch Taverns, Wetherspoons and Marstons.

Mr Chattwood said the group is keen to see the Government take action.

He said: “We have seen an acceleration in pub closures in Bolton — a lot of this isn’t necessarily down to reform, but part of a general situation about population changes and a trend of places being sold off to become supermarkets.

"A watchdog would set up a statutory code and independent adjudicator, to ensure a tied tenant is no worse off than a free tenant — the prices that some of them have to pay is very high compared with someone who can deal directly with the breweries.

“We’d like to see people make more use of their local and go in there — that way it keeps them trading and helps the licensees.”