BACKSTREET pubs perform a vital community service and should be protected from being shut down and turned into flats, councillors agreed this week.
Guidelines will be drawn up to try to stop developers getting hold of local pubs with a high land value and then carving them up to sell for large profits.
The move follows a planning meeting on Tuesday, in which councillors agreed a scheme to turn the Olive Tree pub in Perrers Road, near Ravenscourt Park Tube in Hammersmith, into two maisonettes and three flats.
A similar bid in August to split the Cottage pub in Colehill Lane, Fulham, into two maisonettes and four flats was recommended for the go-ahead by planning officers.
At a meeting in Fulham Town Hall on Wednesday, Labour member Wesley Harcourt urged Hammersmith and Fulham Council to take action to prevent more pubs going the same way.
He said: "It's becoming increasingly difficult to find the sort of relaxing atmosphere that we need to wind down after a meeting like this.
"I'm not talking about town centre pubs and city centre pubs, I'm talking about traditional backstreet pubs which, according to the British Beer and Pub Association, are closing at a rate of about 40 a week."
Last year 167 London pubs closed down, according to Mr Harcourt, who said they perform a vital service and meeting place for many people with few other places to turn.
Recalling customers who used to use his own local pub, the Crown and Sceptre in West Kensington, he said: "Some of them were vulnerable, some of them were lonely, some of them needed support, and the pub gave them that.
"When people became ill they were looked after by some of the people from that pub, and when they died it was people from that pub who attended their funeral service."
Sarah Gore, the Conservative councillor for North End, said some developers were acquiring pubs with the intention of 'running them down' before claiming the business was no longer viable, and conversion into flats was the only option.
She said: "We do need to consider the needs of these local residents. For many people, the idea of a good night does not necessarily end with the Pitcher and Piano."
A motion was unanimously passed, resolving to develop planning guidance to preserve pubs in the borough which are 'a much-loved aspect of its heritage'.