Residents are battling to save their 144-year-old pub which they fear will be sold and turned into flats.

The team behind the Rose Hill Tavern in Brighton have launched a campaign to register the historic pub as a community asset in a bid to stop its pubco owners Enterprise Inns from selling it to property developers.

A petition to get the 21 signatures needed to begin the process has already attracted double that in just a week.

If successful, the pub would become the first in the city to be registered as a community asset.

By submitting an application to Brighton and Hove City Council, residents will be able to hold up any sale for six months to give them time to raise enough money to buy the site themselves.

The pub is listed online for £350,000 with “potential for residential conversion”.

There are currently more than 20 pubs registered across Sussex as community assets since the scheme was introduced in 2012 but none in Brighton and Hove.

Protected pubs include The Abergavenny Arms in Rodmell, The Drive in Eastbourne, three pubs in Horsham including the Frog and Nightgown, two in Rother, five in Wealden, three in Chichester and seven in Arun including The George Inn and Thatched House in Felpham.

Campaigners say the pub is a valuable meeting point for members of the community and the building with its distinctive United Brewery green tiled frontage has a rich history since it opened in 1870.

To emphasise the pub’s role in the community, campaigners are hoping to revive the establishment’s traditional street party.

Barmaid Michelle Mall, 41, who is helping out at the pub while landlady Rachel Midgley recovers from an operation, said: “We only started the campaign to register the pub as a community asset last week but we have been inundated with support.

“In fact we have stopped taking signatures after a few days because we already had the 21 signatures.

“Enterprise are selling the property with development potential.

“They have sent their people in to measure up and these are property developers not pub people.

“It would be such a crying shame if they were successful in selling it so we are doing everything we can to save it.”

To help support the campaign, pub lovers are invited to pop in to the pub in Rose Hill Terrace in Brighton to find out more.