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The High Street isn’t dead, long live the High Street #4 - Repurposing for Alfresco Summer Dining
The reopening of ‘non-essential’ shops on 15 June has provided the ability for the core of many town centres (shops) to reopen, albeit with social distancing measures in place. While shops are a key component of all town centres and high streets and will undoubtedly continue to play a central role in their future landscape, a major component of town centre vibrancy and character are the food and beverage uses. Restaurants and bars are meeting places and hubs for social activity: places where friendships are forged; couples fall in love; and business dealings are done. They have a strong emotional attachment for many of us – walking into your favourite restaurant or pub is like coming home. There has been huge growth in food and beverage uses in recent years. This growth has been positive for our town centres – encouraging longer dwell times and making our high streets more liveable. The impact of Covid-19 has been immediate and devastating for many aspects of commercial life. For town centres, high streets and destinations centred around eating and drink, entertainment and hospitality, the effects have been felt hardest. This threatens the very essence of place and what makes our town centres and high streets so special. So, with this culture and way of life having been under threat, what is the route map out of the crisis and reversion to normality from 4th July? Is the longer-term repurposing of our high streets to support active travel unavoidable? And will this (weather permitting!) usher in a new wave of alfresco dining? Active Travel & Temporary Measures to Improve the Public Realm Coronavirus has brought the need to make town centres and high streets easily and safely accessible into sharp focus. For those with mobility issues or young children this has been known for some time. Where, in ‘normal’ times, you’d shuffle along a high street dodging and weaving as you go, the need for more space is now greater. Space which is often in short supply given the competing demands on high street spaces. Following a review of social distancing measures, the Prime Minister has set out that, where it is not possible to stay two metres apart, guidance will allow people to keep a social distance of ‘one metre plus’. This means “staying one metre apart, plus mitigations which reduce the risk of transmission”. Providing sufficient space for social distancing is a huge challenge for food and beverage operators. The relaxation of the ‘2m rule’ is a welcome and crucial change for pubs, bars and restaurants which revolve around close contact socialising and are often constrained by small unit sizes. As explored in Steven Butterworth’s blog, Transport for London (TfL) and boroughs authorities are rapidly reallocating road space in London to accommodate significant increases in active travel modes through the Streetspace initiative. The Mayor’s Healthy Street policies and initiatives are in effect being accelerated to accommodate pandemic-based travel demands. The Government’s guidance to support social distancing through the creation of Safer Public Spaces includes a number of ‘typical temporary interventions’ for high streets and town centres. These include: Widening footways; Introducing cycleways; Reducing traffic speeds; Provision of seating areas for the disabled and elderly; and Pedestrianisation.  For many town centres, these interventions are aspirational longer-term strategies in their own right. They have potential to make our town centres safer, more attractive and vibrant post-pandemic if they gain traction, public support and become embedded in the public realm. Many of the interventions are also key tenants of town centre planning and transport policy, site specific guidance and Area Action Plans.  TfL and many local authorities have acted swiftly. In London, TfL has widened the pavement widths in Brixton to provide more space for pedestrians and Hackney Council has closed Broadway Market to traffic to creating more space for pedestrians and cyclists. A campaign to make changes at Broadway Market permanent has already been set up.      Brixton Source: @EdDavie via Twitter Broadway Market Source: @Hackneycyclist via Twitter In the short to medium term, the focus on promoting active travel and discouraging the use of public transport for all but essential journeys, may mean that we end up living our lives (and spending our money) more locally. For now, initiatives like this provide a boost in confidence that our local high streets are safe and open for business by creating the space needed to visit whilst respecting social distancing. Optimising Outdoor Space: Alfresco Dining Social distancing measures mean that restaurants and bars will need to operate at significantly reduced capacity (which will undermine viability for many) unless they are able to compensate for social distancing through the provision of additional seating areas beyond their demise or expansion of their customer base through takeaway services. For one year (until 23 March 2021) temporary permitted development rights allow restaurants and cafes (Use Class A3) and drinking establishments (Use Class A4) to provide takeaway food (subject to notification). This swift action has allowed many businesses to take advantage of the new PDR and keep some income flowing throughout lockdown. Depending on the location and design of outdoor seating areas planning permission and/or a licence may be required. This takes time, has risks and is often only permitted for temporary periods (usually one year).    With this in mind, MHCLG has called on local authorities to accelerate licence approvals for the sale of takeaway food and drink outside of premises and refrain from taking enforcement action “which would result in unnecessarily restricting outdoor stalls during this period”. Local authorities are also called on to explore opportunities for setting up more outdoor markets and identify whether “closing certain streets to traffic could better support temporary markets and outdoor eating”. The emerging Business and Planning Bill will further ease the burden on operators by streamlining the licensing process for businesses wishing to put tables and chairs outside of cafes, bars and restaurants and by allowing some operators to continue using outdoor seating areas without needing to re-apply for planning permission. The proposed temporary pavement licences process will simplify, speed up and reduce the costs of the consent route for outdoor seating (no more than £100), making it easier for people to safely drink and dine outside. Temporary changes to licensing laws will also allow many more licensed premises, such as pubs and restaurants, to sell alcohol for consumption off the premises – making social distancing easier. In addition, proposed planning freedoms announced on 25 June “mean that proposals for outdoor markets, pop-up car boot sales or summer fairs will not need a planning application which will transform the way people shop and socialise”. Whilst the press release refers to these specific uses, the benefits are far broader – allowing use of land within the curtilage of a building for a wide range of activities and for an associated moveable structure to be erected. In London, Soho Estates is campaigning for Westminster City Council to allow the temporary pedestrianisation of parts of Soho so restaurants are able to offer outdoor seating (outside their land ownership on the public highway). The Soho Summer Street Festival aims to reinvigorate much of Soho and lead the recovery of Soho as the cultural and vibrant heart of London. For smaller asset manager or individual businesses, there is an urgent need for joined up thinking and for local authorities and/or Business Improvement District to support businesses by taking the lead in making our streets and public realm more alfresco friendly.  Internationally, many cities around the world have reclaimed streets (mostly from cars) to facilitate the expansion of restaurant and bars.   Copenhagen Source: @colvilleandersn via Twitter New York Source: @ReynosoBrooklyn via Twitter There are also innovative off the shelf solutions capable of being rolled out, such as the below modular ‘Parklet’ in Hammersmith and Fulham: Hammersmith and Fulham Source: @PaulWellman_ via Twitter Takeaways With the repurposing of road space, facilitation of active travel and reduced risk of enforcement action being taken, easing of lockdown will give rise to one of the biggest experiments in our town centres. As we get use to this new way of life, some of these measures may become a permanent fixture, making town centres and high streets more accessible, liveable and pleasant spaces to spend time in.  Lichfields is well placed to help navigate this transition through assisting with pavement licence applications, securing temporary worthwhile uses, and repurposing town centre sites to help breathe new life into high streets. The 4th of July is set to become England’s ‘independence’ celebration too. Bring on the summer. See other blogs in this series: Where we are now, in the middle of a crisis The planning response to COVID-19 High Streets starting to bounce back​

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A Licence to Refill: How fast-track pavement licences can help pubs and restaurants spring back from lockdown
It has been more than 100 days since pints were last pulled and restaurants were full. And as the country begins to ease out of lockdown and restarts the economy, ongoing social distancing measures require pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes to adapt, whilst indoor space remains restricted. But, businesses that adapt and take advantage of new legislation could thrive post-lockdown. Part of the Government’s solution for supporting the hospitality industry and promoting wider economic growth and recovery includes proposed new legislation for fast-tracked pavement licences - reducing the consultation period for pavement licence applications from 28 calendar days to 7 days (5 working days). This proposal is included in the Business and Planning Bill and offers a unique opportunity for pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes to expand their facilities and provide comfortable outdoor space for their customers without needing to wait for a planning permission. If businesses take this golden opportunity to go al-fresco this summer, the hospitality industry will be in a prime position to reap the rewards of pent up demand. No longer will we have to rely solely on takeaways, banana bread and supermarket beer. What exactly do the pavement licences allow? Government guidance explains that once a pavement licence is granted to an applicant by the local authority, the licence holder can place removable furniture over certain highways adjacent to the premises which the application was made for, for certain purposes. The process has been streamlined so that businesses can quickly secure these licences in time for summer 2020 and, where they are granted, these licences will remain in place for between 3-12 months (depending on the local authority’s decision), but not beyond September 2021. The new pavement licence legislation only applies in England and other regulatory frameworks also still apply, meaning venues will still require alcohol licences and will need to comply with the requirements for food businesses. The new licences would constitute deemed planning permission for anything done by the licence-holder which would previously have required planning permission under Part 3 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. It would provide a quick and cheap route for cafes, restaurants, pubs and bars to secure a pavement licence more easily than ever before, enabling them to operate safely and at optimum capacity, while observing social distancing. How to make an application The clauses in Part 1 of the Business and Planning Bill would provide that applications for the new pavement licences be available to pubs, bars or other drinking establishments, and for the sale of food or drink for consumption on or off the premises. The Bill also sets out what removable furniture would be permitted, which includes: Counters or stalls for selling food or drink; Tables, counters or shelves on which food or drink can be placed; Chairs, benches or other forms of seating; and Umbrellas, barriers, heaters and other articles in connection with the outdoor consumption of food or drink. It is important that the furniture is removeable. It cannot be fixed and should be easily moved and stored away on an evening. Applications will need to specify the type of furniture being proposed, as well as the relevant highway, premises, days of the week and times of day that the pavement licence will cover. The applicant will also need to provide evidence of public liability insurance and the local authority may also request additional information and evidence including plans, lease documents, photos and specifications of the proposed furniture and details of how it will be arranged, but other information may also be required if the Local Authority deems it necessary. Fees will be set locally but will be capped at £100. If an applicant has already made an application for a pavement licence under the existing regime and wishes to substitute that application for a new application under the new rules, a fee would not be charged and the original application would be treated as withdrawn. Determining an application The Local Authority must publicise the application and allow representations for 7 days after the application is received. A notice of the application will have to be displayed on the premises so that it can be easily read by passing members of the public from outside the premises for 7 days. The Local Authority has a further 7 days to determine the application once the consultation period ends and will take in to account Government guidance, consider representations, consult the highway authority and any other relevant person deemed appropriate. If they fail to determine the application within 7 days, it will be deemed to have been granted. The authority can reject the application for some or all parts of highway specified and any or all purposes for which the application is made (i.e. it can decide the space that the licence will cover). The Local Authority can also attach conditions when granting a licence. These conditions could relate to public safety, amenity and access. Licences will automatically include a “no obstruction condition” and the Local Authority may revoke a licence if the affected area of highway is later found not to be suitable, there is a risk to health and safety, anti-social behaviour is being or is at risk of being caused, or the highway is being obstructed. When can I make a pavement licence application? The Business and Planning Bill, which includes the pavement licence legislation has now completed all its stages in the House of Commons and is due to be considered in the House of Lords on 6 July. On this schedule we anticipate that the Bill could gain Royal Assent by the end of next week, but this is not a timeline that has been stated by the Government. Where can Lichfields help? Lichfields understands the urgency in supporting the recovery of the hospitality industry as the country eases out of lockdown and while social distancing measures remain in place. Throughout lockdown, our series of blogs ‘The High Street isn’t dead, long live the High Street’ have identified changes and emerging opportunities on the High Street, with the latest blog in the series looking specifically at repurposing the High Street for summer dining. Lichfields has also been closely monitoring the progress and development of the Business and Planning Bill. We have reviewed the draft guidance and we are well placed to prepare and manage applications for new pavement licences on behalf of pub, bar, restaurant and café operators. We have good relationships with local authorities across the country and are ready to liaise with officers regarding the new procedures to achieve swift, positive outcomes.”

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