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.”