Cafes, restaurants, pubs and other hospitality businesses will benefit from plans announced in the Queen's Speech to make the temporary COVID-related pavement licence scheme permanent.
The relaxations originally came in when the Business and Planning Bill 2020 was introduced to streamline the process by which businesses could apply for a street furniture licence (aka pavement licence). The intention was to mitigate against the impact of social distancing requirements on hospitality businesses, to provide much needed income and protect jobs.
The relaxations included a fast-track application process (with a reduced public consultation period) and low fees, with licences running for up to a year.
Since the scheme was introduced, a wide range of businesses have benefitted from the relaxations from public houses to cafes, bars and restaurants, snack bars, coffee shops, and ice cream parlours. A licence covers outdoor use of tables, chairs and other seating, counters for food or drink, umbrellas, heaters, and barriers.
The current arrangements were due to expire on 30 September 2022. However, the scheme will now become a permanent arrangement, but with some changes. Local authorities will be able to grant longer, two-year licences, but charges for licence renewals will rise from £100 to £350. Applicants for a new licence will have to pay £500.
Businesses can act now to benefit from the lower fees currently in place. Businesses with a pavement licence or table and chair licence that is due to expire before 30 September should consider renewing (or converting it) now to benefit from lower fees. Businesses without a pavement or tables and chairs licence should consider whether to apply for one now before the increased charges come in.
Written by Fiona Prior.