I spotted a tweet from the housing and communities secretary, Robert Jenrick on Sunday sharing a Sun article. It's not often mainstream politicians turn to the red top's for serious announcements but the article refers backs to a letter to all Council leaders last Friday.
Context - cast your minds back a year.*$%
On 22 February 2021, the Prime Minister set out a roadmap for easing lockdown restrictions in the UK. Within that roadmap was the confirmation that, hopefully, hospitality venues will be allowed to serve the public outdoors from 12 April 2021 (and luckily, the Scotch Egg debate will be over because there will be no requirement for alcohol to be accompanied by a substantial meal).
Last summer, in response to the COVID pandemic, the Government relaxed a number of planning measures in order to support the hospitality industry to reopen safely; enabling, in Robert's view "the country to continue to serve their local communities." But those changes had sunset clauses! Nobody ever expected the pandemic to take this long to sort out did they?
In response to this, Jenrick, has announced that he will extend those relaxed planning measures already in place to allow the hospitality industry to serve the public outdoors from April onwards. His letter sent to council leaders on Friday is in this link.
What does this mean?
Al fresco dining
First and foremost, the Business and Planning Act 2020 allows councils to grant "pavement licences", allowing businesses in certain circumstances to serve food and drink to customers outside their premises without making a planning application. These “pavement licences” will be extended for a further 12 months, allowing those within the hospitality industry to serve food and drink outside, without the added cost and effort of obtaining planning permission and/or a license from the highways authority.
Jenrick states “we have made clear in the pavement licence guidance that we expect local authorities to grant licences for 12 months or more unless there are good reasons not to, such as plans for future changes in use of road space. Therefore, unless there are very good reasons, we would expect licences granted under these provisions to continue to apply into this summer so that businesses do not have to reapply or be charged a further application fee when they are able to re-open to serve customers outdoors”.
This measure was due to come to an end on 30 September 2021, but the announcement means we will likely see pavement licences being granted, and used, until 30 September 2022, which is no doubt a much welcomed decision by the hospitality industry.
This will be done by secondary legislation which is not yet out. The eagle eyed amongst you may spot concern about the return to normal for Christmas 2021 - does this foretell another festive season with some restrictions (allbeit not as many as in 2020) or, is this simply a means for those hardest hit businesses to recoup some much needed cash.
Furthermore, the temporary permitted development (TPD) right introduced last March will continue to apply until March 2022, meaning restaurants and bars etc. will be able to serve takeaway food (when they would otherwise be closed) without having to make a planning application for at least another year. My take on that when it was introduced is here.
Other relaxed measures continue to apply, with local authorities being able to use land to hold a market without needing planning permission until March 2022 and pubs being able to have marquees without planning permission for up to two months.*!!
Local communities should also benefit from the relaxed measures; the period that outdoor events such as car boot sales, summer fairs and motor racing events can be held, has been increased for up to 28 days within a 56-day period, including the erection of moveable structures, such as stalls or marquees. This measure will be in place until at least 31 December 2021.
With the Government strongly encouraging businesses to plan for outdoor dining and with the continued amended measures in place, we are bound to see a substantial increase in the amount of outdoor “wining and dining” this summer and an emphasis on the service of food and drink outdoors.
At my last check*& the Statutory Instruments to enable these changes were not yet on the Governments list of updated legislation; so as always, the devil will be in the detail.
*$% - yes it really has been that long.
*& - 8 March 2021 18:00
*!! - having a marquee up for longer than 2 months will require planning permission.
I’m determined that we don’t let red tape get in the way of a great British summer.