Covid 19 - What you need to know - Pavement Licences

25 Jun

Today (25th June 2020) the Government has published a draft ‘Business and Planning Bill’. Together with draft guidance about the proposed legislation.

This new process is intended to streamline the route for businesses such as cafes, restaurants and bars to secure a licence to place furniture on the highway ('the licence'). A cap of £100 for the licence fee is also proposed for all areas in England & Wales. Applications should be subject to only a 5 day public consultation window. If the application is not determined within this period, the licence will be deemed granted for 1 year or 30th September 2021, whichever is sooner.

The licences must be granted for at least 3 months however the Government expects Local Authorities to grant licences for 12 months, unless there is a good reason not to.

Once a licence is granted, or deemed to be granted, the applicant will also benefit from deemed planning permission to use the land for anything done pursuant to the licence while the licence is valid.

Premises which hold an alcohol licence limited to on sales only, will be automatically varied to allow off-sales under the Bill. This ‘variation’ will be limited to a period which is yet to be specified in the Bill (see above). This means that alcohol appropriated from within the existing licensed area may be carried outside and consumed within the pavement licence area. Existing conditions which ‘in so far as they are inconsistent with the authorisation granted’ will be suspended for the same period. This appears to mean that conditions currently imposed on your off-sales ability which would inhibit the intention of the Bill will not apply.

Licences will only be granted, under the proposed legislation, in respect of highways listed in section 115A(1) Highways Act 1980. Generally, these are footpaths restricted to pedestrians or are roads and places to which vehicle access is restricted or prohibited. Highways maintained by Network Rail or over the Crown land are exempt (so a licence cannot be granted). Private property is already exempt from the need for such permissions.

It is hoped this will enable re-opening businesses operate safely while social distancing measures remain in place and enhance income streams over the summer months.

A business which uses (or proposes to use) premises for the sale of food or drink for consumption (on or off the premises) can apply for a licence. Businesses that are eligible include: public houses, cafes, bars, restaurants, snack bars, coffee shops, and ice cream parlours.

The guidance advises that furniture, which may be used, is:

  • counters or stalls for selling or serving food or drink; (the legislation does not appear to allow for temporary alcohol serveries in the pavement licence areas)
  • 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 used in connection with the outdoor consumption of food or drink.

This furniture is required to be removable. Local authorities should be pragmatic when determining what is ‘removable’ but in principle this means it is not a permanent fixed structure, and is able to be moved easily, and stored away of an evening.

The Bill must now pass through Parliament and receive Royal Assent before becoming law. The process, in normal circumstances would take many months, however the process will be accelerated and the first scheduled debate is listed for Monday 29th June.

We shall keep you updated.

Law correct at the date of publication.
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