As set out in the Government’s road map for easing the lockdown restrictions, in step two, which will be no earlier than 12 April, hospitality venues will be allowed to serve people outdoors. I have written to local authority leaders to make clear the Government’s expectation that local authorities support hospitality businesses to safely reopen, once they are permitted to do so.
Last summer the Government introduced a series of measures to support hospitality businesses to open safely when lockdown restrictions were eased. These measures were a lifeline to many businesses, enabling them to continue to serve their local communities under the challenging circumstances.
I have confirmed to local authorities that these measures will remain in place to support businesses as they reopen this year. I am also pleased to confirm that we intend to extend pavement licences for a further 12 months, making it easier and cheaper for pubs, restaurants and cafes to continue to make al fresco dining a reality with outside seating, tables and street stalls to serve food and drinks.
Providing these flexibilities will support hospitality businesses to trade in these challenging times, helping to protect jobs and livelihoods. The measures that we introduced and will remain in place are:
Al fresco dining
As part of the Business and Planning Act 2020 the Government introduced a simplified process for businesses to obtain a licence to serve food and drinks from seating, tables and street stalls outside their premises. The process was previously long, costly and inconsistent across areas. We addressed this through a capped application fee of £100 and quicker consultation and determination periods (10 days with automatic deemed consent if the authority does not make a decision on the application before the end of the determination period). This enabled business to serve more customers safely outdoors last year and support them to do so again when they are permitted to reopen.
The Government 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 for granting a licence for a shorter period, such as plans for future changes in use of road space. Therefore, unless there are very good reasons, the Government expect that licences granted under these provisions continue to apply into this summer so that businesses do not have to reapply for another licence or be charged a further application fee when they are able to reopen to serve customers outdoors. These temporary legislative provisions are currently due to expire on 30 September 2021, but to give further certainty to businesses I will introduce secondary legislation to extend these provisions for a further 12 months, subject to parliamentary approval.
Freedom to use land for community events and outdoor hospitality
Last year the Government provided greater flexibility for individuals and businesses to use their land for temporary events, such as markets and motorsports. We increased the number of days allowed for such events from 28 to 56 without needing to apply for planning permission. In November we extended this provision until 31 December 2021 so individuals and businesses, such as pubs, can set up moveable structures like marquees and hold outdoor events without making an application for planning permission. This will help businesses take forward outdoor activities such as markets, car boot sales, summer fairs and sporting events. We expect local authorities to support businesses using these additional freedoms as they reopen.
We have also introduced a new temporary right, extended to March 2022, that allows local authorities, either by themselves or by others on their behalf, to use land to hold a market and erect moveable structures on it.
Finally, we also introduced measures to support restaurants, pubs and cafes to serve takeaway food when they were otherwise closed due to coronavirus restrictions. These measures will continue to apply until March 2022.
We introduced these changes to support hard hit hospitality businesses to reopen last year. I have encouraged all local authorities to use these measures pragmatically to help support the high street, businesses and jobs, once restrictions allow them to do so.