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Business and Planning Act 2020 (Pavement Licences) (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2021

Volume 813: debated on Thursday 8 July 2021

Considered in Grand Committee

Moved by

That the Grand Committee do consider the Business and Planning Act 2020 (Pavement Licences) (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2021.

Relevant document: 6th Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee

My Lords, the regulations we are considering today were laid in draft before this House on 8 June. If approved and made, they will extend the temporary pavement licence provisions for 12 months to 30 September 2022 and will come into effect the day after they are made.

The temporary pavement licence provisions create a faster, cheaper and more streamlined consenting regime for the placement of removeable furniture, including tables and chairs, on pavements outside premises such as cafes, bars, restaurants and pubs. These measures have been popular and very successful in supporting businesses, making it easier for pubs, restaurants and cafes to facilitate al fresco dining with outside seating. It is vital that we continue to support the hospitality sector by extending these provisions for 12 months, as it has been one of the hardest hit as a result of the coronavirus.

The sole purpose of the regulations is to change the four references to the expiry date in the legislation from 30 September 2021 to 30 September 2022. The regulations do not change any other part of the pavement licence provisions, so the process for applying for a licence during the extended period will not change. Subject to the regulations being approved and made, businesses will be able to apply for a licence under the process set out in the pavement licence provisions in the Business and Planning Act for the extended period until 30 September 2022.

The regulations do not automatically extend licences that have been granted under the current provisions, so businesses will need to apply for a new licence if they wish to have one in place during the extended period. Local authorities are encouraged by guidance to take a pragmatic approach in applying the extended provisions, so that it is as convenient as possible for businesses to apply for a licence during the extended period. As the process for applying for a licence under the extended period will remain unchanged, I will briefly remind noble Lords of that process.

All licences are subject to a 10-working-day determination period, including a five-working day public consultation period, excluding public holidays, starting the day after the application is sent electronically to the authority. If the local authority does not determine the application before the end of the determination period, the licence will be deemed to have been granted for a year—or, if sooner, until 30 September 2022—and the business can place the proposed furniture, such as tables and chairs, within the area set out in the application for the purpose or purposes proposed.

Licence application fees will be set locally but are capped at a maximum of £100. Again, these fees are unchanged from what they are for licence applications under the current temporary provisions in the Business and Planning Act 2020. All licences will be subject to a national no-obstruction condition and smoke-free seating condition as well as any local conditions set by local authorities.

The grant of a pavement licence only covers the placing of furniture on the highway. A pavement licence does not negate the need to obtain approvals under other regulatory frameworks such as alcohol licensing. The Government have also laid a separate statutory instrument to extend the temporary alcohol licensing amendments.

Once a licence is granted, or deemed to be granted, the applicant will also benefit from deemed planning permission to use the highway land for anything done pursuant to the licence while the licence is valid—for example, using furniture to sell or serve food or drink supplied from, or in connection with relevant use of, premises.

The pavement licence regime in the Business and Planning Act did not replace the regime in Part VIIA of the Highways Act 1980; rather, it sat alongside it. This remains the case during the period of validity of the 2020 Act provisions as extended by this statutory instrument. Applicants may apply for a licence under Part VIIA as an alternative if they wish to do so for any reason.

These regulations will enable food and drink hospitality businesses to continue to obtain a licence to place furniture on the highway outside their premises quickly and cheaply. As I previously stated, this extension is considered necessary and vital, as it will provide businesses with much needed certainty to help them to recover economically and will support them in planning for the extended period. To explain just how hard the sector has been hit, evidence from trade organisations and other sources has indicated significant financial losses and wider economic pressures faced by the hospitality industry. The Office for National Statistics reported in July that more than half of businesses in the accommodation and food services industry had experienced a fall in turnover, compared with normal expectations for this time of year—more than any other industry.

I firmly believe these regulations will bring essential economic support out of the pandemic for many food and drink businesses, by enabling extended outdoor capacity for serving food and drink. To support local authorities and businesses with the implementation of the regulations, we will publish an updated version of the pavement licence guidance when the regulations are made. If these regulations are not introduced, there is a real risk that we will undermine the steps that food and drink hospitality businesses have taken to recover from the economic impacts they have suffered as a result of coronavirus.

All of us in government have enjoyed pubs, cafes and restaurants being open again, following coronavirus lockdown restrictions. The temporary pavement licence measures are just some of several measures that the Government have introduced to support hospitality businesses to reopen safely, enabling businesses across the country to serve their local communities. Since introducing a simplified route for pubs, restaurants and cafes to obtain a temporary pavement licence, we have heard of many examples of local businesses being able to increase their outdoor capacity quickly and at low costs. The draft regulations that we are debating today will allow al fresco dining and drinking to remain a reality for these businesses and provide much needed certainty for another year. I commend this instrument to the Committee, and I beg to move.

My Lords, my intervention this afternoon will be brief. I was most grateful to the Minister for finding the time yesterday to have a conversation with me about these regulations, and I was able to tell him that I have tabled a regret Motion relating to them, which will be debated in the Chamber presumably some time next week—I gather that it may be Wednesday. The rules relating to hybrid procedures in Grand Committee do not allow for regret Motions to be debated here.

I shall not take up the Committee’s time today by going through the arguments for my regret Motion. The wording of it is self-explanatory; it regrets that “these regulations were not revised to take account of the evidence of the benefits of 100% smoke-free pavement licences, which have been implemented over the last year in a diverse range of local authorities and which have received strong public support”. Your Lordships may recall that the House debated these regulations during the passage of the Business and Planning Bill almost a year ago. A cross-party amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, and signed by the noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham, the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay of Llandaff, and me received strong support across the Chamber. Our amendment was supported by the Local Government Association and a number of major local authorities. The LGA said that it

“sets a level playing field for hospitality venues across the country and has a public health benefit of protecting people from unwanted second-hand smoke … If smoking is not prohibited, pavement areas will not become family-friendly spaces”.

Despite the Government’s stated intention to make smoking obsolete in England and for us to be smoke free by 2030, Ministers did not accept our amendment a year ago. Instead, they inserted a requirement in legislation that

“the licence-holder must make reasonable provision for seating where smoking is not permitted”.

A number of councils went further and issued pavement licences that require completely smoke-free areas. I shall say more about these local councils and the views of the public as measured in a huge opinion survey carried out by YouGov when we have the debate in the Chamber.

I shall also be able to share with your Lordships some information from Canada, where smoke-free patio areas have been required by a number of provinces. There is good evidence that they are popular and easy to enforce and that they improve the health of hospitality workers—and there are no signs of an adverse impact on business. I hope that the House will take the view that it is a matter of regret that we did not go down that same route when we passed the 2020 Act, and that these regulations were not revised in that light.

My Lords, I strongly support the remarks just now by the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner. We have, as he said, been here before when, last summer, the Government launched the “Eat out to help out” campaign. At that time, as the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, said, my noble friend Lady Northover moved, with all-party support, to tie the extension of eating on the pavement to non-smoking areas. This was rejected by the Government because they did not wish to hinder the development of the initiative at short notice. This year, the same excuse will not be an acceptable reason for inaction, because a year has elapsed, but the Government prefer to listen not to local authorities or the Local Government Association, which has to make the permits work, in very many areas, including my own, in Oxfordshire, but instead to the voices of big business, brewers and the tobacco industry. They do not listen, necessarily, to the small shopkeepers and restauranteurs owners but to the very big interests behind them.

Does the Minister recognise that, during the pandemic, many smokers have quit, but it is very easy for such people to resume smoking? Then there is the effect of passive smoking on those around, on the staff and on children. Can we afford to inflict a rise in the number of smokers on our population already cursed by Covid? The proposed regulations, with their ambivalent attitude to smoking, will make the difficulties that local authorities have with enforcement worse, and will be mightily unpopular with the majority of actual users.

My Lords, it will come as no surprise to my noble friend the Minister, who may remember our debate on pavement licences a year ago, that I have every sympathy with the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner. As he said, I supported the amendment then moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, saying that pavement licences should be given only if smoking were prohibited, and I will not repeat the arguments I made then. That amendment was withdrawn, but on Report the Government tabled their own concessionary amendment requiring proper provision for non-smokers and, although it was not what the movers wanted—nor, indeed, what the majority of the speakers in the debate had asked for—the concession was accepted. My noble friend then said that joint guidance would be issued by his department and DHSC.

That joint guidance was non-contentious. I want to focus this afternoon on paragraph 11.2 of the Explanatory Memorandum, which refers to updated guidance from the department to help local authorities implement the provisions of this order. I do this because, on 8 August last year, after the guidance I referred to was published, the Secretary of State emailed Manchester City Council, stating that its proposal to set a local smoke- free condition on the issue of pavement licences was

“against the spirit of the emergency legislation passed by Parliament”.

It was not: the legislation expressly said that local authorities could set a local condition such as Manchester proposed. Indeed, in Committee on the Bill my noble friend said:

“Therefore, local authorities can exercise their condition-making powers to impose no-smoking conditions”.—[Official Report, 13/7/20; col. 1482.]

Worse, the letter went on to assert that if smoking were banned outside pubs and cafes:

“It could lead to significant closures across the country.”

In spite of repeated challenges, not one shred of evidence was ever produced by the department to substantiate that assertion, frequently made by the smoking pressure group FOREST. Such evidence as we have from the introduction of the smoking ban in 2007 showed that more people said that they went to the pub more often than said that they went less often. The simple assurance which I seek from the Minister, whom I acquit from being in any way complicit in this misinformation, is that if further guidance is given to accompany this order, it does not contain any more inaccurate or misleading statements such as those that I have referred to.

My Lords, last year in the debate on this in this House, I said that I was very much in favour of this measure, and I am in favour again of a year’s extension, not only for the businesses themselves but because extending bars and restaurants on to the street, even if temporarily, generally represents an enhancement of our public space by increasing the sharing of public space. In a sense, it is good for the vitality of our high streets.

However, although the measure clearly is good for the businesses concerned, particularly during the pandemic, as is the intention of the regulations, the question must be: how have communities reacted as a whole, including non-smokers and the disabled? Have the Government made a formal overall assessment of the effect of this measure? Will they do so? The local authorities are making these decisions, but these are two separate things.

I am in favour of the shared space principle which hovers in the background of this. It is not directly a debate on shared space but I miss the wisdom of Hans Monderman, who died too young at the age of 62, 13 years ago. Others have carried his work forward, but it would be interesting to know how he would have dealt with today’s concerns of the blind and partially sighted in this and other instances. His guiding principle was negotiation between users in the space itself, which of course makes the solution to the organisation of space particularly challenging when some users cannot rely on visual clues. A shared space is not properly a shared space unless it can be shared by all. The space that a blind person has been used to will get altered at certain times if part of a pavement is used by, for example, a bar or restaurant. It will then be important for that space used to be geographically predictable on a day-to-day basis, the territory precisely marked out, to a few inches at the most. It is not just about there being enough space for all pedestrians, including the disabled, to negotiate or navigate without having to walk into the road.

I made a suggestion to the Minister last year, to which he was receptive, that areas could be marked in their corners by fairly sturdy objects such as square plant boxes, and I am glad to see that this has been included in the guidance. The predictability of these spaces on a day-to-day basis will be respectful to use of the whole space for all pedestrians. Councils have gone further, pedestrianising some streets, at least on a temporary basis, to allow greater pavement space for businesses, but here, too, there must be clearly understood and reproducible routes for pedestrians. This might mean a route between one obstacle of one business and an obstacle of another when there is no obvious edge of a footway. Do the Government intend to update the guidance? I am not sure that some of these points are emphasised enough in the current guidance.

I welcome the regulations and this opportunity to debate them. I declare my interests as set out in the register, as chair of the Proof of Age Standards Scheme board, and having chaired the House’s ad hoc committee reviewing the Licensing Act 2003. I echo some of the concerns expressed by the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, and am very grateful to the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association briefing that he shared with me today. I absolutely share the concern expressed by my noble friend the Minister about the hit that the hospitality industry has taken, which is very well set out in paragraph 7.7 of the Explanatory Memorandum, with £8.2 billion of trade having been wiped out, the decrease in turnover which he referred to, and the reported 2,000 pubs estimated to have closed down forever.

However, I hope that my noble friend the Minister will give me—and, more importantly, the vulnerable users of pavements—an assurance this afternoon as we extend the licensing provisions in the regulations before us today. Specifically, if we are allowing only 10 days before a licence application, which I accept is a new application this time, will be agreed, what consultation will there be for particularly vulnerable pavement users in this regard? Will he put my mind at rest that it is not an issue of licence by default? There is a concern, which I hope he will address this afternoon, that there is no time for consultation in a 10-day period. Will he confirm that the original timeframe of 28 days will be reverted to when the regulations cease to have effect?

Can the Minister give me an assurance that local authorities will have regard to the Equality Act provisions and similar provisions in the issuing of licences under the regulations? I am concerned that there is no right of appeal, and I would like to understand whether, in the rush to grant the licence—and I do not know whether he has any evidence of this under the present licence system—if it was felt that street furniture was put in an inappropriate or hazardous place, that could be reviewed and the local authorities have the power to go and inspect that. I am asking for balance in the way in which the licences are issued between the rights of the pub or business to ply its trade, which we are all in support of, and the rights of more vulnerable users—visually impaired and others—to go about enjoying the pavements in the normal way.

My Lords, the café society that Covid has generated is to be welcomed. It brings colour and life to our streets, and will continue to do so, providing useful spaces for those who are not ready to ditch all Covid precautions come 19 July and would prefer to do their wining and dining outside and away from terribly crowded areas in future. Therefore, I welcome the idea of extending the speeded-up process for securing a licence that is incumbent in these regulations. However, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, on his regrets at the failure to insist that such eating and drinking areas be made smoke free. Why that should be the case is completely beyond me, since we all know that passive smoking causes great dangers. If we want these areas to be family friendly—or, indeed, friendly at all—having them filled with smoke is simply not sensible, and the Government have the power to stop it.

We know the difficulties that hospitality businesses have faced during the pandemic, and anything that can be done to enable them to do more business and build back their finances is to be welcomed, but that should not entail bringing in unnecessary smoking. However, there are specifics related to the licences which I wonder whether the Minister would look at. Several aspects of pavement licences concern me. First, while we are allowing smoking, there continues to be a ban on fire pits and gas heaters, which seems illogical to say the least. One can wander along the streets in skiing resorts, for instance, where fire pits are perfectly common, and they do not seem to cause any great trouble. I also wonder whether it is right that the Metropolitan Police should continue to insist that management teams in restaurants and pubs with outside seating undergo counterterrorism training. Is that really necessary? The risks seem very slender.

Finally, can the Minister reassure me that local authorities are not using pavement licences, which are reasonably priced at £100, as a means of generating other income by unreasonably charging for excess refuse, street cleaning and other things that they judge to be a nuisance? There have been suggestions of restaurants and pubs being charged excessively for that sort of thing.

My Lords, I want to flag three areas where the Government should look further at these regulations than merely extending them to 2022.

The first is the timeframe placed on local authorities to process, publicise and determine licences: a mere 10 working days. This has been incredibly onerous on council resources and should be extended to between 15 and 25 working days. With businesses shortly to reopen without restrictions, it is only fair to offer more time to councils and residents.

The second aspect is the cost of a licence, which has been set at a maximum of £100. I gather that most councils have charged this in full. For uncontested licences, it may cover their administrative costs, but it does not if an application is contested and senior officers and licensing teams need to be involved. Kensington and Chelsea Council told me that it would usually charge £512 for a table and chairs licence under the previous regime, which was calculated based on cost recovery. While the process has been streamlined under these regulations, it has not cut councils’ costs by 80%. Effectively, councils are struggling with this loss of income. In some cases, there is a double loss of income where a licence is granted for tables and chairs in parking bays, as there is an additional loss of parking revenue. If this regime is to be extended until September 2022, councils would welcome the discretion to set higher application fees where appropriate. In addition, local authorities would often recover their monitoring costs to ensure compliance with licences, often around £300 a year per premises. The regulations make no provision for this, yet monitoring is still needed.

My third comment may be too radical for some, but it has been suggested to me that the Government might be bolder and look at a British Summer Time pavement licensing scheme to operate annually but not in the winter, or trial these regulations on a more permanent basis in the central activities zone boroughs of, say, Westminster, Camden and Kensington and Chelsea.

The new regulations are much less cumbersome than the three regimes they replace, but the work being done by Westminster City Council to make pavement licensing cost-neutral needs to be taken on board, and a longer timeframe for processing, consulting and determining pavement licences is key to helping residents feel involved.

My Lords, this is a good SI which will begin to improve the hospitality sector, which has suffered so much due to Covid. It is now announced that a large proportion of the UK population has received both vaccines. Therefore, local authorities must quickly respond to the applications they receive. These businesses have suffered greatly due to the lockdowns and many have been permanently closed. The Government’s success in vaccinating over 60% of the population must be acknowledged. Therefore, pavement applications must be approved speedily to open up the hospitality industry and enable it to flourish.

Can the Minister give an estimate of how many bars and pubs have been closed down permanently, and how many jobs have been lost?

My Lords, I remind the Committee that I am a vice-president of the Local Government Association. I want to thank the Minister for his introduction to this statutory instrument. It is right to extend the pavement licensing system for a further year. We have learned a lot from it in the past year, which can help to inform future policy. The public have become used to the system and in the main appreciate it.

In our debate on this topic a year ago, of which mention has been made, I recall speaking about access issues and related matters, some of which seem to have been resolved and others not so effectively.

I recall also saying that sometimes I preferred conditions to be imposed by Governments rather than guidance when change is needed. One such matter may prove to be that raised by the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester, and a number of other speakers, whose concerns I want to support. Smoke-free pavements are in the public interest, and I believe that the vast majority of the public do not want to sit on a seat in an extended restaurant or pub while suffering the disbenefits of second-hand smoke. I found the arguments of the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, compelling and I hope we will hear more about them next week.

We have had a year’s experience of the regulation. We know that businesses have been helped and that people have had the benefit of more outdoor seating. It has added to a sense of community and neighbourliness in our towns and cities. There has been one other benefit that I have become aware of: it has reduced pollution, because extending pavement seating has encouraged some councils to move traffic further away through traffic calming measures. I welcome that.

A year ago, I recall the Minister, the noble Earl, Lord Howe, reminding us of the existing powers of councils on access, smoking and a range of other issues. Indeed, it is always better for councils to take responsibility locally rather than to expect the Government to decide everything for them. Sometimes, however, the Government have to take action and responsibility, and preventing second-hand smoke seems to be one of those occasions.

I want to make a suggestion to the Minister. His department has a year’s experience now. I hope that it is not planning to roll over these regulations for a third time in September 2022. Rather, we should build on current knowledge with a reformed but permanent pavement licensing system that builds on the achievements of the past year and addresses the problems that have arisen. There are permanent solutions that can be found but to achieve them means bringing together all the relevant parties to devise an agreed way forward on the pavement licensing system. That includes a solution to all the problems that have been identified by speakers today.

I have listened carefully to the debate so far, and very interesting points have been raised. Personally, I am very supportive of the principle of pavement licences. One of the first jobs I had as a local councillor was to introduce cafe culture into Leeds way back in the 1990s, which was not a concept that was greeted with great enthusiasm at the time. We have moved on now to dedicating whole streets and removing traffic from them so that cafés can spill out, which has proved to be incredibly successful. Obviously, the changes due to Covid have proved an enormous bonus to businesses that have been struggling.

However, I want to stress from a local authority’s perspective just how complex this can be. It involves consultation with the planning department, licensing, highways, community safety, and we heard from the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, who spoke eloquently about the shared space issues and the need to consult carefully with disability groups. This can lead to incredibly complex processes. I will come back to this, but we have to wonder whether we have given local authorities the required resource to deal with processing applications and, most importantly, assessing and monitoring their impact.

We have learned that, when introduced last year, this was going to be a temporary streamlining of the pavement licence application process and that it would be in place for only as long as social distancing was necessary. However, the Government are today legislating for the extension of the provisions until September 2022, despite legal requirements on social distancing coming to an end this month. I begin by asking the Minister to clarify whether this represents a change in policy by the Government, and is he certain that there will be no further extension beyond September 2022?

On a similar point, the Minister will be aware that under the Business and Planning Act, an extension is legally permissible only if it is for the purpose of mitigating an effect of the coronavirus. Can he detail how this extension meets that requirement? I understand that the temporary nature of the measure was due to concerns raised by local authorities, as well as by community and campaign groups. There was concern about the process leading to more anti-social behaviour and creating noise and nuisance for local residents, as well as the issues we raised about impaired mobility. Can the Minister confirm that the Government have assessed whether the increase in pavement licences has led to those issues, and will he outline exactly what consultation has taken place with those groups on extending the provision?

The reduced funding stream is significant. I must inform your Lordships that the fee cap of £100 is leading several local authorities into some difficulties. Before this cap, some licensees were paying up to £1,000 without complaint, because they recognised the significance of what they were being allowed to do and the resource required to make it successful for them. Given that it is now close to a year since pavement licence streamlining came into effect, it would also be helpful if the Minister could clarify whether there have been any issues with the practical application of the new streamlined process. Can he confirm how many pavement licences have been granted under the new process and how that compares to the previous year? Most importantly, under the provision, how many businesses will need to reapply, as well as those applying for the first time? Have local authorities reported any issues with the statutory framework for the pavement licence process? Do the Government collect information on the conditions which local authorities are imposing? For example, the short turnaround time presents issues for the proper due diligence that needs to be undertaken in assessing applications.

I was pleased to hear from my noble friend Lord Faulkner that he intends to table a regret Motion in relation to the fact that this instrument will not guarantee 100% smoke-free pavement licences. We on these Benches have a proud tradition of acting to reduce smoking and the harms it causes both smokers and those around them. Last year, my noble friend secured an amendment to the Business and Planning Bill which guaranteed protection to non-smokers by requiring all licensed premises to set aside a non-smoking area. Clearly, there is more discussion to be had on this area, and I look forward to the debate that will be generated in the week ahead.

When the Government introduced the new pavement licence process last year, they had the support of these Benches, but with concerns raised over how it would be implemented. Given that the process is being extended by another year, I hope the Minister can allay those concerns and confirm that the Government will work hand in hand with local authorities and all the relevant groups to monitor its further application.

I thank all noble Lords for their contributions, which have given us a very interesting debate on these draft regulations. I was particularly impressed by the distinguished former leader of the city of Leeds trying to introduce café culture in the 1990s, well ahead of its time. The way we consume alcohol in this country, standing at a bar or outside, is very different to the café culture we see on the continent of Europe. It is good that we have seen an increase in the latter approach to our leisure activities as a result of the pandemic, as the noble Baroness, Lady Wheatcroft, referred to.

We have been discussing an essential extension of the temporary pavement licence provisions in the Business and Planning Act 2020 for 12 months to 30 September 2022. As previously outlined, the regulations continue our support for the hospitality sector’s economic recovery and are vital to provide certainty for businesses in planning for al fresco dining for the next year. I am grateful to noble Lords for raising a number of important points on how this will operate and will try to respond to as many as I can.

First, I want to make it clear to the noble Baroness, Lady Blake, that there has been no change in policy. We have not made a decision on the future of the temporary provisions; it would be premature to make any commitments on potential changes to the policy in future. However, I reassure noble Lords that we will continue to engage with stakeholders. We are committed to ensuring that the needs of all highway users are taken into account.

I turn to the issues raised by the noble Lords, Lord Faulkner of Worcester and Lord Bradshaw, and the noble Baroness, Lady Wheatcroft, about smoking and the fact that there is not effectively a ban on it. The temporary pavement licence legislation includes a “smoke-free” seating condition—that concession was mentioned by my noble friend Lord Young—and there must be reasonable provision for seating where smoking is not permitted. This condition seeks to ensure customers have greater choice, so that smokers and non-smokers are able to sit outside.

I appreciate the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Shipley. I recognise that things would be different were there to be a change on a permanent basis as opposed to this simple extension of the current provisions.

In response to my noble friend Lord Young, on his comment about the letter from the Secretary of State to Manchester City Council, it is of course right—as mentioned in the debate—that local authorities have condition-setting powers. I know as a councillor of 16 years that they have and always have had such local discretion. They can set those conditions where appropriate, and some local authorities have used this power, including in this instance Manchester City Council. I reassure my noble friend that all correspondence from the department on this matter will remain in line with what has been agreed in the legislation.

The noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, and my noble friend Lady McIntosh of Pickering rightly raised accessibility and ensuring that pavements remain accessible to everyone. It is important that, while supporting the hospitality industry, we achieve that objective. The pavement licence guidance makes it clear that in most circumstances 1.5 metres of clear space should be regarded as the minimum acceptable distance between the obstacle and the edge of the footway. In response to the noble Earl, I point out that we have worked with the RNIB and Guide Dogs UK to update the pavement licence guidance, which will be published alongside the extension regulations. This update will include a section to emphasise to local authorities that, as Covid restrictions are eased, extra care should be taken to ensure that national and local requirements around accessibility are still being met.

In answer to the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, and the noble Baroness, Lady Blake of Leeds, we have undertaken work with stakeholders to understand the impact of an extension across a range of authorities and different groups, such as the RNIB and Guide Dogs UK, taking into account the impact the provisions have had over the past year.

My noble friend Lady Gardner of Parkes and the noble Baronesses, Lady Wheatcroft and Lady Blake, all mentioned local authority resourcing. In response to the noble Baroness, Lady Wheatcroft, I was interested to hear about the granting of a licence and then using it as a way essentially to charge for other council services unnecessarily. In my experience, that would not normally be done by local authorities. Effectively, most of their moneys are raised either through tax or direct grant, and they would not normally seek to generate income. However, I would be very happy to understand the specific instances that she referred to. It would be concerning if it happens, but it seems very much out of character.

On local authority resources, we are aware that these provisions have a significant impact: not equally, but on some local authorities. If we compare parts of suburban London to the City of Westminster, we are talking about a completely different quantity of licences that will be granted. It is therefore absolutely right that we undertake a full new burdens assessment, and we will fund any new burdens as a consequence of the temporary pavement licence measures in line with the new burdens doctrine.

In response to my noble friend Lady McIntosh on what happens to the consultation timeframe when the regulations cease, I can reassure her that we will revert to a minimum of 28 days’ consultation as set out in Part VIIA of the Highways Act from the 10 days in the temporary regulations.

I was interested to hear about the ban on firepits and gas heaters raised by my noble friend Lady Wheatcroft—I call her my noble friend because that is what I consider her to be. I understand those concerns, but this is not a matter for these regulations. I think it is something that we see on the continent of Europe, and with our climate, would be particularly helpful.

In conclusion, we are extending the temporary pavement licence regulations because we believe it is necessary to support food and drink hospitality businesses by expanding their outdoor capacity, so continuing to support their economic recovery out of the pandemic. This is particularly important when we consider just how badly affected by the pandemic this sector has been—there is no doubt about that.

These temporary pavement licence measures have already been very successful in supporting the hospitality sector so far, as a number of noble Lords have commented. Extending the provisions will enable this success to continue and will provide much-needed certainty in the sector’s planning for the coming year. I commend these regulations to the Committee.

Motion agreed.

Sitting suspended.