The Covid-19 pandemic has affected businesses across the economy causing many to cease trading for several months while others have had to significantly modify their operations.
As the economy started to re-open, on 25 June 2020 the Government announced a further and urgent relaxation to planning and licensing laws to help the hospitality industry recover from the coronavirus lockdown by removing short term obstacles that could get in their way.
The Business and Planning Act, which received Royal Accent on 22nd July 2020, makes it easier for premises serving food and drink such as bars, restaurants and pubs, as lockdown restrictions are lifted but social distancing guidelines remain in place to seat and serve customers outdoors through temporary changes to planning procedures and alcohol licensing.
The measures included in the Act modify provisions in the Licensing Act 2003 to provide automatic extensions to the terms of on-sales alcohol licences to allow for off-sales. It will be a temporary measure to boost the economy, with provisions lasting until the end of September 2021.
The Act also introduces a temporary fast-track process for these businesses to obtain permission, in the form of a “pavement licence”, from Fylde Borough Council for the placement of furniture such as tables and chairs on the pavement outside their premise which will enable them to maximise their capacity whilst adhering to social distancing guidelines.
The new temporary measure places a cap on the application fee of £100 for businesses, and introduces a new 7 day consultation period and a 7 day determination period, ensuring that businesses can obtain licences in a timely and cost effective manner aiding to their financial recovery. Fylde Council has set the application fee at £100.
Tables and chairs placed on the highway without permission can be illegal as they could amount to an obstruction. However, permission to use the highway for pavement cafes may be granted by the Council under the Business and Planning Act 2020.
Accordingly, whilst the Council wishes to encourage pavement cafes, it is important that they are properly located and managed. This is to ensure that they meet the standards we expect in Fylde and that they do not obstruct the highway nor create a hazard for pedestrians, especially for blind, partially sighted and other disabled people.