COVID-19: Al fresco boost for pubs and restaurants with councils told to slash planning red tape

Red tape must be cut to make it easier for pubs and restaurants to have tables and chairs in the street or put up marquees in their beer gardens, the communities secretary has said.

With the return of outdoor dining and drinking on 12 April, Robert Jenrick has called on every council leader to help the hospitality industry in every way possible after a year of enforced closures due to COVID-19.

He told them that planning rules for al fresco dining and temporary shelters must be waived unless there are exceptional circumstances.

And in a further boost for the industry, he has extended the concession until the end of September 2022.

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Writing in the Sun on Sunday, he said: “I’m determined that we don’t let red tape get in the way of a great British summer.

“The planning changes we put in place last year have been a lifeline to many businesses and they’re here to stay for the summer of 2021.”

He added: “We will be extending 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.

“I’ve told council leaders that we expect them to grant these licences very swiftly – with no need for businesses to re-apply or charge another fee.

“If the council don’t get back to you, there’s a presumption it’s okay to proceed.”

Mr Jenrick has also announced that local communities will be able to hold events like summer fairs and markets without the need for planning permission.

“My message is simple: let’s not let red tape get in the way of a great British summer,” he added.

In his letter to council leaders, Mr Jenrick wrote: “The automatic right to provide takeaways and do deliveries we created at the start of the pandemic is going to continue, as will the right for pubs to have marquees and awnings without planning permission for up to two months.

“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.”

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