By Simon Atha, Associate Director – Boyer (part of Leaders Romans Group) (www.boyerplanning.co.uk)
The requirements for social distancing during the pandemic opened up the opportunity to utilise wide-ranging outdoor sites for hospitality, and in a rare ‘Covid positive’, that legislation is here to stay.
Under Class G of The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) (Amendment) (No. 3) Order 2021, the operators of pubs, bars, hotels and restaurants can significantly increase footfall, and thereby profits, by erecting a marquee or gazebo on their premises, running a pop-up bar in a beer garden or any other moveable structure. As a result, popular sports matches, large wedding parties and a wide variety of events can attract greater numbers of patrons for hospitality venues.
The legislation surrounding Planning Permitted Development Rights (PDR) is much misunderstood. Best known for home extensions and the controversy over change of use within the built environment (such as from commercial or agricultural buildings to residential use), it also applies to ‘temporary’ structures such as marquees.
There are some limitations on what is allowed. The first is that the structure must be moveable – easily dismantled or on wheels. It must be less than three metres in height with a maximum footprint of 50 sq m, or 50% of the footprint of the building with which it is associated, whichever is smaller. In residential areas, the structure must be at least two metres away from nearby homes. There is also a limit of one structure per site and does not apply to the curtilage of a listed building or scheduled monument.
Despite social distancing being relaxed and the summer coming to an end, this announcement is good news. Even for those venues which don’t have outdoor spaces of their own, the ability for high streets to hold markets and food festivals may assist in attracting footfall. Additionally, commercial spaces such as the landscaped grounds of office blocks can bring life to a site which may be underutilised as a result of changes in working patterns. And outdoor visitor attractions will have additional flexibility to introduce temporary structures on their grounds.
Another opportunity is the likely change to the marriage regulations in England and Wales, which could allow outdoor venues such as the grounds of a hotel or a beer garden to host wedding ceremonies, in addition to receptions. In July the Law Commission recommended that weddings should be able to take place anywhere, providing the presiding official considers it safe and dignified. The potential for a hotel to host one wedding inside and one (or perhaps more) outside, and for a pub to host everything from pre-wedding drinks through to the final dance will no doubt be well received.
Assuming that these proposed changes to marriage laws go ahead there is one important caveat – planning permission: to use a barn, a community centre or a historic building for a wedding could represent a change of use and as such may require planning permission. Whilst permitted development rights have been extended in some areas, such as temporary structures, there remain planning challenges for hospitality businesses to navigate to ensure their operations comply with the appropriate planning legislation.