Pubs, bars restaurants and other hospitality venues will be allowed to put up gazebos and marquees without planning permission from April 12, as the sector begins its move out of lockdown, as part of a new £56 million “Welcome Back” fund which aims to help England’s high streets and coastal towns safely reopen as coronavirus restrictions are eased toward June 21 when it is anticipated that all restrictions will be removed.
The funding will allow councils to improve the “look and feel” of local areas, creating more outdoor seating areas as well as markets and pop-up food stalls.
Pubs and restaurants, including premises in listed buildings, will be given the flexibility to provide more outdoor space for customers for the whole summer rather than the current 28 days permitted, with figures suggesting that the move will allow 9,000 additional venues to open next month rather than having to wait for indoor serving in May.
Any venue, even if it is listed, can put up a marquee or structure of any size on their land without planning permission, and keep it up till September, as the government looks to get the industry up and running as quickly as possible.
Side panels will need to be open for ventilation, but paperwork is not an issue after ministers ordered councils to back down on threats to cripple the reopening with red tape.
An estimated 70 councils will also receive “targeted, hands-on support” from the Government’s High Streets Task Force, described as “an elite team of high street experts who will advise them on how to adapt to meet changing consumer demands so they can thrive in the years ahead”.
There are also to be restrictions on private parking fines in a bid to attract and give drivers confidence when visiting towns.
Part of the funding pot will be exclusively allocated for coastal areas, with all English seaside resorts to receive support, under the Government’s plans to help holidaymakers this year, as the country embraces “staycations”, with much of Europe now entering a third lockdown and travel restrictions still in place.
Under its road map out of England’s coronavirus restrictions, and subject to the ongoing assessment of coronavirus data, the Government aims to lift its “stay at home” order from March 29, with further gradual easing to follow.
Outdoor attractions, non-essential retail and some holiday lets could re-open after April 12 and most social contact restrictions could be lifted from June 21.
Mr Jenrick said: “As we move to the next stage on the roadmap out of lockdown we are all looking forward to being reunited with friends and family outdoors and making a safe and happy return to our favourite shops, cafes, pubs and restaurants.
“Our Welcome Back Fund gives every city, town and high street support to prepare for a great summer. This funding will help councils and businesses to welcome shoppers, diners and tourists back safely.
“As soon as the roadmap allows, we need to get behind our local businesses and enjoy all that this country has to offer and that we’ve been missing so much.”