The Return of Hospitality: Building Back Better

By James Cook, Head of Planning at Blacks Solicitors (www.lawblacks.com)

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected every aspect of society. However, for the hospitality sector it’s been a particularly challenging year. In the first lockdown which was announced on 21 March 2020, the value of the sector fell by 90% and over 1.6million people ended up being furloughed1.We also saw 55% of hospitality businesses pause trading.

James Cook, Head of Planning at Blacks Solicitors discusses what professionals should be aware of when it comes to planning regulations, particularly with a full reopening of services currently delayed to 19 July.

Outdoor spaceAlthough indoor spaces are now able to open, continued restrictions mean that hospitality venues are relying heavily on available out- door space to obtain valuable covers for alfresco dining and drinking. It’s important to consider whether the use of additional outdoor space for these purposes is authorised in planning terms.

Whilst broader uses classes combined with temporary permitted development rights and pavement licenses have allowed for a greater level of flexibility over the past 18 months, planning permission for a change of use may still be required; particularly if the use is to be permanent and the space in question lies outside of the existing property.

You also need to check the terms of any existing planning permission to make sure there are no conditions which impose restrictions on the use of outdoor space, be it in general terms or during specified times. Such conditions may need to be varied in order to allow for greater flexibility.

TEMPORARY USE AND STRUCTURES

Long established permitted development rights authorise the temporary change of use of qualifying land (together with a right to provide any moveable structure for the purposes of the use) for up to 28 days per year. As a response to the pandemic, an additional 28 days was authorised. Originally introduced until the end of 2020, this has been extended to the end of 2021.

From April 2021 a temporary permitted development right ‘Class BB’ allows restaurants, cafes and drinking establishments to install ‘moveable’ structures within their curtilage until January 2022. More permanent structures may still need planning permission. This right has also been extended to historic listed building visitor attractions, but listed building consent may still be required in certain circumstances.

Similarly measures to enable restaurants, cafes and pubs to serve take away food when they were closed as a result of Covid restrictions have been extended and will continue to apply until 23 March 2022.

PAVEMENT LICENSES

In response to Covid, the Business and Planning Act 2020 introduced measures to enable hospitality venues to apply for pavement licences to put temporary furniture on the highway (usually pavements) to sell, serve or for Potential licence fees required by local authorities can be up to £100, and it may be necessary to reapply as the initial license may have been granted for a short period of time only. Local authorities are being urged by the Government to grant a licence for a minimum of 12 months unless there is a good reason. At present no licence can extend beyond 30th September 2021 but this is going to be extended for a further year.

MOVING FORWARD

The leisure and hospitality industries have been significantly impacted by the pandemic over the past 12 months, and venue coordinators should bear in mind the planning regulations that can support them in build- ing back their business and jobs.