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COVID- 19 - Business and Planning Bill Published Date: 25/06/2020

Planning and licensing laws will be relaxed to help the hospitality industry recover from the coronavirus lockdown, the Government has announced.

The proposals set out in the  Business and Planning Bill  are summarised in the Explantory Notes as 'making it easier for premises in England serving food and drink such as bars, restaurants and pubs to seat and serve customers outdoors through temporary changes to planning procedures and alcohol licensing. Alcohol licensing changes will allow operators to serve alcohol for consumption off the premises and will also apply in Wales'.

This Bill introduces a number of urgent measures to help businesses succeed in these new and challenging conditions over the coming months, and to remove short term obstacles that could get in their way. Almost all measures are temporary, with some limited exceptions.

The measures include:

Outdoor Seating

  • a temporary fast-track process for these businesses to obtain permission from the local council for the placement of furniture such as tables and chairs on the pavement outside their premises. This will enable them to maximise their capacity whilst adhering to social distancing guidelines.
  • temporary measures to place a cap on the application fee for businesses, enforcement and revocation powers so councils can protect public safety and amenity, and introduces a new 14 day determination period, ensuring that businesses can obtain licences in a timely and cost effective manner aiding to their financial recovery.

Alcohol Licensing

  • 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 off-sales provision will remove any need for any application to be made or determined, and no fee will be payable.    Licensees who have had an application for an off-sales permission refused or had their off-sales permission excluded by variation or at review within the last three years, will be excluded from this provision.

The default hours in which off-sales will be permitted will be the same as those in which on sales are permitted, and the provisions will also apply temporary conditions to licences where there is a pre-existing permission for off-sales, to:

  • set the hours of off-sales to match those for on-sales
  • allow off-sales of alcohol in open containers
  • allow deliveries of alcohol to residential or work buildings.

The conditions will effectively suspend any pre-existing conditions that are more restrictive. So, for example, an existing condition that allowed off-sales only in closed containers would be suspended to allow sales in open containers.

The intention is that these measures will give an immediate and much needed boost to many businesses, whilst supporting them to successfully reopen over the summer.  

This Bill is seen as the next step to enable people to socialise this summer and enjoy the best of British hospitality in a COVID-secure way – helping businesses get back up and running and employees return to work.

Communities Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP said:    

'I know we all look forward to seeing our pubs, cafes and restaurants open their doors again and I’m determined to give them a helping hand to get back on their feet and their staff back to work safely.   

'That’s why we are introducing changes to make it quicker, easier and cheaper for them to set up outdoor seating and street stalls to serve food and drink.'

Business Secretary Rt Hon Alok Sharma MP said: 

'Our pubs, restaurants and cafes are the lifeblood of high streets and town centres across the country and we are doing all we can to ensure they can bounce back as quickly and safely as possible.  

'This week we gave our vital hospitality sector the green light to reopen from 4 July, and today we are introducing new legislation to enable businesses to make the most of the crucial summer months ahead.'

Transport Secretary Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP said:   

'These measures will help create new summer streets and summer squares, providing people with ways to enjoy our high streets and hospitality sector safely. 

'Alongside our recently announced £2 billion investment in cycling and walking, this shows a clear focus from the government on using pavements and open spaces to make sure people can get out and about, helping people remain safe while getting back to normal life.'

Changes for the hospitality industry introduced by the government will:   

  • reduce the consultation period for applications for pavement licences to from 28 calendar days to 5 working days, and grant consent after 10 working days if the council does not issue a decision
  • set a lower application fee for a pavement and street cafe licence of up to £100
  • remove the need for a planning application for outdoor markets and marquees, meaning they can be set up for longer
  • provide more freedoms for areas to hold car-boot sales and summer fairs

Under the Bill's proposals, temporary changes to licensing laws will allow many more licensed premises, such as pubs and restaurants, to sell alcohol for consumption off the premises.

Pubs and restaurants will be able to use car parks and terraces as dining and drinking areas. The aim is that customers can therefore enjoy their drinks and food outside.

Draft guidance has also been published to support the measures set out in the Bill

MPs will next consider all stages of the Bill on Monday 29 June 2020.