Business and Planning Act 2020 (Pavement Licences) (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2021

It is crucial that these regulations come into effect ahead of summer parliamentary recess, which will provide councils with additional time to consider applications for licences extending beyond September 2021.


Key messages

  • Councils recognise the huge impact that the pandemic has had on the hospitality sector and want to support local businesses. Both prior to and since the Business and Planning Act 2020 was passed, councils have worked hard to provide businesses with the support and flexibilities they need to operate within the current restrictions.
  • The fixed fee and expedited process for issuing pavement licences creates a number of financial and operational challenges for councils. Overall, there is a need to balance the objective of supporting the hospitality sector with other considerations such as the impact of outdoor hospitality on local residents, highways and pedestrian access. While emergency measures were appropriate in the midst of the pandemic, the context in which these provisions are now being extended is very different to that of last year as we look ahead to entering stage 4 of the roadmap and the end of most restrictions.
  • The cost burdens created by the provisions have been considerable, particularly for councils in large city centres where there is high demand for outdoor hospitality. Some councils have estimated that they lose around £700 per application for a pavement licence. This cost shortfall should be addressed by new burdens funding and should include some of the broader costs associated with pavement licensing, such as road closures and marshals. It is welcome that officials at MHCLG have accepted the need for new burdens funding.
  • It is crucial that these regulations come into effect ahead of summer parliamentary recess, which will provide councils with additional time to consider applications for licences extending beyond September 2021. It is essential that we avoid a last-minute surge in applications in September when the current regulations are due to expire.
  • We are working closely with Government to support hospitality and will continue to do so moving forwards. We need a fundamental review of these regulations, and the licensing system more broadly, to make sure system is fit for the future. For this reason, we do not think that these regulations should be extended beyond September 2022. Councils and the LGA would like to work with Government to develop a reformed pavement licensing system that blends the best aspects of the old and new frameworks.
     

New burdens

These pavement licensing provisions have generated considerable additional costs to councils, particularly for councils in large city centres and inner London Boroughs where there is high demand for outdoor hospitality. This should be addressed by new burdens funding, which also includes some of the broader costs associated with pavement licensing, such as road closures, marshals and barriers. It is welcome that officials at MHCLG have accepted the need for new burdens funding and are reviewing the financial information councils have submitted. As an example, figures from Westminster City Council from April 2021 suggest implementation costs were around £2,224,210. Similarly, the London Borough of Camden estimates implementation costs of around £1,057,081. Some councils have estimated that they lose around £700 per application.
 

Operational challenges

Councils have also expressed concern about the timing of the new regulations and when these come into force. Businesses with a licence due to end before 30 September 2021 will need to reapply for a new licence, and it will be important that there is sufficient time for councils to consider applications between the regulations coming into force and this date. We need to avoid a cliff edge deadline which overwhelms councils’ licensing teams' capacity, for those authorities with large numbers to deal with. These regulations must come into effect ahead of summer parliamentary recess, which would provide councils with more time to consider applications for licences extending beyond September.

Councils have highlighted that it would have been helpful if there was scope within the regulations to vary licences rather than simply to revoke or refuse a licence. For example, if a licensing authority receives a pavement licence application from a restaurant that has a large club or theatre next door, it would be helpful if authorities could reduce the number of tables and chairs in the licence for safety reasons, rather than refuse it, which is what they have to do at the moment. It would have also been welcome if Government considered an extended period to determine applications from 14 to 28 days. This would have assisted licensing authorities who have large amounts of applications to consider and limited staff.

Many councils have also reported an increase in complaints from local residents linked to pavement licensing for tables and chairs, due to the noise caused by outdoor hospitality and blocking footpaths, for example. This has an impact on broader regulatory services who have to spend time investigating these complaints.

Longer term issues for consideration

We are working closely with Government to support hospitality and will continue to do so moving forwards. However, we need a fundamental review of these regulations, and the licensing system more broadly, to make sure system is fit for the future. For this reason, we do not think that these regulations should be extended beyond September 2022. Councils and the LGA would like to work with Government to develop a reformed pavement licensing system that blends the best aspects of the old and new frameworks.

In the long term there needs to be a comprehensive review of our outdated licensing legislation to ensure it is fit for the future. We have long called for this review and want to work with the Government on this vital programme.

Contact

Amy Fleming, Public Affairs and Campaigns Adviser

[email protected]