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Pints & PD Rights

These included allowing an extended period of time for the temporary use of land and the erection of temporary structures on land from 28 to 56 days in most instances. This enabled pubs, restaurants and cafes to make arrangements for temporary moveable outdoor structures such as tables, chairs, stalls and marquees to support outdoor eating and drinking and comply with social distancing guidelines. Now, as the hospitality sector has opened its doors once again (albeit outdoor areas initially) on 12th April in England and 26th April in Wales, announcements have been made as to how the planning system might help the hospitality sector through what continues to be a challenging time for businesses.

In the Planning Newsletter published 1st April 2021, Chief Planner for England, Joanna Averley, set out the Government’s intentions to continue supporting businesses by relaxing some planning restrictions. A temporary Permitted Development Right (PDR) allowing pubs, cafes and restaurants to erect temporary structures on their premises for the summer period will be introduced, similar to the PDRs last year. However the key change this time around is that the PDR will also be permitted for listed buildings, provided the development causes no harm to the heritage asset, which is a significant boost to those premises previously constrained. The legislative detail is yet to be published.

In Wales, there is more certainty as Neil Hemington, Chief Planner for Wales, issued a letter to the Heads of Planning for all Welsh Local Authorities on 30th March 2021, confirming that temporary amendments are being introduced. The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Amendment) (No.2) (Wales) Order 2021 (“the Amendment Order”) will come into force on 30th April and remain in place until 3rd January 2022. The changes will allow the additional temporary use of land from 28 days to 56 days, which also permits the temporary erection of moveable structures to support the temporary use for the relevant period. There are some exceptions where PDRs will not be allowed, such as if the land is within a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and – unlike the proposed amendments in England – in Wales it will not apply to the curtilage of a listed building. Food and drink (Class A3) premises will also be permitted to use the highway adjacent to their premises for selling and/or serving food and drink, which includes permission for outdoor seating and furniture such as umbrellas and heaters (NB permission must still be obtained from the relevant highway authority and the area must not be used by customers between 10pm and 8am).

The relaxation of the rules is a well-intended effort to ensure the planning system does not act as a barrier to the economy’s recovery as lockdown restrictions begin to ease. However, some businesses may feel that these efforts are too little too late. Particularly in England’s case for businesses that have reopened this week but have nothing more than stated “intention” from the Government to relax planning restrictions “at the earliest opportunity” and in Wales where listed buildings (of which many pubs often are) do not benefit from the relaxation.

The hospitality sector has demonstrated great adaptability over the past year by adjusting the way they trade. We have seen pubs and restaurants operate as takeaways, reconfigure their interiors to ensure 2 metres between tables, develop new technology for customers to make orders via apps to minimise social contact, and even introduce the controversial ‘substantial meal/scotch egg’ rule. People working in the hospitality sector may now expect the same adaptability and flexibility to be shown by the government and planning authorities, to ensure outdoor food and drink services can be provided to customers in a manner that is safe and lawful. Whilst there remains some uncertainty about timescales and the path out of lockdown, it may be the case that the temporary use of land for outdoor seating and structures is required for longer than the permitted 56 days (8 weeks) (as is the case in Wales and England).

This begs a question about more long term – or permanent – changes to how pubs, restaurants and cafés might operate in outdoor spaces in the future, even after the pandemic. Despite the unreliable and often disappointing British weather, outdoor drinking and dining has become something of a lifeline for our social lives and has altered our use and appreciation of the outdoors. The public realm has become more populated and usable, with pavements transforming into dining space, car parks being used for market stalls, and road closures making way for outdoor seating. In this way, we have seen our streets support a more continental use of space that adds vibrancy and prioritises pedestrians over vehicles. Whilst these changes bring about potential practical issues for parking, accessibility and transport in the long term, we only need to think about our change in approach to home/office working to see how the pandemic has fundamentally shifted our ways of thinking and living, so it will be interesting to see whether alfresco dining and drinking (with support from the planning system) is here to stay beyond Summer 2021.

Boyer has a wealth of experience in navigating permitted development rights, particularly within the hospitality sector. So please get in touch if you would like any further advice.

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