The law changed this week
Restaurants, cafes and bars in East Devon have been given a boost after the district council backed plans to issue licences to allow tables and chairs to be set up on pavements and council-owned land.
The licensing scheme, which will run until September 2021, was given the go ahead by councillors on Tuesday, the day before the government’s Business and Planning Bill was made law. It will allow customers to maintain social distancing while giving businesses a shot in the arm and allowing them extra space to trade from as they fight to recover from the financially crippling lockdown.
And councillors admitted that had the legislation been in place last weekend, it would have saved them the hassle and stress of having to refuse applications for two Exmouth pubs to use part of the Strand and issue them with a £500 fee for use of the land.
East Devon District Council’s cabinet has backed the recommended approach for dealing with both pavements licences and sitting out licences, for which businesses would be charged £100. Furniture is required to be removable – not a permanent fixed structure, and is able to be moved easily, and stored away in the evenings – and businesses must comply with the existing conditions of their premises licences.
Henry Gordon Lennox, the council’s strategic lead for governance, said that the council can terminate licences, saying: “If they breach the licence then we can just revoke it and remove them from the land if they don’t comply with the requirements.”
The pavements licences would allow businesses to use public highway land, while the sitting out licence would give similar permission for council-owned land and green space. Applications will be considered to have been automatically granted unless the council refuses permission within 14 days, and would have to relate to land that is near their premises.
Cllr Paul Millar welcomed the measures, saying: “Had we had this last week, it would have spared us the problems that two pubs found due to a legislative regime that is no longer fit for purpose.”
The Grapevine and Spoken were both charged £500 for putting tables and chairs in The Strand on the weekend between Friday, July 10 and Sunday, July 12 because neither pub had completed a Temporary Event Notice in time, but under the new legislation, they would have been able to apply and be granted a sitting out licence for the land.