Boost for outdoor drinking and dining when Covid restrictions ease

Robert Jenrick. Photo: PA

Local government secretary Robert Jenrick. - Credit: PA

The way has been paved to make it easier for pubs and restaurants to offer outdoor drinking and dining when coronavirus restrictions are eased next month.

Local government secretary Robert Jenrick has written to council leaders, including in Norfolk and Waveney, urging them to make it as simple as possible for them to be licensed to have tables and chairs in the street.

The barriers in place to restrict traffic in St Benedicts Street. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Outside dining in St Benedicts Street in Norwich. - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020

Norwich City Council had already agreed a new tables and chairs policy, to streamline applications, with a reduced seven days of consultation with the public.

Fees were lowered and capped at just £100, with the temporary licences running until September 2021.

And Mr Jenrick has written to every council leader saying they ought to make it easy for pubs and restaurants to have tables and chairs when outdoor dining is permitted again from April 12.

In his letter to council chiefs Mr Jenrick said that the automatic right for restaurants and pubs to be allowed to provide takeaways and do deliveries would continue.

Speaking to The Sun on Sunday, Mr Jenrick said that would continue until at least March next week, and he was keen to make it permanent.

He also said pubs, along with car boot sales, summer fairs and other events would be permitted to put up marquees and awnings, for up to two months, without any need to secure planning permission.

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And, with tables and chairs for al fresco dining and drinking, he told them: "We expect local authorities to grant licences for 12 months or more unless there are good reasons not to, such as plans for future changes in use of road space.

“Therefore, unless there are very good reasons, we would expect licences granted under these provisions to continue to apply into this summer so that businesses do not have to reapply or be charged a further application fee when they are able to re-open to serve customers outdoors.”

The latter mirrors what Norwich City Council had already introduced when it changed it policy last summer.

Mr Jenrick said if councils do not get back to businesses which apply for tables and chairs swiftly, then there would be "a presumption that it's okay to proceed".