In November 2020, we wrote here about new provisions introduced to simplify the process for obtaining a pavement licence which were introduced in light of the benefits of social distancing and open air dining during the peaks of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Business and Planning Act 2020 (the 2020 Act) has since been amended to allow Pavement Licences to remain valid until 30 September 2022. However, if the newly published Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill becomes law, then Pavement Licences will be here to stay.
The Bill contains a permanent power for local authorities to grant Pavement Licences “for such period as the authority may specify in the licence” subject to an overall limit of two years. Licences which do not specify an expiry date, and which were granted before the Bill becomes an Act of Parliament, will be deemed to be valid for two years from the commencement of the Act.
Renewal applications and amendments to Pavement Licences
The Bill introduces a simplified application process for applying to renew a Pavement Licence.
Renewal applications will not need to specify all the details that a first-time applicant would be required to give, such as identifying the relevant highway and specifying the operating times for the placing of furniture on the highway.
However, a renewal application will need to “contain or be accompanied by such information or material as the local authority may require”, ostensibly granting Local Authorities wide discretion over what they can request.
Further flexibility will be introduced by a provision that Local Authorities can amend a pavement licence with the consent of the licence holder where:
- the highway is no longer suitable or the licence poses a risk to public health or safety, anti-social behaviour or nuisance is being caused or the highway is being obstructed other than by anything done by the licence holder; and
- a “no-obstruction condition” of the licence is not being complied with.
Consultation and determination periods
At present, the local authority must publicise the application for 7 days, during which representations can be made. It then has a further 7 days to determine the application.
Under the proposed amendments, each of these time periods will double to 14 days. Applicants will therefore need to be mindful that the application process will no longer as swift as it currently is.
The application fee
The Bill removes the flat £100 application fee for applying for a pavement licence.
Applicants who already hold a pavement licence and make an application in respect of the premises to which that existing licence relates (whether or not it is a renewal application) will incur an application fee of £350.
All other applications, i.e. those from new applicants, will attract a £500 fee.
Finally, applicants will need to pay careful attention to conditions specified on their pavement licence and ensure that these are fully complied with as the Bill contains new powers allowing local authorities to require a person to remove unauthorised furniture, or refrain from placing furniture, for the purposes of selling food and drink.
Should a person fail to comply within the specified time period, the Bill will allow the local authority to remove the furniture, require the person to pay for their storage costs and ultimately dispose of the furniture if those costs are not settled.
Of course, the Bill won’t become law for some time yet and might well be subject to further amendment as it navigates the parliamentary process. Watch this space for further developments.