The fish restaurant The Chipping Forecast on All Saints Road in Notting Hill was one of the restaurants and pubs which took part in the café terrace trial this summer, utilising 10 metres of parking spaces outside. Picture courtesy The Chipping Forecast.

Covid-19 and its fallouts:

More tables and chairs on pavements – and parking bays

Many may have noticed that there have been more tables and chairs outside restaurants and pubs since July (although many of them have disappeared now, as temperature falls). This is all due to the Business and Planning Act 2020, which came into force on 22 July 2020. One part of the act is a new type of temporary licence, called a pavement licence, which makes it easier for hospitality businesses to operate on the street during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Pavement licences are like the council’s existing tables and chairs licences but, with more favourable conditions to help support businesses during the pandemic. Also, pavement licence can be given without the need for a separate planning permission. Pavement licences can be issued on footways, temporary footway extensions (on suspended parking bays) or on closed roads. All pavement licences must end no later than 30 September 2021, unless the housing secretary, because of the situation with the pandemic at that time, decides to extend the scheme further.

The council’s requirement for giving a pavement licence for hospitality furniture on footways is that it must not obstruct pedestrians, especially those with pushchairs or mobility needs. There should be a minimum of 2.5 metres of clear footway width to allow pedestrians to social distance and to prevent footways becoming congested. On the borough’s busiest high streets, 3.5 metres clear footway width is required. 

Café terraces

New for this borough, and part of the temporary pavement licensing, is the ability to create what “café terraces”: enclosed serving spaces put on suspended parking bays, thus in effect creating an annex to the venue on the outside of the footway, so pedestrians basically walk through the restaurant or pub while staff move back and forth between the premises and the temporary terrace.

During the summer, the council invited the borough’s restaurants and pubs to take part in a three months trial with such terraces. Some 40 businesses took part, and it was so popular with both businesses and many residents that the council in October decided to extend the offer to more businesses as long as the pavement licensing is running (i.e. until 30 September 2021, unless the upcoming vaccinations are so unsuccessful that the social restrictions must continue beyond that date, in which case the end date will probably be extended).

In a RBKC brochure about the pavement licensing, published 13 October, the council states that it will only allow café terraces outside the footway “in locations with limited traffic. Busier roads, usually those with bus routes, would not be suitable for footway extensions. Even in quieter locations, careful consideration will be given to the risks to public safety of any proposal.” The rules also state that the café terraces must sit on a platform which is enclosed on its three outer sides, and they can cover no more than two parking spaces (i.e. 10 metres) which can allow for four tables with four chairs each (16 guests in total) while observing social distancing.

Other planning changes

The Business and Planning Act 2020 also contains several other changes to planning regulations, due to or brought forward by the Covid-19 pandemic:

Extension of planning permissions: Planning permissions, listed building consents and applications for the approval of reserved matters due to expire before 31 December 2020 have all been extended to 21 May 2021, unless extended by the housing secretary at a later date, due to the pandemic situation.

Extended construction hours: As previously reported, developers can now, for a limited time, apply to the local council for the right to carry on construction activities for longer periods and on days not authorised by the planning permission they hold. Such extensions must end no later than 1 April 2021, unless extended by the housing secretary at a later date, due to the pandemic situation. This rule was introduced already on 13 May 2020, and became part of the act when it came into force in July. At the time, the extension was intended to last until 31 May 2021, but the act puts the end date to 1 April. You can read about the original ruling here.

More ways to appeal planning decisions: This is a permanent change, originally planned to be introduced later, but brought forward so it could be included in this act. It means that planning appeals no longer have to consist of either written representations, hearing or formal inquiry, but can now be a combination of all three.

The top picture shows what Hollywood Road (the street going up from Chelsea & Westminster Hospital) looked like outside the restaurants Brinkley’s and Hollywood Arms a couple of years ago. The lower pictures show their temporary café terraces, covering the loading bay and one parking space. Pictures courtesy Google Street View and RBKC.

Published 04/12/2020