Responding to a recent Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) call for views on pavement licences, the trade body said the temporary scheme – introduced in April last year and due to end this September – should become permanent, and would be ‘low-cost, low-admin’.
It notes that outdoor drinking and dining areas have become hugely popular over the past two years, in some cases ensuring the survival of those hospitality business unable to serve customers indoors due to Coronavirus restrictions.
“Pavement licences have been a really positive success story, and in many cases have enabled businesses to remain open, when otherwise they would have had to close or restrict their opening hours, threatening thousands of jobs,” says Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UKHospitality.
“As well as businesses, outdoor spaces have also brought benefits to those town and city centres previously without al fresco drinking and dining opportunities, enabling them to begin the process of levelling up, and start to enjoy the sort of outdoor experiences available elsewhere.
“Not only that, but by helping local economies recover – and recover faster – this will undoubtedly contribute to the long-term levelling up of the regions. The fact that the scheme has been embraced enthusiastically by a number of local authorities is hugely encouraging in itself.”
UKHospitality’s consultation response also recognises that making the scheme permanent may require changes in terms of cost and how it is administered, but calls for it to remain easy to use and cheap enough for businesses to continue using it.
It has agreed with a proposed £350 cap on application fees, and suggests that any new fee system should encourage and allow local authorities to offer subsidised – or even free – pavement licences, which some councils have already done with great success for businesses and local areas.
“Pavement licences revealed our sector’s ingenuity and creativity, with some truly striking outdoor spaces being created across the UK – from pods to yurts – and significant levels of investment in features such as lighting and heating,” continues Nicholls.
“It’s crucial, therefore, that we press for the pavement licence scheme to made permanent, so that pubs, bars and restaurants struggling to recover from the pandemic can get back on their feet much quicker.
“This has the potential to be a hugely beneficial, low-cost, low admin scheme, and a welcome boost for an industry facing rising costs across the board, including VAT, business rates, rents, staffing and raw goods.”