Moving your business outside - FAQs

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The council has published plans to allow businesses greater freedom to use outside space to trade whilst strict social distancing measures are in place. The responsibility to trade safely and comply with “Covid secure guidelines” remains that of individual businesses. This guidance and frequently asked questions provide business with more information on considering the use of outdoor space for their businesses.

Have I got enough space to use?

You can refer to our “Using the public realm to trade safely during the COVID-19 pandemic” guidance for more information on the amount of space you will need to trade safely outside.

Will I need to submit an application each time I need to change my plan or when government guidance change?

We recommend you submit a plan clearly outlining the boundary of the area of highway you want to use.  It is not necessary for you to indicate on the plan where individual tables, chairs and other objects will be placed inside the area. By submitting an outline of the whole area (as opposed to individual objects), you do not need to re-submit an application to us when you make layout changes inside the approved area for example when, government guidance change.

Do I need to consult with my neighbours and other businesses?

When you make an application for permission to use outside space, there is a statutory duty on the council to consult for 5 working days.  Businesses materially affected by your application have a right to comment on the application.

We recommend that businesses discuss their plans with other businesses in the immediate vicinity.  By doing this, you might overcome any concerns other businesses might have with your use of outside space which means that may be less likely to object to your application. 

Premises next to my business is empty, can I use their pavement?

In principle you can.  You must however make sure you obtain permission from the land owner of any land you want to use.  You need to also bear in mind that if an empty unit is re-occupied, you are likely to need to vary your consent to exclude that area.  Excluding the area will impact on your overall Covid secure risk assessment and you will need to re-asses the remaining outside space to make sure it continues to be safe and comply with “Covid Secure Guidelines”.

I want to put a cover over my outside area, do I need a licence or planning permission?

The council has announced it will relax planning enforcement relating to temporary structures. When you make an application for permission to use outdoor space, please include any temporary structures, such as canopies and marquees, on your application form and plan.

If you have existing consent from the council and want to include the use of a cover over your licensed area, please contact us with information and details.

When am I allowed to allow customers to use my outside area?

Our advice is not to allow customers to use outside space earlier than 8am and no later than 10.30pm. These are not the same for each business however. You will need to assess your own circumstances to decide what is appropriate for you and your customers.

For example, if your business is situated in a predominantly residential area, 10.30pm is unlikely to appropriate due to the likelihood of causing noise and other nuisance. You also need to be mindful of any planning and licensing restrictions that might apply to your business.

I have an existing consent that I want to change to comply with government advice and restrictions, what do I need to do?

If you have an existing consent to place tables and chairs (or other objects) on the public highway and would like to vary that consent, you will need to submit a new application to us.

A business adjacent to mine is also using outside space for customers, how can I comply with Covid Secure Guidelines?

The responsibility to trade safely and comply with “Covid Secure Guidelines” remains that of individual businesses. In cases where you cannot apply social distancing rules (i.e. minimum of 2m), the government has issued guidance on additional measures you could consider such as using screens or barriers to separate people from each other.

We also suggest you discuss your plan with neighbouring businesses to see if a compromise could be reached, for example, reducing the amount of tables and chairs used or staggered hours for use of outside space.  In some cases, it might be that businesses cannot trade safely using outside space and this might mean that the council cannot issue a consent for the use of outside space.

Do I need to make toilets available for customers?

Yes.  You are under a statutory duty to provide toilet facilities for customers.  You must give consideration to this in your Covid risk assessment to ensure customers who need to enter your premises to use your toilet facilities can do so safely.  You might need to consider additional hygiene precautions, for example, additional hand washing facilities or hand sanitiser points.  If you cannot provide toilet facilities in a safe way, you cannot trade.

What are the rules on alcohol sales using outside spaces?

We have published extensive guidance on the sale of alcohol in outside spaces.  Our guidance includes information on:

  • Rules on off-sales
  • Rules on ordering, serving and paying for alcoholic drinks
  • Your responsibilities
  • Information on TENs and minor variations if you need additional permissions