Outdoor seating in Soho, London

Permanent outdoor measures for high streets consultation launched

Temporary measures that have given a huge boost to high streets and hospitality during the Covid-19 pandemic could be made permanent following a public consultation that has been launched.

From marquees being put up in pub grounds, to street markets operating all year round, permitted development rights (PDRs) have allowed people to enjoy al fresco dining and visit town centres and tourist attractions as the nation reopened from the pandemic.

Outdoor dining reopened in April and the UK enjoyed a second quarter rebound, with statistics showing that the country’s economy rose by 4.8% in this period, with ‘al fresco’ dining being credited for the economic boost.

These planning reforms also gave businesses and councils a lifeline to operate alongside the right to regenerate and new licensing arrangements.

The government is aiming to make a number of these permanent so that people can continue to enjoy outdoor hospitality and local attractions, and businesses can innovate, as the country builds back better from the pandemic.

The public will now be able to give their views on the proposed reforms, so they can continue to benefit everyone in the future.

Commenting, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick said:

“The simple reforms we made during the pandemic to help hospitality businesses, markets and historic visitor attractions make use of outdoor spaces more easily, made a massive impact.

“They helped thousands of businesses and attractions to prosper, made our town centres livelier and have been enjoyed by millions of us.

“As part of our vision to transform high streets into thriving places to work, visit and live, we intend to make as many of these measures permanent fixtures of British life as possible.”

The permitted development rights introduced over the past year and that the government are now consulting on include:

1. Right for markets to be held by or on behalf of local councils

As lockdown restrictions were eased in June 2020, the government implemented a temporary PDR which allowed markets to be held by, or on behalf of local councils for an unlimited number of days, including the provision of moveable structures related to this use.

This supported communities to hold outdoor markets and encouraged the use of outdoor public spaces, both to increase public health initiatives and the reopening of the high street.

The government is proposing that this right be made permanent.

2. Right for moveable structures in the grounds of pubs, cafes, restaurants and historic visitor attractions

In April 2021, moveable structures, such as marquees and additional seating, were allowed for the first time in the grounds of listed buildings, helping to support the hospitality and tourism sectors.

This has helped businesses increase capacity as they reopened and the government is now seeking views on making this permanent.

The consultation will also seek views on new permitted development rights to support the efficient development of Ministry of Defence sites.

This includes providing more accommodation, workspace and training facilities at fewer facilities to reduce the pressure on local authorities.

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