Unrestricted marquees announced for bumper British Summer

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In a timely announcement ahead of the imminent initial re-opening of the hospitality sector, the Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick, announced last week a package of measures targeted to significantly boost this sector and to ensure that businesses are able to fully maximise what looks likely to be another staycation summer.

Crucially, every pub and restaurant in England will now be able to install a marquee of any size within their grounds without planning permission. Designed to bolster al fresco dining in the spring and summer, the measures will last from 12th April until September 2021. Considering that the hospitality sector will not be able to offer inside dining until 17th May at the earliest, this flexibility will transform the dining experience and will simultaneously boost trade after stringent lockdown measures. The extension of outdoor space for diners, and additional protection from the unpredictable British weather, will allow establishments to serve more customers, whilst enabling them to recuperate revenue at a faster rate.

This flexibility goes further than last year, when the usual 28 day permitted development rule limiting the use of temporary structures was suspended via the insertion of the new Class BA into Part 4 of Schedule 2 of the GPDO ‘additional temporary use of land’ from 1st July 2020 until 31st December 2020, thereby allowing a total of 56 days for a marquee in summer 2020.

This year the permitted development time constraint will now be suspended from 12th April, the date when outdoor hospitality is scheduled to recommence. Significantly, this suspension will continue throughout the upcoming summer and will also enable Listed Buildings or premises previously constrained by other local restrictions to profit from this crucial aid, equating to circa 9,000 additional establishments across the country that will now benefit from this measure.

Within the context of another predominantly domestic holiday scenario, ministers have emphasised the importance of the measures in allowing some level of normality in terms of meeting friends and family in a public setting, while enabling premises to utilise their wider site to increase capacity. Indeed, Mr Jenrick referred to this suspension of normal planning rules as a ‘one-off power’ to support local establishments, which will no doubt prove a welcome lifeline in the coming months.

These measures form part of the comprehensive ‘Welcome Back’ initiative: a fund encompassing £56 million intended to boost localised towns and shopping centres in respect of street planting, tidying parks and the creation of new outdoor seating areas. Funding has also been allocated to support local festivals and street markets, along with corresponding Covid measures akin to erecting signs and employing marshals. This package has been designed to reinvigorate local economies and businesses and to give customers extra confidence to begin eating out and shopping within Covid parameters. Further, councils will be encouraged to assume a ‘presumption in favour’ of applications to set up stalls outside retail premises and to operate outdoor markets.

Overall, these measures give much reason for optimism within the hospitality sector this summer. However, details have yet to be issued to clarify how this relaxation will sit alongside planning restrictions which may have been imposed on previous planning consents. It will also be important to consider the interaction with other legislative controls and any further details as they emerge.

If you wish to take advantage of this new flexibility, we suggest you seek some formal advice and Firstplan would be happy to discuss your proposal in the context of this fast-changing legislative landscape.

The press release relating to these latest measures is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-raft-of-measures-to-prepare-our-high-streets-and-seaside-resorts-for-summer