Planning ahead

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Total smoking ban, License, Planning permission, Zoning

Since the announcement that a total smoking ban is likely to come in next summer, pubcos and licensees will be examining their properties to see what...

Since the announcement that a total smoking ban is likely to come in next summer, pubcos and licensees will be examining their properties to see what external area is available for customers to smoke in. If the pub has a garden then can some sort of construction be erected for smokers to use?

In order to trade all year round the area will need to be covered and heated. Smoking is expected to be permitted in most external areas under the new laws, provided that they are not completely enclosed. Leaving the front or sides open should be sufficient.

Planning consent will probably be required, and an application should be made as soon as possible. However, until the government specifies how the legislation is to be applied, you could be wasting your time making the planning application. That said, if you don't make it, then you might not get the facilities in place before the smoking ban kicks in. The government's current plan is to produce specific guidance this summer. There are certain facilities that wouldn't require planning permission, such as a canopy, but it is very difficult to generalise at this stage on such an important issue.

If you haven't got an external area in which you could permit smoking then the only alternative would be for customers to smoke on the street. In good weather that's not really a problem, but if it's bad why should they leave home where they can smoke to their heart's content? If customers are going to drink and smoke outside, you would need to establish whether the council had passed any by-laws prohibiting drinking on the pavement. If you have got your own bit of land between the pub and the pavement then how are you going to police this to ensure that people don't wander on to the pavement area?

Check if there are any restrictions on your licence that could cause problems in providing external smoking areas. Many licensing authorities have imposed restrictions upon the use of external areas. Where, for example, a garden was to be used for drinking, licences frequently restrict its use after certain times. You need to check your licence to ensure that there is no such restriction. If you are surrounded by neighbours, are they likely to raise any objections if you make external facilities available? This needs to be thought about in connection with any late-night trade. It would be senseless to spend a lot of money on external facilities if a neighbour or council department then applies for a review of the licence to restrict the use of it. Check that you have no last admission time on your licence that could affect people who want to pop out for a cigarette later in the evening. If you do, can it be amended to enable pass-out permission to be granted?

Let us hope the government gives the trade enough time to prepare for this massive change in the way such facilities are provided.

Related topics: Property law

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