‘Pubs at risk of being forgotten about’

By Nikkie Thatcher

- Last updated on GMT

Widening needed: the trade bodies have called for the relaxation of permitted development rights to be in place for the whole of the hospitality sector (image: Getty/Alistair Berg)
Widening needed: the trade bodies have called for the relaxation of permitted development rights to be in place for the whole of the hospitality sector (image: Getty/Alistair Berg)

Related tags Licensing ukhospitality Legislation Scotland

A trio of Scottish trade bodies have called on the Government to include pubs from current planning proposals with one labelling the exclusion as "nothing short of discriminatory".

The Scottish Government’s consultation on permitted development rights closed on 4 August and includes a proposal that outdoor restaurant seating could be allowed without a planning application.

Under the current proposal, it would only apply to restaurants and other businesses operating as a class three business (where food and drink is consumed on the premises) but not pubs and bars due to a different classification.

The Scottish Beer & Pub Association (SBPA), Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) and UKHospitality Scotland have urged the Government to rethink the decision and for outdoor seating flexibility to be extended to pubs and bars.

It submissions to the consultation, all three associations joined forces to emphasis the country’s pubs and bars can’t be forgotten about.

The SLTA said it supported measures that will aid to road to recovery for the licensed hospitality sector but the proposals must cover all licensed hospitality businesses.

Discriminatory exclusion

Managing director Colin Wilkinson added: “The current exclusion of pubs and bars from the permitted development rights proposal, in our view, is nothing short of discriminatory.

“Over the past few years pubs and bars have become restaurants and restaurants have become pubs and bars and in operational terms and service offering there is, in our opinion, little to distinguish from the two.

“If pubs and bars remain excluded from the permitted development for moveable furniture we can only see a raft of applications for change of use to a restaurant to avoid this discriminatory measure.

“Our sector is extremely envious of the recent development in England where hospitality venues can now benefit from the ability to erect a non-permanent outdoor structure, subject to a number of restrictions and conditions, without planning permission or associated costs. It is incumbent on the Scottish Government to support “all” sectors of the Scottish licensed hospitality industry in this same manner.”

UKHospitality Scotland has called for businesses to make greater use of outdoor space and is supportive of the Government’s proposal to do so.

The trade body’s executive director Leon Thompson said: “This move will help the hospitality industry as it works towards recovery, with greater ability to welcome more guests at peak times and appeal to a greater number of customers, as many people prefer and enjoy being seated outside.

“However, it is important that pubs and bars are also included in this proposal, not only restaurants and cafés. As well as the support this would give to these licensed premises, it will avoid confusion in deciding what is a pub and what isn't, with many businesses classified as pubs now involved in selling food.

“Last month England made pavement licenses permanent​, providing potentially business-saving opportunities to hundreds of pubs, bars, restaurants and cafés. Scotland's hospitality businesses should have access to at least the same generous terms.”

No brainer

SBPA’s Paul Togneri said it should be a “no brainer” for the Scottish Government to extend the permissions.

He added: “Since the planning use classes came into effect, the hospitality industry has changed massively.

“Many pubs and bars provide almost identical services to restaurants and should be able to benefit from the same relaxation being offered to them.

“In normal times, the sector is a powerhouse of the Scottish economy, contributing £1.4bn annual and supporting 54,000 jobs.

“In addition, every local pub creates on average, £100,000 every year for their local economies. To get the sector and city centres thriving again post-Covid, we need support and this sort of change can be a huge boost to thousands of SMEs across the country."

Amid the pandemic, there was a relaxation for outdoor areas, which gave many premises the ability to trade through an exceptionally difficult period, Togneri said.

He added: “We’re glad the Government is now seeking to make some of those relaxations permanent but it needs to be for the whole of hospitality. Pubs and bars are at risk of being forgotten about.”

Related topics Licensing law

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