Changes to the law on chairs and tables on public highways

By James Anderson, Partner, Poppleston Allen

- Last updated on GMT

Licensing hub: Poppleston Allen advice on changing laws for pavement licenses (Credit:Getty	miodrag ignjatovic)
Licensing hub: Poppleston Allen advice on changing laws for pavement licenses (Credit:Getty miodrag ignjatovic)

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This week’s top tips looks at table and chair licences for public highways including reference to the change in the law and the process for renewals and new grants.
  • If you have an existing Tables and Chairs / Highways / Pavement Licence (all of these names and others are used) check when it is due to be renewed. You will not receive necessarily anything from the Local Authority reminding you and the responsibility is yours. Make sure that you apply in plenty of time so that it is “renewed” before the expiry date. Often these last for 6 months to a year.
  • Recently (on 31st March 2024) the Business and Planning Act (“the Act”) became permanent, meaning that many Councils will only accept an application using this legislation even if your existing Highways Licence was granted under the Highways Act 1980 or one of the London equivalents.

    Please do check on your Local Authority website what the position is as some Councils appear to be accepting “renewals” under the existing legislation and some do not. The Guidance issued as part of the Act makes it clear that the new Act should be used but not all Councils are embracing this, leaving a rather confused position.

  • In relation to a renewal of an existing permit, if the new Act is to be used then you may not necessarily be at a commercial advantage. The new Act, which was introduced in July 2020 to assist the hospitality industry during the pandemic, initially set out a quicker and cheaper process without the need for planning permission, and with a set fee of £100.
    However, the recent decision to make it permanent has led to an increase in the consultation period and the fees, although planning permission is still no longer required.

    The Guidance makes it clear that an application to “renew” using the new Act should give you exactly what you had before in terms of the layout and hours of operation.

    However, some Councils are not embracing this idea that an operator should not miss out (particularly with a piece of legislation designed to assist operators) and are restricting the renewal application to their policy hours under the new Act which are sometimes less; for example 23:00 becomes 22:00 - the policy time.

    We would advise that you resist this and argue that the Guidance makes it clear that this should not be the case, and that the existing terms should be respected.

  • Another difficulty with the rather precipitous introduction of the permanent change is that some operators will not have detailed plans of the layout because they were not required initially or have been lost and, again, the Council should respect this and not insist on a potentially costly exercise of drawing up plans.
  • Please also note that certain items for example permanent structures on the highway or “A-Boards” which are popular with many operators are not covered by the new legislation and, therefore, a separate Highways Act (or the London equivalent) permit will still be needed for these.
  • Generally we would advise early engagement with the Local Authority. The Government department (for Levelling Up) has made it clear that this legislation is designed to make the use of outside space easier for operators, and that Local Authorities should respect this and that there should not be a reduction anyway from the permit which was granted under any previous legislation.

James Anderson​ is a partner at Poppleston Allen 

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