‘Permanent’ pavement trading move

Meeting set to discuss ‘levelling up’ legislation & the future of tables & chairs on the highway

Friday, 22nd July — By Tom Foot

Al fresco

City al fresco, 2020-style

COUNCIL chiefs are set to meet next week to discuss the government’s “levelling up” legislation that is set to make permanent fast-track pavement trading measures introduced to help businesses during Covid-19.

Before Covid, businesses wanting to put tables and chairs on the public highway had to pay a fee to the council for a permit that had to be renewed every six months.

To help with social distancing rules that were stopping people eating together indoors, the Business and Planning Act 2020 was brought in to make applications for pavement licences quicker and cheaper.

The government now wants to make the set-up permanent.

A report to Westminster City Council, due to be discussed next week, said: “Following the success of the pavement licence scheme the government is keen to keep the benefits of the scheme on a permanent basis and have introduced a new Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, which is currently going through parliament, to implement the necessary measures to make the scheme permanent.”

Earlier during Covid the council came under intense pressure from residents about what it described as its flagship al fresco dining scheme.

It was criticised for adding to noise and late-night disturbance in Soho and restricting pavement space for the elderly and disabled.

The hospitality industry had been lobbying to make the scheme permanent and the issue was debated at length in Soho Society hustings before the May election.

In a letter to Extra during the heated row, Martin Kennedy, from Brewer Street, said that he was concerned about officials “bulldozing through proposals to turn Soho into a cacophonous, piss-drenched hell-hole”.

The new bill allows the council to charge £350 to renew pavement licences – up from £100 earlier in the pandemic – and £500 for new applicants.

There will be a 14-day consultation period, up from the previous one week. Licences will be for two years instead of one.

In the year prior to the start of the pandemic, the income generated by the scheme for the council was £1.2million.

At its peak last summer, the council had more than 900 active pavement licences operating across the city.

Pre-pandemic, licensing of tables and chairs in the borough was governed by the City of Westminster Act 1999.

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