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Ministry urges councils to shy away from enforcement action that would unnecessarily restrict outdoor stalls

The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government has called on local authorities not to undertake enforcement action which would result in unnecessarily restricting outdoor stalls.

In a letter to councils, Emran Mian, Director-General for Decentralisation & Local Growth at the Ministry, said: “Over recent weeks, the continuing hard work of local authorities has allowed us to make progress along the government’s roadmap to recovery. We have begun to bring life back to our high streets and town centres by opening retail businesses that were closed, with effective social distancing.

“I am now writing to set out how you can continue to support hospitality businesse sin particular, ahead of regulatory checkpoints that may see further changes.”

Mian wrote:

  • Many businesses would already have licences which enable them to set up stalls to sell takeaway food and drink outside their place of business. “We would urge local authorities to support more local businesses to get these licences, cutting costs for them and accelerating decisions wherever possible.”
  • The Ministry was aware that some local authorities have separate licensing arrangements for street trading and street furniture. “Given the current situation, you should not seek to undertake enforcement action which would result in unnecessarily restricting outdoor stalls during this period, having regard to your legal obligations and access for pedestrians.”
  • There is wide variation in fees for these licences. “In some areas these are as low as £115, and we would encourage all authorities to consider whether their fees are set at an appropriate level.”
  • Local authorities should minimise the time to process these applications, aiming to process applications within five days of the end of the statutory consultation period.

The letter also called on local authorities to explore options to set up more outdoor markets.

“We made it easier to use traffic orders to close roads through emergency legislation that came into effect on 23 May, and we encourage you to consider whether closing certain streets to traffic could better support temporary markets and outdoor eating in a way that reduces pressure on space and reflects the guidance on social distancing, “ Mian said.

“For instance, local authorities could consider using this legislation to pedestrianise streets, in order to create more space for outdoor stalls, as well as making the best use of those already pedestrianised.”

The letter called on councils to proactively contact hospitality businesses in their local area to ensure they understand the guidance and ask whether they wish to make use of the opportunities available to them.

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