Temporary ‘street café’ licences are being served up in Devon to help businesses to reopen as coronavirus lockdown restrictions continue to ease.
The move will allow successful applicants to place tables and chairs on paved or pedestrianised areas that are classed as public highway.
Devon County Council (DCC) says it has sped up the application process by allowing outdoor seating while a consultation is being undertaken.
The process for a normal year-long renewable licence for a street café normally takes three months including a 28-day notice period for any representations to be made.
DCC says it remains any applicant’s responsibility to assess the layout of its customer seating area in relation to the Government’s social distancing guidelines.
Councillor Stuart Hughes, cabinet member for highway management, said: “The street café culture in our town and city centres across Devon has always been popular and we’re hoping that accelerating the application process on this issue can help local cafes and pubs when they reopen.
“We’re doing what we can to support local businesses and this is another way that we can help our local economy to recover.
“The temporary licence will be supplied free of charge and the street cafe licence fee will only be applied when the formal licence has been issued.
“Applications will be assessed as quickly as possible, and, as long as they are safe, in line with the guidance, and provide pedestrians with a minimum of two metres to pass, an informal temporary licence will be issued.”
A DCC spokesperson added: “The temporary licence will enable businesses to provide outdoor seating while the consultation is being undertaken, rather than once the consultation is complete, as long as the application is not contentious and is in line with the council’s terms and conditions.
“The county council will continue to seek the views of guide dog owners, sight impaired and mobility groups in advance of any licence being issued where appropriate.
“If objections are not received during the 28-day notice period, a formal 12-month licence will be issued in the normal way.
“However, if objections are received during the formal consultation, or complaints are received regarding the temporary period, the street cafe may be removed, and the temporary licence may be withdrawn until such time that issues can be resolved.
“Businesses that have existing street cafe licences, but wish to consider expanding their area to accommodate social distancing guidelines for customers, will be able to apply for a temporary informal licence for the increased area. This will follow a similar process, subject to the same conditions.
“No additional licence fee will be payable for expanding an existing street cafe, and if no objections are received during the 28-day notice period, the additional area will be incorporated into the formal 12-month licence when the next renewal is processed.”