Message from West Berkshire Council:

Hospitality businesses in West Berkshire will be able to apply for additional outdoor seating to allow them to welcome customers back safely.

Pubs, cafes, restaurants and hotels across England have been closed since late March but received confirmation on 23 June that they would be allowed to re-open on 4 July whilst adhering to social distancing guidance.

As social distancing restrictions will mean less available space, the Council is inviting businesses to submit proposals for additional outdoor seating. The proposal was originally launched on 23rd June but has now been amended to reflect new guidance from Central Government.

Businesses would usually only be issued a pavement café licence once planning approval had been granted.

However, the new application process allows for a licence for up to 12 months to be issued, without the need for planning permission as long as the proposal is judged to safe for pedestrians and road users. Whereas the usual charges for a year’s licence start at £227, businesses are being offered them for just £100.

Once this 12 month period has expired, a licence application can be made and issued once evidence of planning approval is provided.

The Council has also launched a web form for businesses who need advice on planning or licensing in order to re-open safely or make use of additional indoor floor space to allow for social distancing.

Richard Somner, West Berkshire’s Executive Member for Transport and Countryside, said: “We are committed to helping our businesses make better use of outdoor space so that they can welcome customers back safely, soon.

“We very quickly recognised that using outdoor space would be the only way many of our pubs and cafes can do this so put into place our own local process to enable this quickly. Central Government has now acted on this issue and we have immediately updated our procedure accordingly. We have also ensured that Planning and Licencing officers are ready to offer advice on any other proposals businesses may put forward to support safe re-opening.

“Our message to local businesses is simple: if you need support to re-open, please get in touch. We will be as flexible as we possibly can to help you get back on your feet.”