Planing and Licencing Changes
There were some hefty changes to planning and licencing law introduced largely under the radar in 2020. In this article we look at some of the more impactful changes, and how they may affect communities across the UK.
The Business and Planning Act 2020
The aim of this legislation was to support hospitality businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the following two measures due to expire on 30th September 2021. The first made it quicker and easier for pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants to apply for, and be granted, a pavement licence to allow their furniture and activities to spill onto public highways to aid social distancing. The knock-on effect of this was a series of pavement widening and pedestrianisation initiatives to ensure passers-by still had the room they needed.
The second was the automatic upgrade of all relevant premises licences to allow the off-sale of alcohol, facilitating takeaways from pubs and bars that were no longer able to offer indoor service. Whilst these measures allowed businesses to operate through some of the less severe periods of the pandemic, we anticipate their use to balloon if measures are lifted as the warm weather returns this summer. The industry may push for an extension as it works to make up for the previous year's losses.
Town and Country Planning Regulations 2020
The need to enable the repurposing of buildings on high streets and in town centres has been addressed with recent changes to the use classes system. The most significant change is the creation of a new Commercial, Business and Service use (Class E). This brackets together a wide variety of uses, all of which are now considered to be the same, with no planning permission required for changing use within this new class. Class E activities include retail, restaurants, gyms, financial services, health care, nurseries, offices, and some types of industrial activity.
More pertinent to the events industry is a new list of sui generis uses (latin for 'of its own kind' or 'in a class by itself'). These include pubs, bars, takeaways, music venues, cinemas and other leisure facilities. A property would generally require planning permission when changing to or from a sui generis use, except in limited circumstances.
These two changes to planning permission law, alongside a raft of other amendments, represent a substantial shift in control away from local authorities and the communities they represent, into a significantly less regulated environment. Whilst this may be good for business, it could also undermine urban planning strategies and affect the appeal of the UK's high streets.