Street & pavement café guidelines

Pavement cafés encourage people to interact and make the best of Northumberland’s beautiful environment.

Find out more about street and pavement cafe guidelines.

The Government is in the process of putting in place new legislation called the Business and Planning Bill that aims to make it easier for premises serving food and drink such as bars, restaurants and cafés to seat and serve customers outdoors. The intended aim of this new legislation is to support these businesses to survive and then bounce-back from the pandemic lockdown.

It is anticipated that the new legislation will come into force following passage of the Bill through Parliament towards the end of July 2020 and will include a new “Pavement Licence” regime that will be administered by local authorities. Draft guidance for the new pavement licences (outdoor seating proposal) has been issued by Government and can be found here

It is expected that under the Government’s new pavement licensing regime:
  • All businesses that place seating and furniture on the pavement will be required to formally apply to the Council for consent, irrespective of whether this is a new arrangement or their historic practice.
  • There will be a non refundable application fee up to a maximum of £100 for the pavement licence. Northumberland County Council intends to waive this fee to help support businesses.
  • Applicants will need to demonstrate that they are able to place seating and furniture on the pavement whilst maintaining a clear 2 metre width of pavement to ensure safe passage for pedestrians.
  • The licence is only temporary and will end on or before 30 September 2021, by which time other pavement licensing arrangements will have been put in place by the local authority under the Highways Act 1980.
As the Government is now easing the lockdown restrictions and our local economy starts to re-open, Northumberland County Council wants to do all it can to safeguard public health while supporting our economic recovery.

Current social distancing guidelines will have considerable impact on the capacity of cafes, pubs and restaurants to accommodate customers. Northumberland County Council intends to put in place a new temporary fast track pavement licensing regime to implement the Government’s requirements once the Bill and the new legislation has come into force at the end of July. This will support these businesses to recover by enabling them to seek permission, in the form of a “pavement licence”, for the placement of furniture such as tables and chairs on the pavement outside their premises to maximise their capacity while adhering to social distancing guidelines and the free flow of pedestrians.

In the meantime all businesses that are or intend to place seating on the pavement MUST follow the Council’s existing ‘Pavement Cafe Guidelines’ which can be found here, which is also applicable to other display installations on public highways, including outdoor displays of greengrocery, flowers and household goods.

It should be noted that the Council is also aware that the Bill proposes additional freedoms that would allow businesses, authorised to sell alcohol for consumption on the premises, to utilise their outside space, including car parks, to be used for the consumption of alcohol.  Until the new legislation comes into force, the use of such space is not permitted unless already authorised under the current licence and the council is reminding businesses that they must at all times comply with the conditions of that licence, when considering use of outside seating areas.
The ‘public highway’ includes:
  • footpaths
  • footways
  • pavements
  • some market places and other similar areas
  • on street parking spaces
  • roads
  • verges
These guidelines apply to all these highway areas. However, pavement cafés should only be placed in suitable locations. Any facilities blocking roads, parking areas, pavements or public footpaths could be subject to enforcement action.

We strongly recommend neighbouring traders, businesses and residents are consulted and their views acknowledged. This will assist in reducing the risk of subsequent complaints and requests to the council for action.

If a business wants to explore the possibility of using any areas which are not pavement, such as other public spaces, market places, on-street parking / loading bays etc for the provision of outdoor seating, then they should make contact with the Council to discuss the viability of their individual proposals.

We also strongly advise that cafés should have up-to-date public liability insurance prior to trading from the public highway in order to provide café owners with cover should an accident happen.
Key contacts for the development of pavement café proposals:

Pavement café layouts and enforcement