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Pavement licence: what is it and how can you apply for one?

Hospitality businesses in England are now eligible to apply for a temporary pavement licence. What are they and how can you apply?

The government has streamlined the pavement licence application process, enabling businesses to create more seating space outside far more quickly and far more cheaply than previously. 

By cutting the processing time to five days and lowering the fee to a maximum of £100, the government is encouraging businesses to increase the number of covers they can take while maintaining social distancing. 

The government hopes this initiative will help to save jobs and enable businesses to increase their profits during the summer months. 

This came as England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty commented that the economy has opened up as much as it can without there being a surge of coronavirus infections. 

This means that come September, it’s likely there could be a ‘trade-off’ between schools and the hospitality sector, meaning more restrictions could be on their way for cafe, pub, and restaurant owners.

If the government does decide to restrict hospitality businesses to outside seating areas only, a pavement licence will allow businesses owners to place tables, chairs, and even pop-up bars outside of their premises. 

Better still, if the local council doesn’t process your application within five days, automatic permission is granted. And once you have permission, you’ll be able to use the pavement outside of your premises up until the 30th September 2021.



What is a pavement licence?

A pavement licence is a permit that allows you to host customers on the pavement adjacent to your premises or in an area close to your business that is deemed suitable by your local council. 

The pavement licence strictly refers to the placement of movable furniture, as all furniture must be placed inside the premises outside of business hours. 

All pavement licences are issued by your local council, therefore the terms and conditions and application process for each region may differ slightly.


Who can apply for a pavement licence?

The pavement licence applies to any business that uses premises to sell food and drink, including:

  • Pubs
  • Cafes
  • Bars
  • Restaurants
  • Sandwich shops
  • Coffee shops
  • Ice cream parlours

How to apply for a pavement licence

You can apply for a pavement licence through your local council website. As part of your application, you’ll be expected to draw a sketch of the proposed outside area.

You’ll then need to provide details on the dimensions of the area you’re looking to occupy, the hours you’re looking to occupy it, and the maximum number of people you’re looking to seat. 

Councils will ask you to put a notice up outside of your premises that clearly displays that you’re applying for a pavement licence and the details of your proposal. 

This’ll allow any neighbouring businesses or pavement users to express any concerns that they have about your application. 


What are the terms and conditions of a pavement licence?

  • You must own a business that is classified as selling food and/or drink
  • Licences will only be granted for outside areas that allow a two metre gap between the seating area and the road (in special circumstances this can reduce to 1.5 metres)
  • Your local council has the authority to specify the length of the licence if they get back to you within the five working days limit. The minimum licence period they can grant is three months
  • If they don’t get back to you within five working days, you can assume permission has been granted for a full year. The council does have right to revoke a licence if your proposal is unsuitable
  • You should be prepared to provide additional evidence on anything related to your proposal, including location data and references to the furniture you intend to use

Full details of the pavement licencing initiative can be found here.


Aimee Bradshaw
Aimee Bradshaw

Writer and researcher

Aimee recently joined Startups as resident expert in business tech, products, and services. Having ran her own egg delivery business from the age of 12, she is an advocate of self starters and small businesses.