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Minister asks Councils to take ‘flexible’ approach to on-street seating for cafes and bars

Councils have been asked to temporarily take a flexible and pragmatic planning approach to the use of on-street seating for cafes and bars.

Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon has written to all councils asking them to relax their approach, which would also include beer gardens and similar outdoor areas to accommodate physical / social distancing.

The Minister said planning permission will not normally be required for licensed pavement cafes or pubs, however, each case and situation will be different and should be considered on its merits.

“Businesses and workers across the north are now planning how they can get back to work safely and how they can adjust to the new challenges of Covid-19,” the Minister explained.

“For many customers, safety will be a big consideration and businesses are having to change the way they serve their customers in our new normal.

“With planning sitting directly in my Department, I want to ensure we support councils and assure traders and businesses that there are no planning barriers to temporary changes.”

She added: “I am committed to working in partnership with councils and the hospitality industry. That is why I have written to all of the councils asking them, as planning authorities, to temporarily take a flexible and pragmatic planning approach to the use of on-street seating for cafes and bars, beer gardens and similar outdoor areas to accommodate physical / social distancing.

“This sensible approach to planning enforcement will ensure that there are no unnecessary restrictions on the hospitality industry providing on-street facilities to facilitate social distancing.

“I have made it clear however that the needs of our citizens with mobility issues must be properly considered and addressed.

“Partnership working is key to our successful recovery from Covid-19. I will be keeping this situation under review over the coming months with continued engagement with businesses. For now this change will hopefully provide some support for the hospitality industry as we kick start the economy and plan for recovery.”

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