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Coronavirus: Plans to to give Harrogate pubs and restaurants more outdoor space "very good news"

Coronavirus: Plans to to give Harrogate pubs and restaurants more outdoor space "very good news"

Published by Local Democracy Reporter Jacob Webster at 5:18pm 29th June 2020. (Updated at 5:20pm 29th June 2020)

Plans for pubs and restaurants in Harrogate to turn pavements, terraces and even car parks into outdoor areas have been given a major boost after the government relaxed licensing rules.

  • There are hopes for pubs and restaurants in Harrogate could use outdoor space to accommodate customers.  
  • Business owners and local politicians in Harrogate have made calls for firms to be given more space.
  • Harrogate BID have described the relaxation of regulations as “very good news”.

Outdoor markets and summer fairs will also no longer need planning permission as part of the new laws to make socialising safely outdoors easier as the hospitality industry reopens on Saturday.

It comes after business owners and local politicians in Harrogate made calls for firms to be given more space to operate as they emerge from almost four months of coronavirus closures.

Simon Kent, interim manager of Harrogate Business Improvement District (BID), said the importance of the hospitality industry to Harrogate’s economy “cannot be underestimated” as he hailed the relaxation of regulations as “very good news”.

He said:

“Both Harrogate Borough Council and North Yorkshire County Council are equally committed to supporting the sector’s reopening, by permitting the use of outdoor areas wherever possible, to allow businesses to open safely.

“For our part, we have placed a large order for outdoor tables and chairs, to be used by pubs, bars, cafés, restaurants and hotels within the Harrogate BID district over the summer months.”

Harrogate town centre at dusk

Hospitality businesses have been shut since 23 March to battle the spread of coronavirus but will reopen from 4 July as social distancing rules are eased.

However, they will have to meet strict hygiene rules and demand could take time to recover.

There has also been worries over how long it would take for businesses to have their “pavement licences” approved by councils.

But under the new laws, consultation periods are being reduced from 28 calendar days to five working days. And if the council doesn’t issue a decision after 10 days – the licence is automatically granted. 

The application fee will also be lowered to £100.

David Bowe, North Yorkshire County Council’s corporate director for business and environmental services, said council staff have already visited some businesses in Harrogate to see how their outdoor plans could be put into place.

He said:

“We acknowledge that some smaller businesses do not have the luxury of wide open spaces, so we are looking at ways to accommodate their individual needs as much as possible during the important summer season.

“These are very difficult times and we must ensure that people are able to get around safely, access services and properties appropriately, while creating an environment that encourages customers to come and shop and provides opportunity for businesses such as cafes, that are constrained by social distancing rules, to re-open.”

Coun Richard Cooper, leader of Harrogate Borough Council, last week said even with the relaxed one-metre social distancing rule it will be “very, very difficult” for some businesses to survive.

He said:

“The government knows that our hospitality sector needs space for it to be able to re-open and operate safely and profitably. Here in our area thousands of jobs depend on it – and thousands of jobs means a wage for thousands of families.”

Coun Cooper has also made calls for some town centre streets to be completely blocked off to traffic. It is an idea which both councils say they are still open to, but no firm plans have been made.