Planning rules to be relaxed to allow pubs & restaurants to provide hot food & drink takeaway service

As a further reaction to the current coronavirus/COVID-19 crisis, the government has today (18 March 2020) announced a relaxation of planning rules so that so pubs and restaurants can operate as hot food takeaways during the coronavirus outbreak.

The key points are as follows:
  1. The government will set out measures so that pubs and restaurants can operate as hot food takeaways to serve people having to stay at home;
  2.  Currently planning permission is required for businesses to carry out this change but a relaxation of planning measures will be introduced as soon as possible and, following their introduction, will apply for a limited period;
  3. The serving of alcoholic drinks will continue to be subject to existing licensing laws, so premises licence conditions and other restrictions will still apply, meaning that
    • any prohibitions or restrictions relating to off-sales of alcohol will continue to apply unless the premises licence is varied by the licensing authority or such off-sales are made the subject of a temporary event notice (or series of TENs),
    • those wishing to supply hot food and drink after 11pm may need to vary their premises licence – or submit a temporary event notice (or series of TENs) – to permit the provision of late-night refreshment if such a permission does not currently exist and
  4. In addition, those wishing to take advantage of this relaxation of planning rules need to ensure that they follow the Food Standards Agency guidance entitled “Distance selling, mail order and delivery – How to manage a food business if you sell products online, for takeaway or for delivery”.

The government announcement (that can be downloaded below) reads as follows:

Government to grant permission for pubs and restaurants to operate as takeaways as part of coronavirus response

Planning rules will be relaxed so pubs and restaurants can operate as hot food takeaways during the coronavirus outbreak, the Communities Secretary has confirmed.

Currently, planning permission is required for businesses to carry out a change of use to a hot food takeaway. The government has confirmed regulations will be relaxed to enable businesses to deliver this service without a planning application.

The measures are the latest in a series of practical steps the government is taking to support businesses and help people who need to self-isolate, as well as vulnerable groups and older people who have been strongly advised to avoid social contact outside their homes to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Communities Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP said:

“We are committed to doing everything we can to tackle the pandemic and support people, businesses and communities through this difficult time. These changes will provide vital flexibility to pubs and restaurants and will ensure people are able to safely stay at home while still supporting some of the great local businesses across this country”.

The government has confirmed the relaxations to planning rules will be put in place as soon as possible to provide reassurance to businesses and enable them to start providing takeaways to people quickly.

Further information

The measures will apply to hot food and drinks. Serving of alcoholic drinks will continue to be subject to existing licensing laws.

Permitted development rights allow movement between one use class and another for example from a restaurant (A3) to a shop (A1) without planning permission.

The government will introduce a time limited permitted development right through secondary legislation (negative SI) to allow the temporary change of use of a pub (A4 – drinking establishment) and a restaurant (A3 – restaurants and cafes) to a hot-food take away for a period of up to 12 months only.

Businesses will be required to tell the local planning authority when the new use begins and ends.


On 25 March 2020:

1. As reported by us here, following enforced closure of (a) businesses selling food or drink for consumption on the premises and (b) shops selling non-essential items, the government has now published “Guidance: Further businesses and premises to close” (that you can download below) that confirms (in relation to restaurants and public houses, wine bars or other drinking establishments) that “food delivery and takeaway can remain operational and can be a new activity supported by the new permitted development right. This covers the provision of hot or cold food that has been prepared for consumers for collection or delivery to be consumed, reheated or cooked by consumers off the premises”. 

The guidance goes on to state:

Takeaway and delivery facilities should remain open and operational.

This means people can continue to enter premises to access takeaway services, including delivery drivers.

Businesses are encouraged to take orders online or by telephone, and businesses should not provide seating areas, indoors and outdoors, for customers to consume food and drink on. Ordering in advance is strongly encouraged to avoid waiting in, as per Public Health England guidelines.

Planning regulation has been changed to enable restaurants, cafés and pubs which do not currently offer delivery and hot food takeaway to do so. The legislation can be accessed online.

People must not consume food or drinks on site at restaurants, cafés or pubs whilst waiting for takeaway food.

Those venues offering takeaway or delivery services must not include alcoholic beverages in this list if their licence does not already permit.

It should particularly be noted that any area adjacent to licensed premises where seating is made available (whether by you or the council or anyone else) will be treated as it if is part of the licensed premises and must be closed so that takeaway customers are not permitted to consume their food and/or drink there.

2. Public Health England published “Guidance for food businesses on coronavirus (COVID-19)” (that you can also download below) addressing the following issues:

  • What you need to know about coronavirus and food
  • Food hygiene guidance
  • Managing employee sickness
  • Social distancing
  • Maintaining social distancing in specific food business settings, in relation to which the guidance regarding “takeaways and restaurants offering a pick-up service” is as follows:
    • no orders should be taken in person on the premises – this should be communicated to customers by appropriate means such as signage
    • businesses should therefore only take orders online or by telephone
    • customers could have staggered collection times – customers should be discouraged from entering the premises until their order is ready
    • customers arriving without having already placed an order should be encouraged to leave the premises to place their order by telephone or online, and to return at a designated time for collection
    • customers whose orders are ready should enter one at a time to collect orders and make payments
    • businesses should discourage crowding outside the premises. Where possible, use queue management systems to maintain the 2 metres separation

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