The UK Government has today (5 September 2021) announced the launch of a public consultation on proposed planning reforms intended to support hospitality businesses, markets and historic visitor attractions in England so that outdoor space can be used more easily. The proposals would make permanent existing temporary measures introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As we explain below, it has received only qualified support from UK Hospitality.
Today’s press release issued by the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government, Ministry of Defence, and Robert Jenrick MP states as follows:
UKHospitality has nevertheless asked the government to go further by retaining street dining in towns and cities and reforming business rates. Its CEO, Kate Nicholls, is quoted in today’s media as saying:
“The proposal to make outdoor measures permanent is a welcome boost for the hospitality sector, its customers and local communities. It has provided a vital lifeline to venues all over the country during an extraordinarily difficult period and allowing operators to provide extra outside seating has been a key driver of survival and recovery since reopening.”
However, the issue of street dining is not included within this consultation, leading Kate Nicholls to add that businesses “face huge hurdles going into the autumn and winter”, commenting further that:
“The move by some councils to restrict outdoor seating and return traffic to these areas is a significant blow to our city centres and threatens a huge number of businesses and jobs. It is in the interest of the country to have a thriving, dynamic and properly-supported hospitality sector and retaining these outdoor measures would help secure the recovery of a large and vital part of the UK economy.”
In addition, commenting on reports of Government plans to introduce vaccine passports, she has said:
“A scheme introducing mandatory Covid passports for certain venues and events will be unworkable, cause conflict between staff and customers and will force business to deal with complex equality rules. Operators may even be forced into a position where they have to let unvaccinated staff go, at a time when there are record levels of staff shortages across the industry.
The hospitality sector has invested heavily to ensure customers are safe and we have proved venues are Covid secure. Introducing a scheme such as this will be a hammer blow to businesses such as nightclubs that were closed by the Government for nearly 18 months, and have only recently been able to trade viably and make progress toward rebuilding and paying off accrued debts.
Over the past year our sector has been devastated and businesses have only known forced closure or the most severe restrictions. This policy will be devastating for businesses that remain fragile and will certainly derail recovery and cost thousands of jobs.”