Red tape cut

Outdoor change boosts Scotland’s cafe culture

George IV pub
Outdoor drinking and eating will be easier under new rules

Café culture has scored a victory over red tape after restrictions on outdoor eating and drinking were eased.

Restaurant and bar owners will no longer have to jump through bureaucratic hoops to set up chairs and tables on pavements, as long as they do not impinge on public safety.

The change of rules is aimed at helping struggling high streets which saw a benefit from outdoor entertainment during the pandemic when many food and drink establishments were under strict social distancing guidelines.

There was strong support for the changes to planning measures during a 12-week public consultation and the new regulations, coming into effect at the end of next month, were welcomed by industry leaders.

Planning rules will also be relaxed to allow for the conversion of premises into cafés, restaurants or small offices.

Tom Arthur, the planning minister, said: “These measures will support Scotland’s town and city centre businesses to thrive.

“More flexible use of outdoor space can help the hospitality industry recover from the pandemic and cost crisis, while making city and town centres more attractive and welcoming.

“A more streamlined approach to changes of use can help businesses respond more rapidly to shifting circumstances, support reuse of vacant premises and encourage the return of workers and shoppers to our town and city centres.”

David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said: “These new flexibilities on outdoor seating are encouraging and should allow eateries to get on and do what they do best, serving customers.

“Hopefully, they will give people a little more reason to spend time and money on our high streets and inject more vitality into our town and city centres. This is especially important at a time when shopper footfall remains below pre-pandemic levels and one in six stores still lies vacant.”

The government is also making it easier to install larger scale electric vehicle charging equipment in car parks.

Mr Arthur believes this will support the introduction of that infrastructure and also provide a boost to town and city centres.

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