Covid-19: Pub marquees could become permanent fixtures

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Marquee outside pub in CornwallImage source, Getty Images

Marquees set up by pubs and restaurants during the Covid pandemic could become permanent on-site fixtures, under government proposals.

Ministers are consulting on plans to allow some of extra seating introduced by outdoor hospitality to continue.

Street markets may also be allowed to open all year but a continuation of al fresco dining on roads is not planned.

The hospitality industry welcomed the plans but said firms still faced "huge hurdles" as the weather turned colder.

The consultation from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is examining the changes introduced during the pandemic to encourage customers to dine outdoors to reduce the spread of Covid.

The government says it is aiming to make a number of these permanent so people can "continue to enjoy outdoor hospitality and local attractions, and businesses can innovate".

The plans include supporting communities to hold outdoor markets by giving powers to local councils to grant them for an unlimited number of days.

A temporary lifting of restrictions in June 2020 allowed councils to permit street markets for an unlimited number of days. They had previously only been allowed to be held for 14 days a year.

'Vital lifeline'

The second proposal in the consultation concerns marquees that have sprung up in the grounds of pubs, cafes and restaurants, as well as other new "moveable structures" in listed buildings, such as shelters for ticket sales.

But a height limit of four metres (12ft) could be brought in, and the size of any new structure would not be allowed to take up more than 50% of the space of the existing buildings on a site.

And the public are also being asked to consider whether they would like to see the operation of any outside structure limited to 56 days a year.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said: "The simple reforms we made during the pandemic to help hospitality businesses, markets and historic visitor attractions make use of outdoor spaces more easily, made a massive impact.

"As part of our vision to transform high streets into thriving places to work, visit and live, we intend to make as many of these measures permanent fixtures of British life as possible."

The trade association UK Hospitality said the outdoor structures had acted as a "vital lifeline during an extraordinarily difficult period".

But it warned moves by some local authorities to open up roads again for traffic would be a significant blow.

UK Hospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: "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."

But she added that businesses "face huge hurdles going into the autumn and winter".

Labour's shadow communities secretary Steve Reed said: "Measures to help businesses recover after the pandemic are welcome but this is a Conservative government which is undermining the high street by allowing retail spaces to be turned into low quality housing and failing to level the playing field between bricks and mortar businesses and online retailers.

"The Conservatives have left our high streets and British businesses behind, blocking them out when they should have been listening to them the most, and actively watering down a global deal to tackle major tax-dodging and stop online giants undercutting our high streets."