ScotGov relaxes planning rules for ‘pavement’ seating and conversions

SUNSHINE GIRLS outside Maggie Dickson’s Pub on Edinburgh’s Grassmarket – pavement seating really came into its own as Scotland emerged from lockdown

Hospitality businesses will be able to place tables and chairs outside their premises without making a planning application, The Scottish Government has announced.

In a recent in a public consultation, strong support was expressed for the extension of permitted development rights to enable more cafés, bars and restaurants to offer outdoor eating and drinking.

As a result, regulations to implement the measures were laid in the Scottish Parliament on Friday 10 February for approval by MSPs.

Councils will, however, retain powers to prevent and deal with obstructions that make it difficult for people to access pavements safely and effectively, for example people in wheelchairs or with visual impairments, or families with children in pushchairs.

The 12-week consultation also backed the relaxation of planning rules for the conversion of certain premises into cafes, restaurants, or small-scale offices, as well as the installation of larger electric vehicle charging equipment in car parks.

If approved by Parliament, all these measures would be allowed under certain circumstances without the need for a planning application.

Scottish Planning Minister Tom Arthur said: “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.

“The important safeguards for councils seek to ensure that no one should be prevented from using pavements and visiting town and city centres safely. 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.

He added: “Simplifying planning rules for electric vehicle chargers will support the roll-out of infrastructure across Scotland as part of our commitment to tackling climate change and making Scotland a Net Zero nation.

“These measures will help deliver our ambition to create a fairer, greener and wealthier Scotland, by making places more attractive for people to live, work and visit.”

Responding to these changes, UKHospitality executive director Leon Thompson said: “This news will be a significant boost for Scottish hospitality businesses who are keen to offer customers the best experience possible but have often been held back by restrictive planning regulations.

“I’m delighted that the Scottish Government has agreed with UKHospitality Scotland that moving ahead with these measures will aid the sector’s recovery and also contribute to thriving town and city centres.