As part of the UK government’s response to Covid-19, Boris Johnson announced the closure of all pubs, restaurants, cafes and leisure facilities, with the closure of retail units following shortly afterwards.
The exception to the rule is a relatively small number of essential services such as supermarkets and other food shops, pharmacies, post offices and petrol stations.
To assist in supporting businesses through the coronavirus outbreak, the government has temporarily relaxed planning legislation to allow pubs, restaurants and cafes to speedily implement a change of use and operate temporarily as food takeaways.
Hot food takeaways operate in a different land use to pubs, restaurants and cafes, and would ordinarily require the submission of a planning application to the local authority. An over-concentration of hot food takeaways is commonly resisted by many local authorities owing to their perceived impacts on residential amenity, including noise, odours and loitering, as well as more general concerns relating to public health. However, in light of lockdown restrictions, limited food supplies and the closure of many businesses, the need for takeaways and food deliveries is more essential than ever and they are in incredibly high demand.
The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order is a statutory instrument permitting certain types of development without the need for planning permission, including both physical development and changes of land use. To enable pubs (use class A4), restaurants and cafes (use class A3) to operate for the provision of takeaway food, amendments to the order were laid before parliament on 23rd March 2020 and came into force the following day.
The provision of takeaway food is interpreted as: “any use for any purpose within class A5 of the schedule to the use classes order, and any use for 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 change of use can be brought into force any time between 24 March 2020 and 23 March 2021 and is subject to the following conditions:
- The developer must notify the local planning authority that the land is being used for the provision of takeaway food during the period;
- The use of the land for the provision of takeaway food does not affect the use class for the purposes of the use class order – in other words, the original land use is retained even during use of the permitted development right;
- The use of the building and its land will revert to its previous lawful use at the end of the relevant period, or earlier if the temporary use ceases before 23 March 2021.
Those wishing to benefit from the amended legislation must therefore notify the local planning authority to ensure the temporary use is lawful, and must be aware that any physical changes associated with the temporary use are likely to still require planning permission (for example, the installation of an external flue).
Jason Lowes is a partner and Olivia St-Amour an associate at planning and property consultancy Rapleys