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Changes in Response to Covid-19

Extended Retail Opening Hours for Christmas and January

In line with a recent statement from central government retailers are now able to extend their daily opening hours from Monday to Saturday in the run up to Christmas and through January. Planning rules limiting opening hours are therefore eased for this temporary period where conditions restricting businesses are in place.

Temporary Changes of Use and Temporary Structures

The provisions to allow an additional temporary use of land continue in 2021. This means that businesses can operate on land for up to 56 days in 2021. 

This provision also allows moveable structures such as tables/chairs and marquees to be used. This provision now also includes land within the curtilage of a listed building, however nothing should be attached to any listed building or wall and the structures must remain moveable. 

Businesses should be aware that a pavement licence is also required for use of the highway or footway.  Further information can be found here: https://www.stalbans.gov.uk/licences-and-permits

Government to extend planning permission deadlines

Planning permission usually expires after three years from the date shown on the decision notice if work has not started on site. Sites with consent that have an expiry date between 19 August 2020 (when the legislation came into effect) and the 31 December 2020 are automatically extended to 1 May 2021. This is in response to the Covid-19 pandemic which may have preventing building works from starting as planned. This happens automatically and there is no requirement to gain any additional approval.

In addition, any planning permissions which expired between 23 March 2020 and 19 August 2020 can also be restored with the time limit for starting works being extended to 01 May 2021. However this is subject to the Additional Environmental Approval process below.

Additional Environmental Approval 

There is no fee required for an application for Additional Environmental Approval.

To apply, please email planning@stalbans.gov.uk with the following information:

  • The date that the application has been sent.
  • The details of the relevant planning permission that you are seeking to extend and the time limit condition which you wish to be amended (this is usually condition 1 of a planning permission).
  • Any condition(s) or other agreements which relate to environmental mitigation or enhancement measures;
  • Whether the original permission was subject to an Environmental Impact Assessment and/or Habitats Regulation Assessment, or screening for either type of assessment.  If the answer was No then a brief explanation of why they consider it remains the case that neither of these assessments would be needed if an application for planning permission was being made now.

If the original planning permission was subject to one or both of these assessments, or screened for either, applicants should also provide details of:

  • The original assessments or screening and a summary of the key findings
  • Information on any mitigation measures secured to address environmental effects and the progress toward delivering these measures;
  • An environmental report containing a reasoned explanation of why in the applicant’s view there have been no changes to environmental circumstances which would make the original screening or assessment out of date. Any other relevant information which would, in the applicant’s view, support the case that the previous screenings or assessments remain up to date.

If the original planning permission was granted without the need for screening, but the applicant believes that screening might be needed if an application for planning permission was being made now, and that screening would show that no substantive assessment was required, the applicant should provide sufficient information to enable the Planning Officer to undertake the screening within the 28 day period.

The application will then be considered by the Planning Officer and a decision made within 28 days, although the Act allows an additional 21 days extension with prior approval with the applicant. 

Where an application is approved, the decision from the Council will advise the following: 

  • The reasons why the approval was granted.
  • The date the original permission needs to be implemented by. 

Where an application is refused, the LPA will explain the reason(s) for this and there is a right of appeal under Section 78.

The Council has to ensure that all applications are completed before the 31 December 2020.  No applications can be approved or deemed to be granted after that date (except on an appeal lodged on or before that date). This means that applicants should submit applications no later than 2 December 2020.  Where an application is submitted after 2 December 2020, the Local Planning Authority may still determine the application but there will be no deemed grant as there is not enough time for the 28 day period to elapse before the 31 December 2020.

The Government has produced a document with questions and answers relating to this application. Details can be found here: 
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/extension-of-certain-planning-permissions-draft-guidance/extension-of-certain-planning-permissions-draft-guidance

Support for businesses to re-open and trade safely

Hertfordshire’s Better Business for All partnership has produced guides, checklists and templates as part of a toolkit to support businesses to  complete their Covid19 risk assessment and put new processes and procedures in place to support them to  re-open and trade safely.

Explore the online guidance  and for further advice and support contact your local Environmental Health team (number available on your district/borough council website) or Hertfordshire Trading Standards Business Advice Line: 01707 281401 open Monday to Friday 9am-5pm, email:trading.standards@hertfordshire.gov.uk

Temporary Change of Use from Pub/Restaurant/Cafe to a Take-away

The measures will apply to hot food and drinks. Serving of alcoholic drinks will continue to be subject to existing licensing laws.  If serving hot food and drink between 23:00hrs and 5:00am you will need a premises licence that permits late night refreshment.

You should comply with food hygiene rules: https://www.stalbans.gov.uk/food-hygiene-and-safety

The government has introduced a new permitted development right to allow the temporary change of use of a pub (A4 - drinking establishment) or a restaurant (A3 – restaurants and cafes) to a hot-food take away. But, you must tell the planning team you plan to run as a takeaway before you start the business – see below. The new legislation now allows businesses to run in this way until the 23 March 2022. The new use must stop before this date.

If you want to run beyond this date, you must submit a planning application. You must propose to carry on using the premises as a takeaway, well in advance of 23 March 2022.

Unfortunately, if you are not currently operating as a lawful pub, restaurant or café, you cannot use this change.

You must apply for planning permission as usual. As well as this, there may be conditions attached to previous planning permissions. These may either restrict or stop you using these rights.

Temporary Change of Use from a Pub/Restaurant/Office to a Shop selling food or essential items (fresh produce and hygiene products)

You do not need planning permission to change the use of a restaurant (A3 – restaurants and cafes) or a high street office (A2 - professional and financial services) to a shop (A1 – shops).

We are allowing for a limited time a pub (A4 - drinking establishment) to change to a shop selling food or essential items (fresh produce and hygiene items). This temporary relaxation will last until 13th May 2020 or until the government restrictions in The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 have been lifted whichever is sooner.

Any pub, restaurant or high street office who changes to a shop selling food or essential items (fresh produce and hygiene items) will receive a relaxation of the planning rules to change back to their authorised pre-covid19 planning use. The change of use back to the authorised A2 or A3 use should take place by 1st April 2021.

For these relaxations to apply, the premises should notify us (see below) prior to the change of use to a shop.

UPDATE 05 NOVEMBER 2020 – New Lockdown Regulations

The government has announced further restrictions that are set to take the whole of England into a lockdown phase from Thursday 5 November and will replace the local restrictions in the borough.

The new measures will apply nationally for four weeks up to Wednesday 2 December. The government will then review the situation and provide further guidance after this time.

Complying with the new measures will help limit the spread of coronavirus, reduce the impact on the NHS and save lives. 

The new measures taking effect will be:

  • Non-essential shops, leisure and entertainment venues will be closed. Click and collect services can continue and essential shops, including supermarkets, will remain open.
  • Hospitality venues like restaurants, bars and pubs must close, but can still provide takeaway and delivery services. 
     

Changes to Planning Law regarding the use of land and buildings

Planning law puts uses of land and buildings into various categories known as 'Use Classes'. Planning permission may be needed for the use of the building or premises including converting a home into a shop or to convert business premises or residential buildings into other uses.

Changes have been made to the rules relating to uses and with effect from 1 September 2020, existing Classes A1 (shops), A2 (professional services), A3 (cafes and restaurants), B1 (offices, light industrial and research and development) and D1 (clinics, health centres, creches, day nurseries, day centres) have been combined to form a new Class E, entitled ‘Commercial, Business and Service’.

The new Class E encompasses uses such as retail shops, hairdressers, estate agents, coffee bars, cafes, restaurants, B1 business, doctors, dentists, gyms, creches/day nurseries and more. Changes from one of these uses to another falling within the same use class would now not require permission.

It should be noted that Class E does not include pubs or takeaways - planning permission is still required to change to/from these. Also, it does not include a permitted development right for any external alterations, ducts, grilles, vents, plant etc - planning permission will still be required for these in the normal way.

The Use Classes Order can be accessed through the Planning Portal which can be found here: https://www.planningportal.co.uk/info/200130/common_projects/9/change_of_use

Telling us about a Temporary Change of Use in response to Covid-19

Businesses are required to tell the local planning authority when the new use begins and ends. Should you wish to operate as a hot-food takeaway or a shop (selling food or essential items) for a limited period please notify us by email to planning@stalbans.gov.uk

When reporting via email, please provide the following information:

  • Business Name and Address
  • Key Contact Information for Business Operator including email address and contact number
  • First date Hot Food Takeaway or Shop use began

Please note that you should comply with food hygiene rules.

Your details will be held by the Planning Department for the purposes of ensuring compliance with planning law.

Please see privacy notice. This information may also be shared with the Council’s Licensing Department to ensure compliance with this legislation also. We will confirm acknowledgement of your notification by email. This will advise you of the expiry date for the takeaway operation. You will be contacted again around the time of the expiry date to remind you of the need to end this activity unless an application for a permanent change of use is received.

Other Guidance Toggle accordion

Further guidance for food businesses can be found at:

https://www.stalbans.gov.uk/business-support-services

Details of the food hygiene ratings for businesses can be found at:

https://ratings.food.gov.uk/

The following businesses have registered a change of use with us:

Business Name

Business Address

Bar Azita

Station Road - Harpenden

Bar Meze

8 Adelaide Street

Ye Olde Fighting Cocks

16 Abbey Mill Lane

Portland Arms

Portland Street AL3 4RA

Great Northern

172 London Road

Lower Red Lion

Fishpool Street

The Boot

AL3 5DG

The Kings Arms/Dylans

7 George Street

The Plough

Sleapshyde

Per Tutti30 Holywell Hill
The Mermaid98 Hatfield Road
Souvlaki City203 Hatfield Road
LussmansWaxhouse Gate
Six Bells16-18 St Michaels
Pasta Cibo restaurant2 Harding Parade
Thai Rack13 George Street
AYOs2 Beaconsfield Road
White Hart Tap4 Keyfield Terrace
Havin Turkish Kitchen13 High Street
Inn on the ParkVerulamiam Park