Kent County Council is waiving fees that allow cafes, restaurants and bars to place furniture outside their premises.
The decision was made earlier this week and comes as government further relaxes its lockdown measures, potentially allowing the hospitality trade to reopen next month.
Kent County Council Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport Michael Payne said: “We appreciate that businesses will have challenges complying with government social distancing measures and outdoor tables and chairs will help ensure customers are kept safe.
“Accordingly, as a licence has to be obtained from KCC before businesses can place tables, chairs and temporary street furniture on the highway, we have agreed to waive the normal fee for six weeks.”
Director of Kent Highways Simon Jones added: “In addition, anyone who has applied for a licence but is awaiting a decision, can from Monday place tables and chairs outside, although they must follow our new guidance.
“For those businesses that have already paid, we will be adding an extra six weeks to their licence period to ensure they do not miss out.”
The new guidelines for street furniture mean tables and chairs must allow for a 2m clearance with 2.5m in busy locations to ensure social distancing can be maintained.
Businesses need to ensure they abide by the rules to keep people safe and licences can be revoked if they are found to breached.
The government’s Business Secretary Alok Sharma said earlier this week that shops selling non-essential goods will be able to reopen from Monday (June 15) with an ambition to reopen the hospitality trade in July.
Mr Payne added: “This is an unprecedented time for the county’s retailers, and we intend to do what we can to help their financial recovery.
“In addition to this, we are awaiting a government decision on our bid for funding for Active Travel Schemes, an important part of our overall support for the safe and successful reopening of high streets across Kent.
“If funding is approved, we will be looking into the possibility of reallocating road space for walking and cycling, encouraging people to take part in active travel and reducing speed limits where appropriate.”
This sounds like a good idea , as long as social distances can really be maintained.
But it means yet another loss of revenue for the County Council. This would be fine if the Westminster government stuck to the original promise of supporting “Whatever it takes” to cope with the costs of the pandemic.
But they are already backtracking on that and have started to think of ways to offload the costs onto Community Charge payers, tax payers etc And their supporters in the Press are already softening us up with talk of us having to pay for it all , as if we have to start paying loads of money immediately. As if loans and mortgages always get paid off in a couple of years.
Kent County councillors should stand up to the government and refuse to lose revenue without compensation from the government rather than dump the costs onto local residents. The Covid19 crisis is national and international in scope and the response is being directed (in rather a confused way, admittedly) at national level, so costs have to be met nationally.