The Local Government Association has called for the introduction of a permanent but locally led pavement licensing regime.
The LGA is holding discussions with the Government over allowing local cafés, bars, pubs and restaurants to continue hosting patrons outside on pavements.
In response to Covid-19 the Government introduced a temporary pavement licensing regime through the Business and Planning Act 2020.
The temporary regime was based on a fast-track application process and reduced fee level to support hospitality businesses hit hard by the pandemic.
The LGA said councils supported the move to create a permanent pavement licensing regime, but that key changes were needed to reflect that the country was no longer in a national emergency.
It expressed the hope that new legislation, potentially brought forward in tomorrow's Queen's Speech, would provide councils with better enforcement powers to take actions where businesses were flouting the rules, for example by blocking pavements, and ensure councils were able to set fees at levels that cover administrative costs.
The LGA suggested that residents and councils also needed adequate time to respond to and evaluate applications, and the 14 days allocated in the Business and Planning Act 2020 did not allow for this because by law, councils had to reach a decision within 14 days.
“Extending the consultation time will ensure councils have the time to make appropriate decisions for their communities that considers the needs of different businesses and residents," it said.
The LGA also suggested that locally set fees would ensure councils were able to fully recover their costs and avoid taxpayers’ money being diverted from other services to pay for processing applications. It estimated that costs for licensing authorities typically amounted to at least double the capped fee of £100 provided for under the temporary regime.
Cllr Nesil Caliskan, Chair of the LGA’s Safer Stronger Communities Board, said: “Councils supported the temporary scheme, and worked hard to help hospitality businesses reopen, including relaxing requirements and making changes to roads and pavements to enable pubs, cafes and bars to operate outside safely with more outdoor seating.
“Managing the impact of a permanent regime on nearby residents is a priority for councils, but we are no longer in a national emergency, and we need to make sure the long-term approach to pavement licensing better balances the needs of local businesses and residents."