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A guide to applying for a pavement licence

There is no uniform application for a pavement licence and much will depend on each Authority’s approach. Essentially those Authorities which are well organised and familiar with the concept establish codes of practice to enable café’s to be established in appropriate locations which are well designed and are managed so as to enhance the environment of a town or city centre for the benefit of all.

Licensing depends on a number of factors such as location, available space, type of premises and street furniture.

A prime consideration when applying for a pavement license is the availability of sufficient pavement space to accommodate a café without causing obstruction to normal pedestrian flows.  The needs of other town and city centre users are also taken into account, for example, street cleaning machines, vehicular access, emergency vehicles etc … A local Authority can give permission to operate facilities for refreshment on the public highway under its powers contained in the Highways Act 1980.

Size and layout must be considered for a pavement licence

In pedestrianised areas, a clear pedestrian route should be maintained for those walking past the premises to ensure that most pedestrians and particularly those with visual impairment can maintain a suitable route.  Usually, this should be a minimum width of 2 metres.  Emergency exits from the premises or adjacent buildings cannot be obstructed by a seating area.

For safety, outside of pedestrianised areas, a minimum of 1.8 metres should be left between the boundary of the seating area and any space regularly used by vehicles.

The café area should not normally extend beyond the frontage of its own premises.  Often, any Licence granted will need to include a plan showing the agreed dimensions and layout of the pavement café area.  The layout of tables and chairs, access points and means of enclosure need to be considered as it is important that the layout of these areas does not provide any obstruction or inconvenience to customers with disabilities and in particular that space is left between tables for wheelchair access.

Creating a boundary

Some Authorities require that a pavement café is enclosed, to mark the area and contain the area.  Sometimes waist-high posts and ropes are suggested as a method to give a clear warning to people with visual impairment. Sometimes a particular design is required to retain some continuity of design in a particular area.


Councils routinely require details, including dimensions, of the furniture to be used including parasols, planters etc …

The application process

Each application often will require details of the hours of operation.  Often these are subject to Police approval and are dependent on the location of the café area.  In some areas, delivery vehicle access means the operation must be restricted to certain hours.

Third party insurance cover is routinely required, with most Authorities requiring a minimum of £5 million pounds cover.

A Licence fee is always required.  Sometimes these depend on the size of the area, sometimes these are a set fee and they differ considerably.

A pavement licence can be applied for at any point and routinely local Authorities are happy to discuss ideas informally before an application is made.  Whilst the following is not an exhaustive list it is a general guide for what is routinely required to make an application.

The applicant will normally have to provide the following:

  • A plan showing location, dimensions and layout of the proposed café area including buildings and access points
  • Details of enclosure and furniture to be used e.g. photographs/drawings/brochure descriptions including any proposed advertising materials and menu boards
  • Details of how the café will operate
  • Proposed hours of operation
  • The number of tables, chairs, umbrellas etc.
  • Insurance details
  • Fee

Before making an application some Authorities will also require planning consent however, it is always worth discussing the proposal and identifying whether planning is required before making an application.  For some Authorities, planning is only required should there be advertising placed in the café area.

Some Authorities deal with applications swiftly, alternatively, some authorities can take months and so it is advisable for any application to be made as far in advance as possible.

Often the success of an application is also dependent on the approval of various agencies including the Police and District Council Offices, Fire Service, Local Disabled Groups and the Town Centre Manager.

For further information, please contact Andrew Cochrane.

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