Cafes and restaurants in the Vale of Glamorgan must pay hundreds of pounds from July to have outdoor tables and chairs.
Licenses will cost between £150 to more than £750 a year depending on the number of tables and chairs.
The new charges are meant to limit the amount of space cafes take up on the pavement, making it easier for disabled people, while also ‘decluttering’ town centres across the Vale.
During the pandemic, fees for these licences were scrapped to help businesses struggling with lockdown restrictions. Vale of Glamorgan council rejected calls to delay the fees further.
Nathan Thomas, highways maintenance manager at the council, said the new fees would be “fairer for small businesses”. He explained the changes to a recent meeting of the council’s environment and regeneration scrutiny committee.
Before the pandemic, the council charged businesses a fixed fee of £497.50 for three years, regardless of how many chairs or tables they had outside. But little enforcement appeared to have taken place, with many cafes having outdoor seating without the required licence.
Mr Thomas said: “Through recent strengthening of the highways maintenance team, we have found that lots of businesses were trying to encourage footways to be clear, but lots of businesses didn’t really understand the importance of having footways clear.
“Lots of businesses historically might have had table and chair licences but generally we didn’t have the resources to keep on top of it. So we wanted to put a policy together so that it was clear and everybody understood.
“We need to control and administer the amount of equipment that is placed on footpaths. We want to encourage businesses across the Vale to promote their business and encourage the town centres to look and feel vibrant and attractive, but it needs control.
“There are some businesses down Barry Island where they take full ownership of the footpaths and it’s not fair for those partially sighted or using a wheelchair, pushchairs or mobility scooters.”
From July, annual licences for outdoor seating on public pavements will cost as follows:
- One to two tables with up to eight chairs: £150
- Three to four tables with up to 16 chairs: £300
- Five to 10 tables with up to 40 chairs: £500
- 11 tables or more with over 40 chairs: £750, plus £35 extra for each chair after 40
This means every cafe with at least three tables outdoors will have to pay more than before the pandemic— if they paid for a licence at all.
Conservative councillors criticised the new charges and asked council bosses to delay the fees until after the pandemic had passed.
During the scrutiny meeting, Councillor Andrew Robertson said: “The charges were set aside during the Covid crisis. Should we be thinking about delaying the charges to give businesses a boost, maybe for another six months or even a year?
“A lot of businesses are going to rely on outdoor tables and chairs. These people have taken a huge hammering over the last year, and anything we can do to help and support them I think we should really be obliged to do.”
Cllr Vince Driscoll said: “I think it’s a huge increase. I’m not sure where you get these figures from. You say it’s unfair for people with bad sight et cetera, but you’re still allowing the chairs and tables to be outside— it’s just you’re getting money for it now.
“If you’re being fair then you would clear the pavements. It’s not going to make it any easier for the partially sighted if there are still tables and chairs there but now you’re charging for them.”
Mr Thomas responded by saying licences would let the council control exactly how much space each cafe is allowed to use public pavements, restricting businesses from using too much. He added the fees would cover the costs to administer the licensing scheme.
He said: “We keep extending the date because the pandemic doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, so we have had to draw a line in the sand. If you use Ludlow Lane in Penarth, the street food hut has the full width of the footpath with its furniture, so you couldn’t get through.
“Whereas by controlling it, we would agree the extent within the licence, we will then delineate that on site with road pins and the businesses will have to work within that and we will make sure we’ve allowed sufficient roadway space.
“Yes, we’re still making an income from it, but that will cover the administration from the team to manage it.”