SOUTH Lakeland District Council (SLDC) has approved a fast-track pavement licensing scheme to support businesses reopening following the coronavirus lockdown.

Councillors last night unanimously agreed the policy, which means cafes and pubs will more easily be able to apply for licences to use pavements for tables and chairs to maximise their capacity whilst adhering to social distancing guidelines.

The legislation – part of the Business and Planning Act 2020 – allows for an application fee, capped to a maximum of £100, to be levied but applicants in South Lakeland who apply in the first six weeks will not be charged.

Cllr Robin Ashcroft, SLDC's Portfolio Holder for Economy, Culture and Leisure, said: "We are proposing that we waive the £100 application fee for a period of six weeks from the announcement of this, particularly because we recognise that businesses have been under considerable financial pressures.

"There is a need for this and I encourage businesses to apply."

Leader of the Council, Cllr Giles Archibald said: "It is important that we show businesses that we are supportive of them and in waiving this £100 fee we demonstrate our commitment to working with them to help them through this difficult time."

The Business and Planning Act makes it easier for premises serving food and drink such as bars, restaurants and pubs, as lockdown restrictions are lifted but social distancing guidelines remain in place, to seat and serve customers outdoors through temporary changes to planning procedures and alcohol licensing.

A report before councillors said: "In determining these applications SLDC will have to balance the needs and demands of a number of different interested parties.

"The guiding principle will be that these are temporary measures designed to help business through an unprecedented period of economic uncertainty and wherever practicable we will seek to issue these licenses to allow business the best opportunity to manage their businesses through these uncertain times."