Planning rules lifted for fairs, markets and car boot sales in England
Events can be held without planning permission under new laws designed to boost the economy
Homemade cakes on sale at a primary school summer fair in 2019. New planning laws introduced on Thursday will make fairs easier to stage in summer 2020. Photograph: mainpicture/Alamy Stock Photo/Alamy Stock Photo
Summer fairs, outdoor markets and car boot sales can be held without planning permission in England, while alcohol will be widely available to take away, under what are designed to be new feel-good laws drawn up by ministers.
Eating and drinking in pub and restaurant car parks will also be allowed when the business and planning bill is introduced tomorrow. The changes come ahead of what is being dubbed “Super Saturday” on 4 July, which will see the mass reopening of pubs, restaurants, hairdressers and museums in a dramatic easing of coronavirus lockdown measures.
The new laws are part of a series of government policies designed to help people socialise and reinvigorate the economy this summer. But serious fears remain over the risk of a second wave of Covid-19, especially amid crowds where physical distancing is impossible, as well as the impact on workers.
Lucy Powell, shadow minister for business and consumers, said: “We have to bear in mind that for a lot of people they won’t have confidence about going to restaurants and bars. It also won’t be the same experience so we shouldn’t see the reopening as a panacea for things getting back to normal.”
It comes as Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, told MPs that plans for “air bridges” to allow quarantine-free travel abroad are gathering pace.
He told the Commons transport select committee that there would be an announcement to parliament on Monday 29 June, with criteria and clarification on how they would operate.
Shapps expects to speak to representatives from the devolved nations in coming days. Wales’ current five-mile restriction on travel – which would make it difficult for many to travel to an airport – will be discussed.
New elements added to the business and planning bill, to be announced tomorrow, are designed to help businesses serve more customers outside and increase street trading. As well as summer fairs, car boot sales and outdoor markets not requiring planning permission, measures will be taken to help English councils pedestrianise streets so these events can be set up easily, the government said.
Temporary changes to licensed premises will allow people to take drinks off-site, something which is typically banned in England through town by-laws.
On Wednesday, sector-by-sector guidance for 4 July reopenings was issued, necessitating separate facilities for household groups in hotels and hostels, the use of screens and regular cleaning. Hair salons have been urged to keep the volume of piped music low to avoid customers and staff needing to shout, which creates an increased Covid-19 risk.
Ahead of the hospitality sector opening its doors however, Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), warned that the new guidance was creating “chaos and confusion”.
“For our sector, 4 July might end up being more ‘doomsday’ rather than the ‘independence day’ that the prime minister is envisioning,” he said.
“We are now grappling with operational guidance that places unworkable conditions on customer behaviour. This will make it highly challenging for the businesses to re-engage, meaning many venues will simply be unable to open and trade profitably,” he said.
Trades unions complained that, unlike the reopening of other sectors, they had not been consulted on the new regime for the hospitality sector.
The Unite general secretary, Len McCluskey, said: “The governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are all working closely with trade unions to keep workers safe.
“England’s workers deserve the same commitment so it is totally baffling that the Westminster government will not accept Unite’s offer to use our standing army of health and safety reps to help with safe reopening of the economy.”
The TUC has also raised concerns about whether the new guidance is enforceable.
Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC, is asking for more funding for the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to carry out checks to make sure workplaces are safe.
Boris Johnson’s spokesman said it will be up to local authorities and the HSE to police the new guidance under existing legislation that allows them to close premises and levy fines if safety is being put at risk.
Police will retain the power to break up “irresponsible” gatherings of more than 30 people – though there will be nothing to stop pubs or other venues serving more than 30 customers, provided they abide by physical distancing rules.
Ian Hodson, national president of the Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union, said he was disappointed with the Conservatives announcing the new “1 metre-plus” rule without meaningful consultation with workers who will be staffing pubs, restaurants and cafes, and working on food assembly lines.
He said the union was also unhappy with the Labour leader, Keir Starmer, for accepting the rule change.
He said: “It’s the people that have been missing from this announcement. It might suit the business lobby and it shows the pubs have a very powerful business lobby but workers haven’t been consulted.”
The mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, criticised the government for reopening the hospitality industry on a Saturday.
“I would say that they have just come down on the side of risk, rather than caution, on the side of the economy rather than health,” he told Sky News.
“The plan to open everything on a Saturday is, I think, a mistake, certainly unwise.”
He added: “I am concerned about everything opening up on what Sky might dub ‘Super Saturday’. Why open everything on that day? Surely a staggered approach would have been fairer for our police force.”
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