Banbridge Chamber of Trade has welcomed a move by the council’s Environmental Services Committee to revise plans for the licensing of pavement cafes.
The committee reviewed the issue after councillors voiced concerns that local eateries could face planning and licensing fees totalling more than £1,000 if they wanted to set up tables and chairs on the pavement outside their business.
The Head of Environmental Health had advised members that the licence fee was set at £284 for three years and £182 for renewal after three years. However, Councillor Thomas O’Hanlon queried the fee, highlighting that many businesses are also required to pay a planning fee of £831 on top of the council’s fee.
He said that asking businesses to spend in excess of £1,000 for two tables and chairs was too much of a burden and stressed that there are at least three other councils that have a nil fee for pavement cafe licences.
Members were advised that officers had set the council’s fee under the umbrella of its fee setting policy, and had set it at “the lower end of the scale.”
Councillor Paul Berry stressed that business owners are under pressure in relation to rates and other costs, adding that the council should be trying to send the message that the borough is open for business.
While members voiced concerns about the “very high” £831 planning fee, they were informed that that figure is set by central government and the council has no power to change it.
At their latest meeting, members of the Environmental Services Committee revisited the issue and agreed a number of changes, including reducing the council’s fee, giving businesses the option of paying in three instalments and, where planning is required, setting the combined planning/licence fee at a maximum of £831.
Michael Donaghy, President of Banbridge Chamber of Trade, questioned how many local businesses would actually be able to avail of pavement cafe opportunities due to the width of the town’s footpaths, but welcomed the council’s move to reduce the fee.
“Any fee or any cost imposed on retailers or restaurants is just another tax, so any move to reduce those costs is to be welcomed,” he commented.