New charging rules for outdoor seating at West Sussex eateries proposed

A tables and chairs protest held last summer against the county council charges. Pic Steve Robards. SR1921461 SUS-190828-192751001
A tables and chairs protest held last summer against the county council charges. Pic Steve Robards. SR1921461 SUS-190828-192751001

Cafes and restaurants with outdoor tables and chairs could be subject to new sliding-scale charging rules.

Last year West Sussex County Council’s decision to start actively enforcing fees for seating placed on town centre pavements caused uproar among traders.

Businesses were told they had to fork out £520 a year irrespective of how many outdoor tables and chairs they had.

At the time the county council said it was a legal requirement for businesses to have a licence for seating on the highway, but it had not historically actively enforced this requirement.

Since then the authority had a partial rethink and is now consulting on plans to introduce a sliding-scale charging regime.

Businesses would pay a one-off, £150 initial application fee and then £20 per cover (usually a single chair) per annum.

A tables and chairs protest held last summer against the county council charges. Pic Steve Robards. SR1921461 SUS-190828-192751001

A tables and chairs protest held last summer against the county council charges. Pic Steve Robards. SR1921461 SUS-190828-192751001

This would mean that cafes and restaurants with fewer tables and chairs would pay less, while some larger establishments could end up being charged more.

For example a business with eight covers will pay the £150 application fee and an annual charge of £160, while one with 36 covers would pay £720 a year.

Roger Elkins, cabinet member for highways and infrastructure, said: “We have listened to people’s comments about the current flat fee. Most suggested that a sliding-scale approach would be preferable so smaller establishments would pay less compared to businesses which want to place a larger number of covers on the pavement.

“We now propose a one-off, £150 initial application fee. Then the proposed charge would be £20 per cover (a cover is usually a single chair) per annum, which equates to just over 5p per day, per cover. We would really appreciate traders taking the time and trouble to visit our online consultation page and let us know what they think of the proposals.”

The county council argues the sliding scale will encourage businesses with a large number of covers to carefully consider how many they are likely to fill on a regular basis, or face paying a premium for empty chairs, which can obscure nearby smaller premises, obstruct the highway and provide an unnecessary obstacle for the visually impaired.

Horsham District Council has delegated authority to license tables and chairs in Horsham town centre and will continue to do so.

The consultation runs until 24 February 2020. To have your say visit the consultation page.