In a remarkably swift response to the current crisis, the government brought in an amendment to the permitted development regulations a day after lockdown was imposed, allowing pubs and restaurants (A4 and A3 uses) to be used for the sale of takeaway food. These measures introduced a new Class DA: “Restaurants and cafes, drinking establishments and drinking establishments with expanded food provision to temporarily provide takeaway food”. Initially a temporary right up until 23 March 2021, it requires no prior approval as such, rather a duty to inform the local planning authority when the new use starts and ends.
However, if your planning consent contains a condition restricting permitted development rights or takeaway use, that would prevent reliance on this right. Local planning authorities may take the view that it is not expedient to enforce such conditions in the circumstances. For example, earlier in March the environment secretary had already relaxed restrictions on deliveries to food retailers, to ensure they could maintain stocks in the midst of the surge in grocery shopping. It is possible that the same approach would be taken by planning authorities to restrictive conditions in the current crisis.
It is important to note that there may be leasehold restrictions on permitted uses, which would need to be waived or varied. This should be properly documented, with any future ramifications for rent review being taken into account, together with the eventual return to the previous use. Other than the immediate likely benefit to landlords with regards to more certain rental income, landlords are likely to consider the impact on the reversionary value in their property and the overall tenant mix in the area before consenting to any changes of use. Other considerations, such as consents to alterations, changes to turnover rent provisions, building insurance notifications, changes to occupiers’ liability insurance, and, most importantly, employee safety, will also need to be taken into account.
There are likely to be further measures to come as the government and operators get to grips with the new challenges which are presenting themselves, with all areas of industry looking to adapt their ways of working to respond to the needs arising in this constantly evolving situation.