Guidance for permission to run a pavement cafe


Definition of pavement café

Pavement cafés are considered to be tables and chairs placed on the public highway, where food and drink are consumed.

Eligible locations

In general, all parts of the public highway may be used for pavement cafés, assuming all safety and non-obstruction requirements are met. The exceptions are:

  • Any carriageway or 'shared use surface'
  • Any highway verge
  • Prohibited streets (where no street trading is permitted)

Pavement Cafés on the public highway are dealt with under Section 115 of the Highways Act 1980. The act requires that:

Surrey County Council, and others such as the Police or utility companies, may need access to the area at times. This may be for maintenance, installation, special events, improvements and emergencies. The pavement café will need to temporarily stop operating for a period of time in these cases, and no compensation for loss of business can be claimed.

The County Council may remove, store or dispose of items from the highway, if:

  • They are left on the public highway outside the permitted hours.
  • Any of the conditions of the licence are not adhered to

Applicant requirements

Planning permission should be sought from the local district or borough council. If the Planning Office advises that planning permission is not required, a copy of the letter should be included with the application.

In all cases, whether planning is required or not, applicants will need to submit:

  • A site plan (1:100 or 1:200 ), showing:
    • Proposed boundaries
    • Building line
    • Kerb line
    • Table layout
    • Points of access and dimensions
    • Position of planter(s)
  • Trading days and times
  • A copy of Public Liability Insurance for a minimum of £10 million in respect of any one incident
  • Details of proposed furniture (brand, type and materials)

General information

All licences are valid from 1 April to 31 March. Licences, irrespective of date of issue, will be renewed from 1 April each year, for which the current fee will be payable.

In some cases, extra measures may be required. This will be determined when assessing any application, on a case by case basis. Where required, the work will be carried out by Surrey County Council, at the expense of the applicant. These include;

  • providing brass studs in the highway defining the periphery of the agreed area
  • a form of ground level marker to assist the blind and partially sighted who use a white stick for guidance
  • re-location of street furniture, such as street lights or bollards (layout of tables and chairs must take account of the existing street furniture)

An unimpeded pedestrian route must be maintained at all times for people walking through or alongside the pavement café. The route should be straight, and adjacent to the premises to ensure that all pedestrians and particularly those with a disability can maintain their normal path.

The public has a right to pass and re-pass along public roads and pavements. In granting permission for pavement cafés it is important to ensure that these rights are not detrimentally affected.

On wider footways, the width of the pedestrian route should be at least 2 metres.

Full terms and conditions

  • Permission to operate a pavement café does not imply an exclusive right to the area of public highway. The operator should be aware that Surrey County Council and others (e.g. police, statutory undertakers) will need access at various times (including emergencies) for maintenance, installation, special events, improvements etc. This may mean that the pavement café will need to cease operating for a period of time. On these occasions there would be no compensation for loss of business.
  • Surrey County Council requires evidence that the licensee has Public Liability Insurance for the operation of the Pavement Café. This must indemnify Surrey County Council against all claims for injury, damage or loss to users of the public highway, arising from the use of the highway for the permitted purpose. The minimum level of indemnity must be £10 million in respect of any one incident.
  • Surrey County Council is empowered to remove and store or dispose of furniture from the highway, at the cost of the licensee, if it is left there outside the permitted hours, or should any conditions of the licence be ignored. The Council will not be responsible for its safekeeping.
  • An unimpeded pedestrian route must be maintained at all times for people wishing to use the footway.
  • Emergency routes to the premises and adjacent buildings must not be obstructed by the Pavement Café, which should not, in normal circumstances, extend beyond the width of the café frontage.
  • Tables and chairs should be of an approved type and should be kept in a good state of repair. Furniture should be placed so as not to obstruct driver sightlines, or road traffic signs. Placement of café tables and chairs must allow pedestrians to use the footway parallel to the frontage of the premises. Care should be taken in the use of hanging baskets, awnings, protruding umbrellas etc. Patio heaters must not be used.
  • All potential obstructions must be removed from the public highway when the premises are closed to prevent a safety hazard to pedestrians, particularly during the hours of darkness.
  • The licensee should ensure that the pavement café operates in a safe manner, thereby ensuring that any safety risk or nuisance to other users of the public highway is minimised.
  • The operation of the pavement café must not interfere with highway drainage arrangements.
  • Any proposals to provide additional lighting to the pavement café areas must be discussed and cleared with Surrey Highways lighting staff.
  • The highway authority requires that all detritus (food and drink remnants, bottles, cans, wrappers etc) be regularly removed from the footway surface to reduce hazards to pedestrians. The highway is to be washed down at the completion of each day's usage.
  • Any costs incurred as a result of damage to the highway, due to the positioning of tables and chairs etc, will be recovered in full from the licensee by the highway authority.
  • The licensee is responsible for ensuring that the conditions of the highway licence and planning permission are adhered to.
  • The licence must be displayed on the premises with a plan of the agreed layout of the pavement café.
  • Surrey County Council reserves the right to rescind this licence at any time if any of the above conditions are not fulfilled and maintained.

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