RESTAURANTS, cafes and bars applying for outdoor seating in Romsey will now be able to do so for free, following a change by Test Valley Borough Council.

Following the reopening of many hospitality outlets after the Covid-19 pandemic, some businesses in the sector have required more space to ensure safe social distancing for their staff and customers.

The Business and Planning Act 2020 which came into force on July 22, is designed to cut bureaucracy and to reduce the fee charged when making an application until the end of September 2021. But Test Valley has decided to charge no fee at all.

This means that the current scheme, Licensing of Tables and Chairs on the Highway will be free for businesses in Test Valley to apply for, and will have a simpler application and consultation process which aims to make a decision much quicker than the existing 28 day response.

There will be a shortened public consultation period of seven days and a further shortened seven-day period in which the application must be determined, down from the previous 60 day timeframe.

Deputy leader, councillor Nick Adams-King, said: “We know how much of an impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had on the hospitality sector and of course businesses are doing everything they can to run safely, and ensure customers feel comfortable.

“This new change will ensure businesses around Market Place and elsewhere in the town will have a better, easier and cheaper process in securing what they need to have customers seated outside. These changes will also help greatly moving forward with the masterplan process for south of the town centre, too, offering a more flexible feel to our town that makes the most of our outdoor space.”

Leader of the council, Phil North, added: “We want to make sure that businesses have every chance possible to succeed following a very difficult time for the economy. The hospitality sector has been impacted arguably more than most, and ensuring we make this change now should enable cafes and restaurants to make the changes they want and need to.”

Businesses can apply on the council’s website, via