A CHANGE aimed at making it easier for cafes, restaurants and other businesses in Andover to secure outdoor space and seating has been brought in 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 council says it will now be "much simpler" for businesses to apply to the authority’s licensing department for outdoor seating, giving customers more space to feel safer and more comfortable while supporting the economy in Andover town centre.

The change is brought about by the Business and Planning Act 2020 which came into force on July 22, designed to reduce the fee charged until the end of September of next year. Test Valley will go further though, charging no fee at all.

As a result, these changes mean 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. Businesses can apply via the council’s website, at www.testvalley.gov.uk/PavementLicence2020.

Leader of the council, Phil North, said: “One of the opportunities from Covid is to try and better promote that continental style café culture which will complement our masterplan for Andover.

"Businesses require more space for social distancing and many customers feel safer sitting outside.

"Instead of just making the changes required by the new legislation, I was determined to go further, enabling businesses to apply for outside seating for free. We want to make sure that businesses have every chance 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 should enable cafes and restaurants to make the changes they need to.”