Tables and chairs on the highway

Advice on starting a catering businesses and how to apply for consent to place tables and chairs on the highway.

Placing tables and chairs on the highway, or opening a restaurant or cafe

Advice for business operators

If you are looking to place tables and chairs outside of your business on the highway or start a new catering business, which involves food or drink (alcohol and non-alcohol) you may require several different consents or licences. A summary of these is set out below, together with links to the various departments you may need to contact.


Changes of Use - Planning permission is required to change the use of most types of premises to a cafe or restaurant on a permanent basis. It is possible to change the use of some premises of up to 150 sq.m in area, for a temporary period of up to two years only, without planning permission as long as a specified procedure is followed. Please contact the planning advice service for further information on this, or to explore the likelihood of receiving a permanent planning permission.

Tables and Chairs - If you wish to place tables and chairs on the public highway, which includes the pavement, planning permission must be sought before an application for a permit can be made. Please allow approximately eight weeks for the planning permission application process which will include a 21 day consultation period.

A planning application, for either a change of use or tables and chairs, can be made online through the Planning Portal.

Your planning application will not be processed until you have submitted all the required documentation and correct fee, so please check your application thoroughly before submitting it. The planning advice service can assist if necessary. You will be allocated a planning reference number which, if the application is granted, will become the number of your planning permission. This will be required with your Highways Tables and Chairs permit application. Be very careful to note any Conditions which may be attached to the planning permission, which may require you to do certain things or prevent you from doing other things.

Highways Act 1980 – Tables and Chairs Licence

Consent under the Highways Act 1980 is required from the Council to place tables and chairs on the highway. This includes on any land over which the public have access, even if the land is privately maintained – for example unenclosed forecourts. The application form and further guidance can be found on the 'Apply for it' page

In addition where the tables and chairs are to be placed on publicly maintained highway, planning permission is required. Please note that if planning permission is required the consent under the Highways Act cannot be issued until planning permission is granted.

You should allow up to twelve weeks for a consent under the Highways Act.

Find out more on the Tables and Chairs Highways Licence webpage.

Alcohol, Entertainment and Late Night Refreshment

A premises licence is required for any business wishing to sell alcohol, or to provide late night refreshment (hot food or drink after 11pm). In addition, certain types of entertainment, such as performances of music or dance, also require a licence in certain circumstances.

If your premises includes a forecourt where your customers will be permitted to purchase alcohol this should be identified on the plan submitted with your application as forming part of the licensed premises. If the forecourt is to be used solely for consumption of alcohol and the area is not demarked on the plans as part of the licensed area, your application should include alcohol sales for consumption off the premises.

For further information and application forms please visit the licensing team’s webpage.

Food Registration

All food businesses must be registered with the Council at least 28 days before they open for business. This includes businesses that only sell alcohol. Registration cannot be refused and there is no charge. If you use premises in more than one local authority area, you must register with each separately. You can apply online or download food registration form.