The future is al fresco in Kensington and Chelsea

Published: Friday 18 March 2022

The outdoor café culture that has sprung up during the pandemic is set to stay in Kensington and Chelsea. The borough is the UK’s first to commit to new local policies to make al fresco dining an ongoing attraction. Businesses will be able to continue offering outdoor dining after temporary government legislation, introduced as part of Covid measures, ends in September 2022.  

The Council has approved a new policy which will see businesses offered licences to operate from March to October, in line with British Summer Time.

Al fresco dining has been popular, with streets closed to motorised traffic at Pavilion Road, Elystan Road and Bute Street, along with pop up terraces in parking bays around the borough. The Council has granted licences for 114 outdoor dining terraces licensed on temporary footway extensions and more than 450 pavement licenses in streets and public spaces so far.

Sloane Square, which became a hub for outdoor dining in the pandemic, could see its future secured with a 10-year licence, applied for by the Council. Proposals have been put forward for outdoor dining in the square to operate seasonally, but with special dispensation for pop-up events and activities all year round. Following a decision by the leader councillor, the public will be consulted on the measures as part of the planning application process in the coming weeks.

Cllr Johnny Thalassites, lead member for planning, place and environment said:

“Seeing our streets buzzing with people enjoying our world-class bars and restaurants has been a real positive during a difficult couple of years. We want it to be a lasting legacy following the pandemic.

“It’s a no brainer to keep outdoor licensing on the menu when it’s proven so popular with restaurants, residents and visitors. This is a way to support our businesses to get back on their feet, whilst adding to Kensington and Chelsea’s reputation as a destination.”

Around 70% of 138 respondents to a Council consultation supported al fresco dining remaining after government legislation ends in September 2022. Local landowner Cadogan conducted its own survey in summer 2021, with 93% of 884 respondents supporting continuing outdoor dining when Covid restrictions end. Recent surveys by Commonplace and the with the Council’s Citizen’s panel also demonstrated widespread support.

Hugh Seaborn, Chief Executive of Cadogan said:

We had been considering seating in outdoor spaces and the pandemic accelerated these plans. With the strong support of Kensington and Chelsea Council, we were able quickly to introduce 900 new al fresco seats across the neighbourhood and provide crucial outdoor spaces to gather, as well as provide a much-needed boost for hospitality businesses in Chelsea.


“This al fresco dining, along with the pedestrianisation of Pavilion Road, has brought real vibrancy and a buzzing café culture. The positive feedback has been rewarding and we are working closely with the team at Kensington and Chelsea Council to ensure these lively public places continue to thrive and contribute to the community, looking forward to a summer of outdoor dining complemented by a programme of outdoor public art trails, performances and events.”

The new borough wide policy will operate from March 2023, offering licences from March to October, mirroring when the facilities have been most utilised. This avoids winter terraces which require extensive outdoor heating which can often be high energy consumers, adding to carbon emissions. Outdoor areas will need to be at least partially open to the elements, in order to contribute to the street scene and to be open and welcoming to the passing public.

The Council will soon launched its “Step into Spring” campaign, encouraging residents, tourists and commuters to enjoy all the borough has to offer this spring, from outdoor dining to new walking maps of the borough.