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Gloucestershire Business News

Cheltenham Borough Council applauded for fast-tracking changes

Cheltenham Borough Council has been applauded for its decision to accelerate applications for temporary changes to use for businesses.

Designed to help businesses recover from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic by allowing them to use extra space for social distancing measures, the council has relaxed planning rules to fast track applications.

Council leader Councillor Steve Jordan said: "The council firmly believes that in Cheltenham we have the people, skills and local solutions to deliver a strong recovery.

"Temporary changes form part of the council's recovery strategy to help Cheltenham businesses recover as quickly as possible from the current trading restrictions.''

Cheltenham fast tracking applications for business changes 

David Jones, head of planning at chartered surveyors and planning consultants Evans Jones, welcomed the council's move.

He said: "The initiative puts Cheltenham front and centre at seeking to help businesses as much as it physically can to trade successfully as the lockdown is eased social distancing requirements remain.

"All too often we see local authorities criticised in the press for either responding too slowly or not responding at all.

"In this case Cheltenham should be congratulated for proactively seeking solutions and putting in place a timely manner accelerated procedures for facilitating business needs and requirements as lockdown is released."

He believes the move could provide a big help to businesses as they return to trading following the relaxation of government restrictions.

He continued: "It will assist businesses who need to create additional space to work or trade to facilitate this by using public space spaces or car parks to facilitate the provision of temporary buildings or temporary change of use.

"This could include covered seating areas supporting restaurants and pubs, provide additional office space in car parks to increase occupancy levels while maintaining social distancing in appropriate circumstances and allowing greater flexibility in the use of pavements and public spaces to allow restaurants, pubs and cafes to service a similar number of patrons to that of the pre-lockdown conditions."

Kevan Blackadder, director of Cheltenham BID, also believes the move will benefit the hospitality trade when it is allowed to resume trading.

He said: "Cheltenham BID is particularly pleased that some of these changes will allow extra flexibility for the hospitality businesses due to open in July.

"Cafes, pubs and restaurants will be severely limited in the amount of people who will be allowed in their premises but if these changes allow them to serve outside, it could make a real difference.

"The BID has been calling for these restrictions to be lifted and continues to work with both the borough and county councils to try to find ways to further enhance the space available for hospitality businesses once the Government confirms when they can open."

Patrick Downes

Patrick Downes, director of property and asset consultancy Pact Property, feels the benefits can be felt across the wider economy.

He said: "Well done to Cheltenham Borough Council, this is another bold initiative which helps business to sprint out of lockdown and to be progressive.

"Hopefully the High Street changes this encourages might help us with some ideas for the medium and long term renaissance too."

He continued: "On a wider front, this could add much-needed additional space on all commercial premises where workplace distancing is needed.

"The additional temporary space will allow business to be back at full output much more quickly, where they have the demand, and helping our economy to recover."

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