Outdoor Tables & Chairs

Al fresco dining and drinking is a popular and convivial addition to any town or city centre, bringing animation and ambiance to street life, encouraging people to spend more time in the town centre and generally helping locations to become 'alive after five' and transition into the evening and night-time economy. However, it must be well managed to ensure safety, fairness, and to avoid anti-social behaviour.

Under the Highway Act 1980 (applicable to England and Wales) and section 59 of the Roads (Scotland) Act 1984, permission is required from the local authority before outdoor furniture can be set up. The council is permitted to attach terms and conditions relating to the use of temporary street furniture including:


  • specific times of the operation

  • the designation of a specific area

  • the number and type of tables, chairs and barrier screen

  • any signage allowed on or in the designated area

  • whether food or drink can be sold (this may carry the need for an additional license)

  • the type of insurance required

  • whether music is permitted


The applicant will also be expected to identify a safe place to store the outdoor furniture off the street when not in use, the minimum number of staff on duty when the street café’ is in operation and the provision of access to toilets for patrons using the outdoor area. A fee will be payable to the council to cover its costs of administering the ‘Street Café permit’.

Unfortunately, there are instances where business owners will set up tables and chairs on an ad hoc basis in inappropriate locations, without consultation or permission. Under these circumstances, temporary street furniture can be an obstruction, causing a nuisance or in some instances be dangerous to public safety. Temporary street furniture may also be of low quality, or not fit with the existing character of the area. It is important to ensure that there is appropriate enforcement to address illegal use of the public highway promptly and efficiently. Where tables and chairs are put out without a permit, the local authority has the power to confiscate the items, but a quiet word usually does the trick.

The permit process affords local partnerships the opportunity to ensure a high quality street café environment and associated benefits to creating a pleasant and attractive destination for outdoor dining which could prove a key footfall generator. Where the local authority is willing to do so, the income from the permit process can be used by a local partnership to further improve the visitor experience through on-street entertainment, planting or festive lighting. The same legislation and process can be adapted to control the placement of Goods on the Highway.