Supporting businesses and the local economy

We want to support economic recovery and help local businesses adapt to the current social distancing requirements. We recognises that this is a challenging time for many businesses, and we will be taking a pragmatic approach to planning requirements, to support businesses wherever possible.

This is an update for businesses on our approach to planning requirements during the recovery period. Many businesses may need to make changes to their arrangements as a result of COVID-19. This could include making more use of outdoor space or providing additional temporary structures to enable safe working practices. Some of these changes will require planning permission but businesses may not have time to wait for planning applications to be determined, given the need to respond quickly to changing circumstances.

We will be following the approach outlined below, to provide planning advice to help businesses to adapt. There is also a separate ‘sitting out licence’ that businesses may need to apply for if they wish to expand their premises on to the highway, with further information provided later in this note.

Free fast-track planning advice for businesses

We have set up a fast-track planning advice service for businesses. If you are planning to make changes due to COVID-19 that may require planning permission (e.g. changes to the use of your outdoor space or provision of temporary structures), we would ask that you please contact us to let us know. Contact details are provided below. We will review your proposals, and will confirm whether they are acceptable in principle. There is no charge for this service and we will aim to respond to all such requests within 10 working days.

We would be grateful if you could supply the following information:

  • business name and address with contact details of a named individual
  • a site location plan
  • a location plan including the location of any proposed temporary structure (to also show details of the size of such structures), or any outside area that you are planning to use differently
  • a description of any proposed structure, or a description of the changes you are proposing (e.g. increased use of outside space)
  • a description of how you plan to make any proposed structure safe e.g. wind loading, flame retardancy, anchorage / stability etc
  • details of when any changes started, or when you plan them to start (e.g. when any structure was erected or when do you plan to erect it)
  • photos of the site including any area where a temporary structure will be located, and,
  • a brief overview of what any structure or outside area will be used for (including the hours it will be used for) and why the structure is required (related to COVID-19)

Once we have received your information, an officer will assess your proposals. We will consider whether planning permission would technically be required, and, if so, whether there are likely to be any significant impacts on:

  • amenity / noise (e.g. potential impacts on neighbours if an outside venue is used for late night drinking)
  • highway safety issues (e.g. blocking footways or roads)
  • hindrance to service routes for other commercial premises (e.g. preventing deliveries)

As part of our assessment, we will take account of any relevant existing or historic planning applications or enforcement cases affecting the site.

We will approach the assessment of all proposals in a positive and proactive way, although a positive outcome is not necessarily guaranteed. As part of this assessment, we may identify limits to any changes you are proposing, such as limiting the times of operation to reduce noise to neighbours. We will always seek to work pragmatically with you to overcome any issues.

We will write to you to confirm the outcome of our assessment. We will also notify the local Dorset Council ward member and the appropriate town or parish council of the outcome. Where proposals have been approved, it is unlikely that we will take planning enforcement action against temporary development or changes of use, even where these would technically require planning permission. This pragmatic approach to planning enforcement will be reviewed in December 2021. We do however reserve the right to consider taking enforcement action if significant new information comes to light which indicates that the temporary changes are leading to significant adverse impacts.

Please note that this free service only applies to temporary changes needed to help businesses get up and running during the current COVID-19 recovery period. Our standard charges will apply for any other planning advice enquiries, such as those involving permanent alterations or new buildings, and home extensions.

To access our free fast-track planning advice service please submit the information listed above by email to with ‘request for free advice’ in the subject line.

Meeting other requirements

Our fast-track planning advice service only covers planning requirements. There are other matters you may also need to consider, including:

Street café (sitting out) licences

We have set up a new sitting out licence application process for businesses that want to expand their premises on to the highway at this time.

Building regulations

Temporary structures may require building regulations approval. As part of our advice, we will confirm whether buildings regulations approval is required, and we will supply details of how to apply where this is needed. View further information about buildings regulations requirements.

Alcohol and entertainment licences

Businesses, organisations and individuals who want to sell or supply alcohol must have a licence, and you must make sure any additional public realm space is adequately licensed for the sale of alcohol. In some circumstances, an entertainment license will be required. Our planning advice service does not cover licencing requirements. View information on alcohol and entertainment licences.

Risk assessments

The responsibility to carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment in line with HSE guidance remains with individual businesses to ensure they can trade safely and comply with the Government’s safe working and social distancing guidelines. View the HSE guidance.

A new structure creates new risks from both its form and function and these must be addressed. If the structure is large or specially designed it may be a Temporary Demountable Structure (TDS).

‘We’re good to go’ industry standard

We encourage all businesses to apply for the free ‘we’re good to go’ COVID-19 industry standard and consumer mark to confirm that your business adheres to Government and public health guidance.

Fire safety

All premises will have carried out a fire risk assessment which will need to be reviewed and amended as appropriate.

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