Planning advice on adapting your business during coronavirus

This note has been prepared to assist local businesses as they take the first steps to reopening as we move within the easing of lockdown measures.

Cognisance is to be had to all guidance and temporary legislation that has been produced by the Scottish Government, amongst them the advice provided by the Chief Planner who has previously advised councils to have a light touch approach to enforcement of hours of operation, deliveries and the like and to take a pragmatic approach to finding solutions. Most recently further guidance has been received focusing on changing business practices during physical distancing restrictions.

This recognises the role of planning in enabling business operations to get back up and running and support them to regain lost ground and revenue as a direct result of the lockdown. It recognises the importance of businesses wishing to diversify or needing to adjust their operations to suit current circumstances.

Planning can support well-measured temporary solutions. Although there is no recognised list of 'exemptions' there is a willingness to consider all proposals and take as pragmatic a view as possible to any solutions put forward. This may include, as an example, allowing a temporary use for on street seating for cafes or bars or similar to accommodate social distancing or a seasonal variation to business operations.

Beyond any relaxation in planning to support temporary changes, there may of course be some matters to consider through other consenting and licensing regimes.

External spaces

There are a number of occasions when premises of businesses may wish to provide external eating spaces or facilities. These sorts of premises include:

  • sandwich bars and bakeries
  • restaurants, cafes, takeaways and public houses
  • takeaway vans

Each have their own different set of circumstances, and may require planning permission, a premises licence, consents from Environmental Health, and possibly permission from the Roads team. This guide predominantly deals with planning permission, and when it might be required. However, it is recognised that there are other regulatory regimes in place such as licencing, environmental protection or road permits.

Within the curtilage of the property

Planning permission is unlikely to be required if the eating space is within the curtilage of the premises, such as a beer garden. The placing of table and chairs is not development, but any other permanent structures might for example a canopy or gazebo. The latter could require planning permission, and a decision has to be made in terms of its permanency and its attachment to the ground. Tables and chairs, and parasol type canopies are rarely anchored, and therefore is not considered to be development, they are easily moved. During the current emergency period the Planning service will in general not actively seek applications for such structures. It has to be accepted however that in the event of any complaint investigation will be required. Any permanency to any such temporary arrangement would require further discussion and future permission.

Outwith the curtilage of the property

Planning permission would be required for change of use of land to extend a seating area into an area of land which is not within the curtilage if the use is to be permanently altered, that is if the land has never been used with the host planning unit and is in a different use class. There is provision for the use of land outwith the curtilage being used for a purpose (excluding a caravan site) for up to 28 days in a calendar year without requiring permission. Other consents will still be required but this may assist businesses in remodelling in the short term. The Planning service will apply a degree of pragmatism once the 28-day period has lapsed and further advice should be sought.

Footpath, public car park or road

Generally, planning permission is only required if there any permanent fixtures proposed. The provision of tables, chairs and other structures such as barriers, will generally not require planning permission but permission will be required from the Roads service (such as a road occupation permit) or from licencing.

Takeaway van

A takeaway van can be in many different forms, including an ice cream van or burger van. Some do their rounds stopping at places for a brief moment before moving on, others can be set up for a whole morning, or day, and towed away. Other vans are kept on site 24 hours a day, even if they operate for say 4 hours a day every day.

If the takeaway van occupies a public footpath, public car park or road, then planning permission would not be required as the use would never change, it would always be a road. However, permission would be required from the Roads team to occupy the road or footpath, etc. Where the takeaway van is on site for a short-term period per day then it is considered that planning permission would not be required. There however becomes a point where planning permission would be required and this would be related to the permanency. In the latter scenario further advice should be sought.


The provision of a kiosk, for example to sell sandwiches and coffees, is normally a small structure, built off site and placed on land. It can't be moved like a van or trailer, it requires to be craned off. In these instances, if a change of use has occurred, that is not a public road, public footpath or public car park, and not in a curtilage of a building within the same use class, then planning permission would be required as a change of use of land would take place in order to site such a structure for example a catering kiosk.


The provision of an external eating space may require an extension of a premises licence if it is intended to sell alcohol in the new space, this will depend on the licence already in place in terms of the operating and layout plan

Existing controls

It is recognised that some businesses may have conditional controls in place (such as hours of operation), these would be in place for a number of reasons. The need for businesses to adapt their operations may need to be balanced with protecting amenity for example noise, odour, possibly the reason for the control in the first place. The Planning service will look to be as pragmatic and flexible as possible in the short term. It may be that there would be further discussions to be had for any long term uses in terms of more permanent permission or variation of current restrictions by way of planning condition for example. The service is available to talk through needs and requirements of the business.

Contact us

In any event covering the above or any other proposal for adaption or addition of operation space we would encourage you to contact us by emailing