Guidance on the use of outdoor pavement heaters

Guidance on the council’s updated position on the use of outdoor heating during colder weather, in response to Covid-19

We have reviewed our approach to provide as much support as possible to Lambeth businesses during this challenging time. This reflects our commitment to promoting resilience within Lambeth’s business community, standing by our local businesses, their employees and those who are self-employed within the borough.

As a Council we’re firmly committed to reducing the borough’s carbon emissions in line with our declaration of a climate emergency in January 2019 and continue to discourage the use of outdoor heaters. However, we also recognise the challenges businesses are facing because of the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly the cafes, restaurants, pubs, bars and other hospitality venues that add great value and diversity to Lambeth’s high streets and town centres.

The use of outdoor space by restaurants, pubs, bars and takeaway services has been encouraged in Government guidance responding to Covid-19. This worked well in the summer months to support businesses to safely reopen, but it is not possible to take advantage of outdoor space so easily in colder weather without some additional support measures in place.

The following guidance provides important information on the use of outdoor heaters where essential. This covers the following:

  • Guidance on the types and positioning of heaters.
  • Advice on how to reduce your environmental impact when using outdoor heaters.
  • Detail about risk assessment and insurance requirements.
  • How outdoor heaters relates to the pavement licence application process, and what to do if you have an existing pavement licence but now wish to use outdoor heaters.

Pavement Licences during colder weather

Under the Business and Planning Act 2020 the Government introduced a more streamlined pavement licence process, which remains in place until 30 September 2021.

If you run a pub, café, bar, restaurant, snack bar, coffee shop, or ice cream parlour, your business can apply for a pavement licence as a temporary measure to allow you to place removable furniture on the pavement outside your business in order to sell or serve food or drink, or to be used by people for the consumption of food or drink. You can find further information and apply for a licence here.

Outdoor heaters

The Council will allow electric halogen heaters as part of pavement licences, where it is appropriate and agreed with a Highways Licensing Officer. Agreement will be on a case by case basis as each location has a unique set of factors that need to be considered, and therefore a borough wide approach is not possible. Information on the steps you need to take is provided at the end of this guidance document.

It is important to remember that social distancing will need to be maintained in any outdoor space you are using at all times, so the siting of furniture will need to be carefully considered.

Electric halogen heaters can be used if a risk assessment is produced to show how they will be managed safely. If you wish to add cover and heating to your outside area, the simplest way may be to use umbrellas with integrated electric heaters. We realise that the storage of these items, or the cost of them to use in the short term may not be practical in many locations, therefore we will allow alternatives.

Do not attach them to buildings as this may require planning permission. Ideally, they will be attached to a safe structure such as an umbrella and be directed to create the most benefit. Lamps with timers are available and waste less energy. You must also ensure that heaters are not positioned next to Lambeth Council’s Air Quality Monitoring Stations.

Electric cables leading to your outside area must not create trip hazards and must comply with the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. Cables should not be placed across an area used by pedestrians or cyclists. You must submit a risk assessment to cover the following hazards - fire, electrocution, burns, manual handling, instability.

Gas heaters use significantly more energy and do not align with the Council’s aim to improve air quality. The storage of gas bottles also creates several Health and Safety requirements. You must not use gas heaters on the public highway. If using gas heaters in private gardens and patios, gas heaters must be DEFRA approved as Lambeth is a Smoke Control Area.

On 30 September 2021 the provisions made under the new pavement licence process come to an end. The Council will then revert to previous rules and heaters will not be permitted as part of any Street Furniture or tables and chairs licence. Please consider this when purchasing new equipment, as it may not be allowed to be used on the highway after that date.

Reducing your environmental impact

The use of heaters on the public highway has previously been refused by Lambeth Council due to their environmental impact. We ask that you think about how you can offset the carbon emissions associated with the use of heaters, considering practical ways to save energy in other ways or improve air quality around your premises. Measures might include:

  • Ensuring heaters are switched off when not in use to reduce unnecessary consumption.
  • Using blankets and/or hot water bottles to keep customers warm (you must make sure they are sanitised before re-use).
  • If you are using barriers to create a more intimate setting, replace these with planters containing plants that are effective at reducing air pollution.
  • Paying for carbon offsetting via your energy supplier if possible.
  • Switching energy supplier to one that is carbon neutral.

What you need to do

Process A – if you do not have a pavement licence

If you are applying for a new pavement licence application and wish to include electric halogen heaters, please include full details of your proposals and supporting risk assessment as part of your application.

Apply for a new pavement licence

Process B – if you have an existing pavement licence in place

If you have already secured a pavement licence application, please contact the Food Health and Safety Team at outlining your proposals and providing an appropriate risk assessment. The changes will be added to your current licence once agreed by a Council officer so please include your licence number in your email.

If you have any other queries relating to the use of outdoor heaters, as part of an existing or new pavement licence please contact us at

This guidance will be reviewed periodically as rules, restrictions and COVID-19 infection rates change.