Cork County Council is to ask the Department of Environment to make awnings and canopies exempt from planning permission as businesses "will need them more than ever during a Covid-19 winter."
Councillors have also asked their architects, planning and heritage departments to look at what's available on the market and come up with a uniformity of such coverings which may suit certain towns.
Fianna Fáil councillor Gobnait Moynihan got unanimous support for the proposals from colleagues.
“Presently if a business wants to put up an awning or canopy they need to apply for planning permission," Ms Moynihan said. "This can take two months at least. Planning applications must include drawings that cost money as you need to employ someone qualified to draw them. Applicants have to put up public notice which gives people the opportunity to put in submissions. If someone does there's a chance it could go to Bord Pleanála. This can be very time-consuming."
She said many businesses were socially spacing people outside their premises because of Covid-19 and would need coverings, especially in the winter.
“I was speaking to a cafe owner who wanted to extend out onto the wide footpath outside to accommodate customers. He was horrified when I informed him that planning was required for a covering,” Ms Moynihan said.
The County Council presently has a waiver in place for street furniture because of the pandemic. However, Cllr Moynihan said it was up to the Department of the Environment to create an exemption for awnings and canopies.
“We need to get rid of this huge protocol,” she said.
Fine Gael Cllr Marie O'Sullivan, who owns a restaurant in Kinsale, said canopies and awnings were essential for the winter and suggested in her town that all the businesses who would require them should get together and buy similar ones.
“It's a great opportunity for our architects, heritage and planning departments to get together and advise on this. We have to put plans together for when people will have to queue in the bad weather,” Fianna Fáil Cllr Gillian Coughlan said.
Independent Cllr Marcia D'Alton said it was unfortunate that businesses had to apply for planning permission for the outdoor coverings, especially in light of the pandemic.
Mayor of County Cork, Independent Cllr Mary Linehan-Foley, agreed and said as few obstacles as possible should be put in the way of businesses as they struggle to get back on track.