Page last updated at 11:00 GMT, Tuesday, 6 October 2009 12:00 UK

New rules govern city street life

By Barra Best
BBC Newsline

women having a cuppa outside dafe
The sight of on street furniture is increasing

New laws are being drawn up to oversee Northern Ireland's growing outdoor cafe culture.

Enjoying food and drink al fresco is a sight becoming much more common.

But despite the apparent popularity, tables and chairs on the pavement are not exactly legal.

Currently there is no legislation to allow businesses to operate on the street, and some have even had their furniture removed.

Now government departments are working to put proper legislation in place.

Until then, businesses are being encouraged to sign up to new draft guidelines.

"It's very practical, and any well run cafe will not have an issue with any of this," Andrew Irvine from Belfast city centre management said.

"It's about, for example, maintaining 1.5m of access for people using wheelchairs so that they're able to get past the area."

  • Minimum footway of 1.5m around seating area
  • No advertising boards in addition to seating area
  • No permanent fixtures on pavement
  • Disability access at all times
  • No glass or glass bottles after 2100
  • Chewing gum and cigarette butts must be cleaned up by businesses
  • Although the guidelines have not yet been officially signed off, they have been welcomed by some businesses in the city centre.

    "Provided they do not encourage extra costs, because today obviously with the economy we want things to help the business rather than hinder the business, but on the whole I would broadly welcome it," said Sean Murray, who owns the Fountain Tavern in the city.

    "That would give uniformity to all the outdoor seating areas in Belfast."

    The measures outlined, which guarantee disabled access at all times and prohibit additional signage on footpaths, are being welcomed by disability groups such as the Royal National Institute of the Blind.

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