PUBLIC spaces which could be used by nearby bars and restaurants as outdoor venues should be given to them to help these businesses get back to work, says East Lothian councillor Craig Hoy.

The Haddington and Lammermuir councillor is calling on the local authority to act to support the county’s valuable hospitality trade.

And he has approached East Lothian Council’s chief executive with a range of plans which he says would allow businesses to open early.

Among them are identifying public areas that bars, cafes and restaurants could use to welcome customers outdoors; fast-tracking licence applications; and opening the council car park to the public to make up for loss of town centre parking affected by outdoor serveries.

Mr Hoy said he hoped the council would support a package of measures he has outlined which also include the local authority looking at loaning businesses tables, chairs and marquees to use outside.

He also wants to see community funding which may have been used to support galas and other local events which have since been cancelled  to be diverted to help the hospitality trade as it adapts to outdoor services.

Mr Hoy said: “Many of our pubs, restaurants and cafes face unprecedented challenges and some bodies predict a significant number of closures in the coming months.

“While the system of grants and the furlough will help these operators through the period of lockdown, their future survival rests on them being able to get back to business, even if this is markedly different in nature to what has gone before.”

He suggests the council looks at ways it could support café, bar and restaurant owners by “identifying public areas adjacent or close to their premises which could be used to provide outside space for business operation”.

As well as asking for support identifying funding sources for business to make the changes needed and speeding up licensing red tape, he calls for the council’s maintenance teams to be tasked with repairing roads and areas which need minor work to allow them to be used.

He also points to several places in his home ward where conversion would be simple.

He said: “I’m aware that many of the these measures may already be under active consideration. And while I do not want to distract attention from the emergency response, given that some measures may take longer than others to implement, I would welcome the early opportunity to discuss these plans further with colleagues and officers.

“Councillors could clearly assist in identifying businesses and areas where outside use could be developed.

“For example, in Haddington the area outside of the Corn Exchange, the area to the front of the Waterside Bistro, the area outside of the former George Hotel and the area outside the Poldrate Centre, and the neighbouring riverside grassed area, could all be developed in this way, while ensuring hours of operation do not negatively impact local residents.”

Mr Hoy, who is the Conservatives'  East Lothian candidate for next year's Holyrood elections, said the Covid-19 crisis had forced the county’s residents to adapt to new ways of living.

He has launched an online consultation urging residents and businesses across East Lothian to get involved and share their views on how the county moves forward.

The survey and details of his proposals can be found at

An East Lothian Council spokesperson said: "As part of our crisis response and early steps towards recovery, the council is working with a range of stakeholders to ensure that local businesses can open as soon as Scottish Government guidance permits.

"If supported, our application to Scottish Government for ‘Spaces for People’ grant funding will provide opportunities for safer access to and within our town centres in line with continued physical distancing advice and, across the council, support and advice will be available to help stimulate the local economy during the recovery phase."