A “FAST-TRACK” licensing system has been set up by BCP Council for businesses looking to expand into outdoor service as lockdown measures are eased.

Prime minister Boris Johnson announced on Monday that restaurants and pubs will be able to serve customers outside “no earlier than April 12” as part of his “roadmap” for ending the lockdown.

BCP Council said its 14-day licensing system would allow businesses to be ready ahead of this date, saying the next 12 months was “a year of opportunity”.

Speaking in the House of Commons on Monday, Mr Johnson said the reopening of restaurants and pubs for outside-only service would be in the second stage of the government’s plan for easing lockdown restrictions.

This, he said, would come into force on April 12 at the earliest.

Ahead of this date, cafés, restaurants and bars looking to set up outdoor seating areas will be able to secure a pavement licence under a new fast-track application system.

The council said it had set up “an enhanced team” to consider businesses’ submissions with a pledge to reach a decision within 14 days.

“We are determined to do whatever it takes to give our high street businesses the fastest bounce back possible,” cabinet member for economy, councillor Phil Broadhead said.

He said the council was aiming to create a “café and street culture” that would support the economic recovery.

“It's the people, the food, the entertainment, the sense of togetherness that provides that hustle and bustle making us want to return again and again,” he added. “By giving our businesses the opportunity to use the space outside their premises we can bring about a quicker bounce back for our local economy, as well as boost that desirable cafe culture across our area.”

The new fast-track system has been brought in by the council under emergency powers granted to local authorities to speed up the process for granting the permissions needed for businesses to operate outdoors.

More than 100 licences have already been issued in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole.