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Mobile catering trailers: A planning permission guide

Starting a mobile catering business can be a rewarding venture, but it's crucial to understand the legal requirements before you begin. Do you need planning permission for a mobile catering trailer? Planning permission largely depends on local council regulations and whether you are trading on private or public land.

Mobile catering businesses

Mobile catering businesses are flourishing in the UK. From food trucks to pop-up stands, these operations offer a flexible alternative to traditional brick-and-mortar establishments. However, like any business, mobile catering operations must comply with a variety of regulations, including licensing, health and safety, and in some cases, planning permission.

What is planning permission?

Planning permission is the consent of your local authority on a proposed building project. It's designed to prevent inappropriate development. The need for planning permission for a mobile catering trailer largely depends on several factors including the location of the operation, the size of the trailer, and whether the trailer will be a permanent installation on the site.

Trading on Private Land

If you're operating on private land, the need for planning permission can vary. If the landowner has given you permission to trade and your trailer isn't a permanent fixture, you may not need planning permission. However, if the local council deems your operation as a 'change of use' for the land, you may be required to apply for planning permission.

As an example, if you're operating in a car park of a shop, even if you have permission from the shop owner, the council may require you to seek planning permission if they view this as a change of use for the land.

Trading on Public Land

If you're operating on public land, you'll likely need a street trading licence from your local council. This isn't the same as planning permission, but it's an important requirement for trading in public spaces.

Considerations for parking and storage

Operating hot dog mobile catering trailer

Where the trailer is parked or stored can also impact the need for planning permission. If storing the trailer at a home address leads to a 'change of use' for the property, planning permission may be required. The same rule applies if you regularly trade on privately-owned land.

Other permissions required

In addition to planning permission, other permissions may be required depending on where you plan to trade. For example, you may need consent from the Highways Department if you're planning to pitch your van or trailer on a public highway. Make your mobile catering trailer have the best chance to be successful by understanding the necessary permissions required to get started.

Obstructions and nuisances

It's also important to consider whether your location could cause an obstruction or nuisance. For example, your customers' parked cars could cause an issue. In such cases, you may be asked to move elsewhere.

Role of local councils

Local councils play a significant role in determining whether planning permission is needed. The regulations can vary greatly from one council to another, so it's always advisable to check with your local council for the most accurate information.

Some councils may have rules extending street trading regulations to private land. Therefore, it's essential to seek advice from your local council to confirm the requirements for your specific situation.

Final thoughts

In summary, whether planning permission is required for a mobile catering trailer largely depends on local council regulations, the location of the operation, and the permanence of the trailer. Advice from the local council, as well as from a solicitor specialised in UK property law, can provide valuable guidance in navigating these regulations.

Remember, it's important to adhere to all regulations and requirements to ensure the success of your mobile catering business. Not only will it keep your business legal, but it also shows your commitment to providing a safe and high-quality service to your customers.

Frequently asked questions

What other types of mobile catering insurance do I need?

Once your trailer is covered, take a look at our other catering insurance products to find out if there are others that might be useful for your catering business.

For example, if someone’s property is damaged or a customer is injured as a result of your business activities, you could be facing a legal claim for compensation. This could hit your reputation as well as your bottom line.

Speak to the team at Mobilers about adding some of the following protection to your policy:

  • Public liability insurancePublic liability insurance covers potential compensation claims that can arise from injuries or damage to the public and property caused by the day-to-day activities of your catering business. Most councils and event organisers require you to have public liability insurance before you can trade.
  • Employers liability insurance – Employers liability insurance is a legal requirement that all businesses must have to protect their employees. If an employee suffers an injury or illness as a result of their job, then this insurance will provide you with protection.
  • Product liability insurance – Product liability insurance covers you and your business against any legal claims of injury or damage, whether you’re involved in the production, sale or delivery of a food product.

What health and safety regulations do I need to follow?

Regardless of whether planning permission is required, all mobile catering businesses must comply with health and safety regulations. This includes registration with the local authority, regular inspections for food safety, and adherence to trading standards.

In addition, mobile food businesses are required to have a documented food safety management system in place. This document outlines potential food safety hazards and the controls implemented to prevent them.

Is training in food hygiene required to start a mobile catering unit?

Most food businesses are required to have formal training in food hygiene and follow food safety legislation. This training is crucial to ensure the safe handling of food, and the level of training required can depend on the nature of the business and the type of food being handled.

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