GOVERNMENT measures to allow pubs and restaurants to operate as hot food takeaways to serve people having to stay at home during the coronavirus outbreak have been welcomed.

Communities secretary Robert Jenrick will legislate to relaxation of planning rules for a limited period as soon as possible.

Now planning permission is required for businesses to operate as takeaways or to add a carry-out or delivery service to meals on the premises.

The move has been welcomed by Tony Duckworth, president of Blackburn and District Chamber of Trade and East Lancashire politicians across the political spectrum.

The measures will apply to hot food and drinks. The serving of alcoholic drinks will continue to be subject to existing licensing laws.

Cllr Jim Smith, Blackburn with Darwen Council's environmental health boss, said: "This will help both businesses and people who have to stay at home.

"There will be people who can't get out to the supermarket this will really help. The food can be left on their doorsteps.

"I cannot see any environmental health risks if it's not for the long term."

Mr Duckworth said: "I think it will assist businesses, particularly small ones through a very difficult time. It will also help those people self-isolating or staying at home.

"It means people can still support their favourite pubs and restaurants through this crisis. It will enable them to keep in some contact while isolating."

Cllr John Slater, leader of Blackburn with Darwen Council Conservative group, said: "This is a good move. It will help these businesses keep going and those who cannot get out.

"It's another example of the government help people get through this crisis."

Hyndburn council leader Cllr Miles Parkinson said: "It's a sensible move. We've all got to pull together and this will help the businesses and the elderly and vulnerable staying at home to get food.

"Steps can be taken about people keeping their distance when collecting food and delivery drivers can leave the takeaways on people's doorsteps."

Cllr Charlie Briggs, leader of Burnley Council, said: "It's a tremendous idea. It'll really make a difference to the businesses and their customers staying at home.

"People need food and pubs and restaurants need trade."

Mr Jenrick said: "We are committed to doing everything we can to tackle the pandemic and support people, businesses and communities through this difficult time.

"These changes will provide vital flexibility to pubs and restaurants and will ensure people are able to safely stay at home while still supporting some of the great local businesses across this country.

"The relaxations to planning rules will be put in place as soon as possible to provide reassurance to businesses and enable them to start providing takeaways to people quickly."

Businesses will be required to tell the local planning authority when the new use begins and ends.The new regulations will last for 12 months initially.