GREATER Taree City Council has distributed a fact sheet that clarifies the responsibilities of private individuals and business wishing to use public land for private purposes.
This follows recent media reports about business owners objecting to council's policy.
Council's senior leader regulatory services, Bruce Moore said recent investigation by council has highlighted that a number of businesses have been using the footpath without appropriate approvals and contrary to the adopted policies of council.
"We have learnt over the past week that some businesses were not aware of their responsibilities to have approval for use of the public land so we have written to each local Chamber of Commerce, supplied a fact sheet and invited businesses to seek formal approval for their use of the public land," Mr?Moore said.
Council's policy applies to all businesses who use the footpath for private purposes including for display of advertising signage and outdoor dining. It is applicable throughout the entire local government area.
Mr Moore said council is endeavouring to give those business owners who do not have approval an opportunity to legitimise private use of the footpath with minimal interruption to their current business activities by allowing the business owner to enter into a temporary licence agreement with council.
Obtaining a temporary licence enables a business owner to continue to operate on the footpath, while giving additional time to gain formal approval for the activity.
If business owners do not take up the opportunity for temporary licence and formal approval is not obtained, business owners may be directed to remove items from the footpath.
"Business owners have questioned some of the principles in the policy, including the requirement to maintain a two metre clear thoroughfare in front of buildings for pedestrian access.
"While council is prepared to consider suitable arrangements for each circumstance as part of the application process, the current rules were developed with reference to Australian standards, the Disability Discrimination Act and the views of the Human Rights Commission."
Such policy is implemented by local government throughout Australia as a means of applying Federal legislation and standards.
"Council is also aware that concerns have been raised with regard to the costs associated with obtaining approval and entering into a licence agreement.
"While there are costs, we endeavour to keep total costs to a minimum and they are in fact, less than that charged by other comparable councils," Mr Moore said.
Registered charitable organisations are also eligible to apply for a waiver of fees associated with the approval process.
All such applications are assessed on merit.