Belfast Telegraph

Poll: Should Belfast shops be allowed longer opening hours on Sundays?

By Rebecca Black

Belfast City Council will hold a second public consultation over a proposal to designate the city as a holiday resort to allow shops longer opening hours on Sundays.

The issue has been a thorny one with mixed opinions among councillors and members of the public who responded to a previous public consultation.

Current Sunday trading rules in Northern Ireland allow small shops (with a floor area of up to 280 square metres) to choose their own opening hours, while large shops can only open between 1pm and 6pm.

The change in designation would allow the bigger shops to open for longer hours on 18 Sundays between March and September.

The council's Strategic Policy and Resources committee heard at a meeting last Friday that 62% of the 2,471 people and organisations who responded to a public consultation were in favour of the proposal. Some 38% were against.

In terms of whether the holiday resort proposal should apply to just the city centre or the wider area covered by Belfast City Council, some 75% indicated it should be the whole council area, while 15% felt it should only apply to the city centre.

And when asked whether they believed Belfast would be more attractive to tourists and as a shopping destination if restrictions on Sunday trading laws were removed, 81% agreed, while 15% disagreed.

Following the conclusion of the first public consultation last May, councillors voted 12-3 against the designation.

Although the additional opening hours would be optional for shops, some expressed concern, saying they feared feeling pressurised to open longer, a Belfast City Council committee has heard.

Supporters of the move argue shops should have the option for longer opening hours, particularly during the summer months when there are more tourists in the city.

The Strategic Policy and Resources Committee approved holding a further public consultation over attitudes to Sunday trading in the city and test opinion on designing Belfast as a holiday resort.

The new consultation will last for six weeks and will be viewed as a supplementary exercise to the formal consultation which ended last May.

If, at the end of the second consultation, councillors vote to designate Belfast as a holiday resort, the decision will be subjected to a full review.

Belfast Telegraph

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