Belfast council blocks bid to extend Sunday trading
Belfast City Council has emphatically rejected plans to extend Sunday opening hours in the city.
Last night, a 42-13 majority endorsed the recommendation of City Hall's Strategic Policy & Resources Committee not to proceed with plans to designate Belfast as a "holiday resort" - a move that would have allowed shops to open for longer on a Sunday.
Paddy Lillis, General Secretary Elect of shopworkers union Usdaw, said: "Our members are delighted that city councillors have again rejected extended Sunday trading.
"We said at the beginning of this campaign that nothing had changed since last year and that proved to be the case.
"We do not believe that revisiting this question so soon has been a useful exercise and we hope that the city council will now view tonight's decision as a final settlement.
"Longer Sunday trading hours are not wanted by the vast majority of shop workers and would be a threat to the profitability, productivity and viability of many retail businesses." Mr Lillis said his union was pleased that city councillors had listened to and acted on his members' concerns about the negative impacts extended Sunday trading hours would have had on Belfast shop workers.
"The current Sunday trading arrangements are a fair compromise, which has worked well for over 20 years, and gives everyone a little bit of what they want," he commented.
"Retailers can trade, customers can shop, staff can work, while Sunday remains a special day, different to other days, and shop workers can spend some time with their family."
The council had twice consulted on the proposal in a year.
Mr Lillis said he hoped last night's substantial majority decision would finally put an end to the debate
He added: "We are more than happy to work with the city council and all stakeholders in a positive way to help improve the offer Belfast has for visitors, tourists and residents, but we do not expect them to return to the Sunday trading issue again."
The plan to liberalise Sunday trading had been brought forward by Alliance councillor Kate Nicholl.
She said last night that the council's decision represented a "missed opportunity" for Belfast.
"Many Sunday mornings I have come across tourists walking around Belfast city centre, confused as to why everywhere except St George's Market is closed," said Ms Nicholl.
"Councillors rejecting the chance to liberalise the Sunday opening hours for 18 days a year is a missed opportunity - and it was disappointing to see that repeated tonight.
"The idea would not only help regenerate the city centre and be important for the local economy but also create the positive, cosmopolitan image we want to project for Belfast.
"This is a missed opportunity for Belfast but it is not one Alliance will give up on," she added.