Belfast Telegraph

Extension to Belfast Sunday trading hours rejected by council

By Andrew Madden, Local Democracy Reporter

A move to extend Sunday trading hours in Belfast has been rejected by a council committee.

On Friday morning, Belfast City Council’s Strategic Policy and Resources Committee voted 16 to four against designating the city as a “holiday resort”, thus allowing large shops to extend their hours on 18 Sundays each year.

Last month the the committee decided to organise a weekend summit of all stakeholders in a bid to break the deadlock, after a decision on the issue was deferred twice in as many weeks.

In the last 12 months there has been one committee vote and two public consultations on the topic.

Combining the two consultations, there is a slight majority (52.8%) in favour of extending Sunday trading hours for large shops.

Retail NI and USDAW are firmly against extending the Sunday trading hours in Belfast, feeling it would unfair to smaller shops and workers.

Others, including Hospitality Ulster and Visit Belfast, are in favour.

At Friday morning’s meeting, Sinn Fein council group leader Deirdre Hargey proposed the committee not accede to the request to extend the Sunday trading hours and the proposal was carried 11 votes to four.

Both Councillor Hargey and SDLP group leader Tim Attwood said they had not seen enough evidence of the benefits of extending the hours.

Alliance councillors Emmet McDonagh Brown and Sian O’Neill, alongside PUP representative Billy Hutchinson and Independent councillor Patrick Convery voted to extend the trading hours.

Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts Retail NI Chief Executive Glyn Roberts said rejecting the plans was the “right decision” and allowing it to go ahead would have resulted in many smaller retailers shutting their doors.

“Local independent retailers have seen a 71% hike in their rate bills following the last rate revaluation and continue to struggle to stay in business,” he said.

“This proposal would have resulted in a number of local community independent retailers closing. These are retailers who provide an invaluable community service for many elderly, disabled and people without cars.

“We now need to focus on moving forward and agree a broader strategy to grow the weekend economy of Belfast. Retail NI is committed to seeing Belfast becoming a truly global city with a competitive retail and hospitality offer to shoppers and tourists”

Retail NI has tabled proposals for a Small Shop Sunday campaign to encourage shoppers and tourists to support the city’s smaller retailers on a Sunday morning between 11am to 1pm, allowing large retailers to continue to trade from 1pm onwards.

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