Council to debate extension of Sunday trading hours in Belfast

Councillors will today debate proposals on the extension of Sunday opening hours in Belfast
Gareth McKeown

Belfast City Council will today discuss the prospect of extending Sunday trading hours between March and October.

A report will be presented to the strategic policy and resources committee outlining the case for a review of limits in place since 1997.

Council officials have been lobbied by Belfast Chamber of Commerce, who believe a change could boost the local economy, benefit the tourism industry and support regeneration of the city centre.

Current legislation in Northern Ireland allows Sunday trading between 1pm to 6pm, but district councils are also able to designate areas as a 'holiday resort' to allow large shops to open at any time on up to 18 Sundays between March 1 and September 30.

Portrush, Portstewart, Ballycastle, Newry and Kilkeel are all designated as 'holiday resorts', while back in 1998 the former Derry City Council designated the entire district area.

Ulster Unionist councillor Jim Rodgers said he had an "open mind" about extending opening hours.

"I have found that Belfast dies at 4pm on a Sunday, but I have an open mind on it. I'm not so sure whether having the increased hours is really the answer to all the problems in relation to retailing," he said.

Belfast City Council has said any proposal to designate the district as a holiday resort would be "subject to consultation with such persons as may be affected by the designation".

It is proposed at today's meeting that members grant permission for officers to proceed to an initial consultation by public notice, before a formal proposal is brought back to committee.

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