Belfast Sunday trading hours plan rejected by council

Belfast's Sunday trading hours will not be extended 
Belfast's Sunday trading hours will not be extended 

Plans to extend Sunday trading hours in Belfast have been rejected by a city council vote.

A proposal to designate the city as a 'holiday resort' would have meant large shops could have opened longer on 18 Sundays between March and September.

This morning a council committee voted 12-3 against the holiday designation. The DUP, Sinn Féin and the SDLP all opposed the plans.

A public consultation found that 60% of over 2,000 responses are in favour of the change.

Independent retailers and shop workers had expressed their opposition to the plans, with a protest held outside city hall this morning.

Current law states that shops over three thousand square feet can only open from 1pm.

Deputy general secretary of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers Paddy Lillis said the current trading arrangements were a "fair compromise".

“Our members in large stores remain absolutely opposed to extended Sunday trading. The number one reason for their opposition is the detrimental effect this would have on their family life. They cite real concerns about the additional pressure they would come under to work on Sundays if shops are open longer."

Gordon McElroy, president of Belfast Chamber of Trade and Commerce, said he was disappointed.

"The chamber represents the entire business community of Belfast - from small independent retailers, coffee shops, bars and restaurants to large multi-nationals - and with their absolute best interests at heart, we believe that extended Sunday trading would positively benefit trade in the city, which would have a cumulative effect across the whole of Northern Ireland.

"The chamber will continue to lobby for Belfast to be designated a holiday resort, which we believe will not only help attract additional visitors to the city, but provide life and vitality to our city for those who currently visit but are frustrated by the lack of business and attractions which are open on Sundays before 1pm."