News

Council urged to reject proposal to extend Sunday trading hours

Thursday, 20 July 2017

DERRY City and Strabane District Council (DCSDC) have been urged to reject a proposal to designate the district as a holiday resort which would in turn see the extension of shopping hours on a Sunday.

The proposal was discussed at a recent meeting of the authority's Health and Communities Committee meeting wherein councillors were asked to consider designating the DCSDC area or specific parts of the Council area as a holiday resort under Article 6 of the Shops (Sunday Trading & c) (Northern Ireland) Order 1997.

The provisions allows for large shops - with a relevant floor area of more than 280 square metres - to open at any time between 1pm and 6pm on Sundays other than Easter Sunday or when Christmas Day falls on a Sunday.

The legislation also allows district councils to designate any area in its district as a holiday resort.

"In such designated areas large shops may open at any time on Sunday on up to 18 Sundays - other than Easter Sunday - between March 1 and September 30 in any calendar year," a report circulated to members explained.

The former Derry City Council designated its entire area as a holiday resort in 1998. Council says it has previously received notifications in 2016 and 2017 from several large stores that have outlets in both the city and Strabane town centre.

Councillors were also told that a public consultation process was carried out and public notices placed in local newspapers and on the council's website but with no comments received.

A decision on the proposal was subsequently postponed to allow members to receive representations from trade union representatives.

Councillors received a presentation from officials of the Union of Shop, Distribution and Allied Workers (Usdaw) earlier this month who urged councillors to vote against the proposal.

 

They warned councillors that giving the proposal the green light could potentially have an adverse impact on retail workers.

Shopworkers' trade union leader, John Hannett, who is also Usdaw general secretary, said the union and its members are "absolutely opposed" to the idea.

He added that there is no benefit of extending opening hours because it does not mean profit or create more jobs.

Speaking to the Strabane Weekly News after the deputation presented their argument to councillors, he said: "Our members in large stores remain absolutely opposed to extended Sunday trading, after a member survey came out 6:1 against.

"Crucially, even the supporters of extended Sunday opening hours have not been able to show it will lead to economic benefits or job creation. Longer opening hours do not mean people have more money to spend, so large stores have higher opening costs, but similar takings.

"The current Sunday trading arrangements are a fair compromise, which has worked well for 20 years, and gives everyone a little bit of what they want. Retailers can trade, customers can shop, staff can work; whilst Sunday remains a special day, different to other days, and shopworkers can spend some time with their family.

"Sundays would lose a lot of what makes them special and we do not believe that Derry City and Strabane Council should pass their proposal to use a 'holiday resorts' loophole to extend shop trading hours."

Belfast City Council has already voted to reject a similar proposal for its area. A decision on the proposal is expected to be made at tomorrow's (Thursday) full monthly meeting of council which is being held in the Guidhall.

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