Usdaw and Retail NI urge Belfast City Council to drop plans to extend Sunday trading

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Shop workers’ trade union Usdaw and independent retailers’ organisation Retail NI have written to Belfast City Councillors calling on them to drop a proposal to extend Sunday trading hours.

The letter follows on from the City Council’s second consultation on their proposal to designate Belfast district as a holiday resort, which would allow large shops to extend their Sunday trading hours on up to 18 Sundays in any calendar year between 1 March and 30 September. The Strategic Policy and Resources Committee is considering the proposal on 20 April.

Usdaw general secretary John Hannett and Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts said: “Not only would the proposed change place extra pressure on retail workers, it would also have a damaging effect on small independent retailers [below 3000sq ft] who can trade for those vital few hours on a Sunday morning.

“Local independent retailers have seen a 71% hike in their rate bills following the last rates revaluation and continue to struggle to stay in business. This proposal will result in a number of local community independent retailers closing. These are retailers that provide an invaluable community service for many elderly, disabled and people without cars.

“Having been through this process just last year, with a decision taken not to move forward with the proposal, we believe that the key issues are well understood and that there is no evidence of a shift since then in either the mood amongst the public or retail workers, or in the needs of businesses, small or large.”

The two organisations again suggested a summit of all stakeholders to take a proper look at what Belfast offers to residents, visitors and tourists over the whole weekend.