Belfast City Council drops extended Sunday trading plan

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By Michael McHugh

Belfast City Council has dropped plans to extend Sunday trading.

Councillors defeated moves for large shops to open all day in the city centre on up to 18 days a year.

Smaller traders welcomed the decision.

Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts said: "This would have given a further unfair competitive advantage to large supermarkets and disadvantaged local small shops, whose Sunday morning trade is vital for their survival.

"Furthermore, this vote puts down an important marker to the other 10 local councils not to consider relaxing Sunday trading through the back door of resort status."

The council was considering whether to designate the city centre as a holiday resort.

The label allows large shops in tourist areas to avail of the additional visitor trade over the summer months.

A range of areas and towns in Northern Ireland have been designated and remain as "holiday resorts" for this purpose including Londonderry, Newry, Kilkeel, Portrush, Portstewart and Ballycastle.

Paddy Lillis, Usdaw shopworkers' union deputy general secretary, said current Sunday trading arrangements were a fair compromise.

"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.

"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."

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