Extension of Sunday trading hours for large shops in Belfast - Supplementary consultation

Closes 2 Apr 2018

Opened 19 Feb 2018


We’re consulting on a proposal to designate Belfast as a ‘holiday resort’ under Article 6 of the Shops (Sunday Trading &c.) (Northern Ireland) Order 1997. 

This 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 (excluding Easter Sunday).   

We’re not reviewing any existing laws. We’re simply exploring whether or not to designate the council area as a holiday resort under existing legislation.  We want to find out if this is likely to benefit the local economy and the tourism industry in particular. 

Several towns in Northern Ireland have already been designated as holiday resorts including Derry-Londonderry, Newry, Kilkeel, Portrush, Portstewart and Ballycastle.

We consulted widely on this issue last year, including a period of pre-consultation engagement with key city stakeholders followed by a formal public consultation for a further 8 weeks.  We have decided to undertake an additional 6-week supplementary consultation to record the public’s current attitudes towards Sunday Trading and to allow consultees to further contribute to the existing evidence base.

Your feedback will help us understand people’s views and the impact that extended opening will have on residents, businesses and shop workers.  This will help us decide if we should designate Belfast as a holiday resort in the future.

In addition to seeking your views on extending Sunday trading, we are also seeking feedback on the related draft Equality Screening.  To provide your views, please click on the relevant link at the bottom of this page.

Why We Are Consulting

What does the current law state?

Larger shops (those with more than 280 square metres of retail floor space; approximately equivalent to a full sized tennis court) are only allowed to open for a maximum of five hours on Sundays between 1pm and 6pm (except for Easter Sunday or when a Christmas Day falls on a Sunday).  Smaller shops can open all day on a Sunday.

The principle of additional Sunday opening hours for large shops in support of tourism was established under the Shops (Sunday Trading &c.) (Northern Ireland) Order 1997 and Schedule 2 of the Order deals with the rights of shop workers with respect to Sunday working. 

What would designating Belfast as a holiday resort mean?

The law states that councils may designate any area within its district as a holiday resort.  This allows large shops within that area to extend their Sunday trading hours on up to 18 Sundays in any calendar year between 1 March and 30 September (excluding Easter Sunday).   

Within the designated dates the council has no power to determine which Sundays a large shop may open, nor their opening or closing times – that is down to individual shops.

Further information on the law under Article 6 of the Shops (Sunday Trading &c.) (Northern Ireland) Order 1997 is available on the legislation.gov.uk website.

In addition, under the law a ‘holiday resort’ designation:

  • gives district councils powers to prevent undue annoyance to local residents from deliveries to certain large shores early on Sunday mornings,
  • removes the 1946 Act’s restrictions on the goods which may be sold in shops on Sunday,
  • provides employment protection measures for shop employees in relation to Sunday working, and
  • requires the council to keep a register of the larger shops in its district making use of the exemption.  The register must be available to the public at all reasonable times.

Any designation as a holiday resort must be done by resolution of the council. Before making a designation the council must:

  • consult persons likely to be affected by the proposed designation,
  • publish notice of any such designation in such manner as it deems appropriate.

To make use of the exemption, the occupier or proposed occupier of a large store must notify the local district council of the dates of the Sundays involved.  The notification does not take effect until 14 days from the date it is given, unless the council agrees that it should come into effect earlier.

You can share your views by completing the online questionnaire using the link below before 2 April 2018.  Alternatively, we can provide the questionnaire in other formats upon request. 

Give Us Your Views


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