Shopping Centre Christmas

As retailers across all segments look to recover from a month of lockdown, the government has confirmed that retailers will find it easier to extend their daily opening hours over December and January.

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has announced that local planning authorities should take a positive approach when engaging with retailers who wish to extend their opening hours and look to ease planning rules where possible.

According to the government, the move will help retailers to boost sales in the run-up to Christmas, as well as through January. In addition, it will enable stores to spread out the times shoppers can visit, helping reduce busy stores and risk of transmission.

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“None of us entirely enjoy navigating the crowds, especially now when social distancing is so important for controlling the pandemic. So with these changes, your local shops can open longer, ensuring more pleasant and safer shopping with less pressure on public transport,” commented Communities Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP.

“How long will be a choice for shopkeepers and at the discretion of the council. Councils should offer these hard-pressed entrepreneurs and businesses the greatest possible flexibility this festive season.”

Restrictions on retail opening times may be imposed by individual local authorities when they grant planning permission for individual stores. Typically, such conditions limit the opening hours that a business may trade, for example, from 9am to 7pm.

If a store wishes to operate outside these times, the company has to agree a separate arrangement in writing with the relevant local planning authority. In normal circumstances, a retailer would need to apply to remove or vary such a condition under section 73 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.

Acknowledging that this can be a lengthy process, taking several weeks or more, the government is advising local authorities to look at relaxing local restrictions for retailers.

Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: “With just over three weeks until Christmas, shoppers will welcome the additional opportunities to shop that the government’s statement supports. Such measures will give more flexibility for shoppers about when and how they shop and we’d encourage everyone to avoid peak times where possible, not leave it all to the last minute and follow all the safety guidelines.

“If councils suspect shops are not upholding the high Covid-secure standards set by the government since the beginning of the pandemic, they have the power to take action in order to keep the public safe.”

Paul Scully, Consumer Minister, added: “Extending opening hours for retailers across England will give people more choice about when they can shop, and businesses will have more time to serve their customers safely during the busy festive period.”

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