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Calls for longer hours spark row over Sunday trading

New West End Company proposed lifting restrictions during ‘recovery phase’ to boost businesses hit by virus lockdown

10 April, 2020 — By Tom Foot

CALLS to extend Sunday trading hours in the West End have been strongly criticised by the Marylebone Association.

Its chairman Michael Bolt said there was “absolutely no necessity” for any shops to open beyond the six-hour maximum.

The New West End Company had proposed lifting the restrictions in the Sunday Trading Act 1994 that mean larger stores can only trade for a maximum of six hours.

NWEC, which represents businesses in the West End, says the move would help the “vulnerable” while also giving a boost to businesses during a “recovery phase” post-lockdown.

Mr Bolt said: “To put it simply, we have here a proposal that West End residents don’t want or need and that the majority of West End retailers are unlikely to benefit from.”

He added: “Our member groups do much to represent the vulnerable and other residents in the West End and we can assure the NWEC that, as far as they are concerned, there is absolutely no necessity for shops to be open on Sundays for any longer than they already are.

“We know that the NWEC has long been unhappy with the present six hours allowed for Sunday shopping. It is, however, not right to be seeking an extension of trading hours in the middle of this crisis by claiming that this is what those living in the West End, vulnerable or otherwise, want – either now or when normality returns.”

Businesses are concerned about a huge financial impact of the coronavirus lockdown. Many smaller businesses are expected to go bust and it is thought there will be a recession similar to, if not worse, than that which followed the banking crash of 2008.

Sunday trading restrictions were last suspended for eight weekends during the 2012 Olympics.

Jace Tyrrell, the chief executive of the NWEC, told the Evening Standard: “We definitely need longer trading on Sundays in this period so that the most number of people possible can get into supermarkets.

“Even in central London, in the West End and Mayfair, there are lots of vulnerable people who don’t find it easy to get hold of food. This would help.

“But it is equally important for the recovery phase. We will need it all the more then. It’s going to be desperately needed for all retailers when they get up and running again.”

• The Marylebone Association has set up a Marylebone Covid-19 Help Group that has links with GP surgeries, Age UK and more than 70 volunteers who have been delivering and collecting food and medicine.

The group also has three psychiatrists offering free talking therapies; 5,000 flyers about the group have been distributed to homes around Marylebone.

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