May 25, 2016

Government plans to devolve Sunday trading hours decisions to local councils

The current legislation permits:

  • Large stores (those with a net retail sales area of more than 280 square metres) to trade for only six hours between 10:00 and 18:00 on Sundays.
  • Smaller stores (less than 280 square metres) can open when they like.
  • Exceptions: some larger retailers, including motorway service stations, airport and railway outlets, farms selling their own produce and pharmacies selling only medicinal products and appliances.

How will this affect retail businesses and the use of their property?

Planning conditions

For many retail businesses Sunday trading hours are regulated by a planning condition. Any retail businesses that may want to extend their Sunday trading hours should check the planning conditions that affect their property. A retail business can vary or remove a planning condition by applying to the local council.

Retailers may want to start identifying stores with restricted Sunday trading hours by planning conditions so they can prepare any applications once the new legislation is in place.

Leasehold conditions

Many retail businesses are also tenants and so are bound by the terms of their lease. Such retail businesses need to consider whether their lease will be impacted by any changes to Sunday trading.

Many retail leases contain keep open clauses, requiring tenants to be open when legally possible. An extension to Sunday trading hours may require retail businesses to remain open under the lease.

Alternatively, a lease might restrict trading hours and therefore prevent a retail business from taking advantage of Sunday trading. Early thought ought to be given to any negotiations with the landlord to solve any issues that extended Sunday trading hours and a lease may create.

Businesses based in shopping centres or trading estates may be subject to additional costs imposed by the landlord as a consequence of increased services on a Sunday.


Premises licences for the sale of alcohol, gambling or entertainment are usually restricted to specific hours each day. For retail businesses licensed hours often are the same as their opening hours. If the opening hours are extended, any licenced activity during the extended hours may be a breach of the premises licence. Any such breach could lead to a review and possible revocation of the premises licence by the Local Licensing Authority.

Retail businesses that wish to extend their Sunday trading hours should apply to the Local Licensing Authority to vary the premises licence. An application may be refused and a retail business may not be able to carry out licenced activities during extended opening hours.

In short any retail business that is looking to take advantage of, or is affected by the proposed extension to Sunday trading hours ought to think ahead and take action as soon as possible.

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