High Street shops may be given the right to stay open longer on Sundays while restrictions for out-of-town centres remain in place, according to new plans to be proposed by ministers today.
Local authorities are to be given the power to divide their regions into zones and vary trading hours according to the needs of local people.
Ministers hope this will help high streets fight off competition from mega-stores.
A consultation paper, published today, says: “A local leader could choose to allow longer Sunday trading in those specific localities where they want to grow their economy or attract more shopper footfall in support of their economic development strategies.”
The Local Government minister is also expected to challenge the Church of England to support the plans.
Plans to relax the rules were initially laid down in the Chancellor’s Budget earlier this year. Currently, stores larger than 3,000sqft can only remain open for six hours on Sundays, whereas smaller stores can remain open all day.
The Department for Business predicts that longer opening hours could result in benefits equivalent to £1.4bn per year. However, Labour politicians oppose the changes, arguing longer opening hours will disrupt the work-rest balance of employees.