COVID-19: Shops to open 24 hours a day to boost high street pandemic recovery
Shops will be given permission to trade 24 hours a day over Christmas as the high street tries to recover some of the losses suffered during the pandemic, a cabinet minister has said.
Retailers normally have to go through a lengthy and time-consuming process to apply to local authorities under the Town and Country Planning Act if they wish to extend hours outside the window of 9am to 7pm.
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said he wanted to remove the bureaucracy to encourage greater trade – allowing shops to open round the clock in December and January.
Writing in the Daily Telegraph, he said: “With these changes local shops can open longer, ensuring more pleasant and safer shopping with less pressure on public transport.
“How long will be a matter of choice for the shopkeepers and at the discretion of the council, but I suggest we offer these hard-pressed entrepreneurs and businesses the greatest possible flexibility this festive season.
“As local government secretary I am relaxing planning restrictions and issuing an unambiguous request to councils to allow businesses to welcome us into their glowing stores late into the evening and beyond.”
It comes after Mr Jenrick suggested some areas could be moved into a lower tier when the first 14-day review of the latest system of tiered local controls takes place in mid-December.
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A record number of shops closed during the first half of 2020 due to the coronavirus lockdown, according to research from the Local Data Company and accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).
A total of 11,000 chain operator outlets shut between January and August this year, while around 5,000 shops opened, leaving a net decline of 6,000 stores, almost double the drop during the same period last year.
Sir Philip Green’s struggling Arcadia Group, which runs the Topshop, Dorothy Perkins and Burton brands, has been revealed to be on the brink of collapse with around 15,000 jobs at risk.
Opening hours could be extended as shop workers have told how they have faced abuse and threats during the pandemic.
They have shared their stories in a new video as part of the Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner’s #KeepingChristmasKind campaign.
Sammie, 32, has worked for the Co-op for 13 years and says violence and anti-social behaviour have spiked during the year of COVID-19.
She said: “Some shoppers seem to blame us, the shop worker, and take it out on us if they have to follow government guidance and social distance.
“We never know when they are going to lash out at us – and it takes a mental toll on us. It impacts your home-life and mental well-being.”
As part of the campaign, stores are being helped to automatically forward all logs of abuse and assaults to police so that the scale of the problem can be measured better.
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