Challenging the law

Ahead of the election and Easter Sunday, gardening trade representative bodies are upping their campaign to lobby for an exemption for garden centres from the Sunday Trading Act.

Garden Centre
Gardening trade bodies want the law changed so garden centres can trade on Easter Sunday.
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The Sunday Trading Act bans Sunday trading on Easter Sunday and restricts it for the rest of the year too. The rise of internet and TV shopping has left the 1994 law ‘not fit for purpose’, say gardening trade representatives.

Garden Centre Association chairman Will Armitage, who represents 200 UK garden centres, said: “We are missing out on the opportunity and online shopping is certainly an inconsistency.

“You can go online and buy as many products as you like and some courier companies will even deliver them to your house on Easter Sunday, but you can’t go to your local garden centre and buy anything. You can even click and collect from your local depot – but not the garden centre. The law is not fit for purpose.

“All we call for is a level playing field with everyone either open or closed. That can’t happen at the moment because of the rules and regulations. It depends on the size of your garden centre and some local authorities allow you to open your restaurant in the garden centre and some won’t. There’s inconsistency in the way the law is interpreted in different regions.

“It’s not about one garden centre competing with another but about other leisure activities being allowed to open on Sundays but garden centres not being able to.”

Horticultural Trades Association horticulture head Raoul Curtis-Machin said: “Sunday Trading progress has slowed a little, after a somewhat lacklustre debate in the House of Lords on a possible exemption for garden centres from The Sunday Trading Act. Many of the arguments which were used 20 years ago were put forward, and very little recognition of changes in British society and working patterns. Neither was there any recognition of modern influences on the retail world such as the internet. We shall continue with our efforts however.”

Industry groups have employed lobbying companies to influence MPs to try and change the law – but some object for religious reasons, while others want workers’ rights protected.

Sunday Trading Act 1994

Shops in England and Wales over 280 square metres covered space cannot open on Sundays for more than six consecutive hours between 10am and 6pm and must close on Easter Sunday and Christmas Day.

Exemptions are for airport and railway station outlets, service station outlets, registered pharmacies, farms selling mainly their own produce, outlets wholly or mainly selling motor or bicycle supplies, suppliers of goods to aircraft or sea-going vessels on arrival at, or departure from, a port, harbour or airport and exhibition stands selling goods. Read more about the Sunday Trading Act 1994.

Matt Appleby

About Matt Appleby

Matt is a former teacher turned journalist. He took up writing while in New Zealand and trained as a journalist there. He has since written five books (three on cricket and two on gardening) with The Children's Garden due out in spring 2016 published by Frances Lincoln. He writes for Horticulture Week and other publications. Married with two boys, aged 3 and 6 he lives in London.
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