Shops can stay open for longer in run-up to Christmas to help the high street, says minister –

Mr Jenrick 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. 

“Therefore 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 if wish. 

“And those stores and supermarkets will be able to replenish their shelves whenever they wish, with flexible deliveries to keep the streets free for the rest of us when we are out and about.

“In a year when Government has necessarily interjected into our lives in ways none of us who value individual liberty would ever have imagined, these changes remind us that we can and must seek every way to reduce the burden of bureaucracy and free our small businesspeople to get on with earning a living and serving the public.”

Nearly 125,000 retail jobs have been lost in the UK in the first eight months of this year, according to a fresh estimate, as major chains including Debenhams, Marks & Spencer joined independents in shutting stores.

As many as 13,867 shops have closed permanently, including thousands of small stores employing 32,598, the Centre for Retail Research (CRR) said.

Another report from the Fabian Society’s retail taskforce suggested the changes accelerated by the pandemic could lead to more than one million job losses.

Mr Jenrick cited the observation of one shopkeeper felt the twin threats of the pandemic and “unstoppable rise of internet shopping” were bigger than any the industry had faced in centuries.

It was one of the reasons why non-essential retail was being allowed to reopen regardless of the new tier system to be introduced from Wednesday, and bureaucracy had been slashed to allow pubs, cafes and restaurants to open for takeaways and deliveries.

Mr Jenrick, MP for Newark, said: “I’ve discovered so much regulation surrounding our high streets, it’s no wonder shopkeepers are having a hard time. It seems that every administration since King Henry I granted a charter to Newark’s market has added more complicated and costly rules.

“We’re changing that. Councils and others can now hold winter markets with ease. Pubs can erect marquees in their gardens for longer without planning permission.

“Today I am going further and announcing a temporary relaxation in shop opening hours this Christmas and through January, asking councils to allow extended hours for shoppers on every high street Monday to Saturday. 

“None of us I suspect enjoy navigating the crowds and none would relish that when social distancing is so important to controlling the virus in the final furlong before the vaccine rollout commences.”