People are being encouraged to shop local this Christmas following the Government’s announcement that opening hours of non-essential shops can be extended in the run-up to the holiday.

The announcement, made earlier this week by communities secretary Robert Jenrick, will allow businesses to extend their opening hours from Monday to Saturday until January.

Planning rules limiting opening hours will be relaxed to make this a quicker process for shops wishing to stay open later.

It has been welcomed by councils across the county as a step in the right direction in supporting local businesses during this difficult time.

Paul Nedved, Carlisle City Council portfolio holder for economy, enterprise and housing, said: “We are wholeheartedly behind the extended opening hours.

“We will not be undertaking any enforcement action in December or January against any businesses that want to open up to 24 hours a day – this is Monday to Saturday only.”

Mike Starkie, Mayor of Copeland, said: “I am very supportive of retailers being allowed to extend their opening hours, and I am encouraging Copeland’s business community to take advantage of this if they are able to.

“We have a wonderful array of long-established local businesses and high streets shops in our towns and villages, and many will be reopening their doors this week after a period of closure and have never needed our community’s support more than they do now.”

“We also launched our Shop Local campaign in the summer to support our businesses through our new Shop Local Co-ordinator, and to highlight in The Whitehaven News and on social media the quality and range of businesses in our borough.

“Please visit our website for three directories – listing contacts details for hundreds of retail, food and health and beauty businesses – and we’re sure you can get what you need this Christmas in Copeland.”

Gerard Richardson, owner of Richardsons of Whitehaven, believed that whilst it was good news that the Government was supporting businesses, it was a scheme that would most likely benefit larger cities more than areas like Whitehaven.

He said: “In a town like Whitehaven with the population density and the demographics that we have got, I don’t really think that’s going to be useful to us at all, but that’s not a criticism.

“I appreciate that in some of the cities where they have got higher densities of population, people do come out at random times and hours, it’s a real bonus.”

“At the end of the day, it’s nice that the Government is actually looking to see what they can do to part-mitigate some of the loss of business this year.”

For shops slightly off the beaten track, being open later may not bring any new people in as they may be more interested in staying in a shopping centre area with more shops.

Lucy Matthews, owner of Bookends, said: “We’re just going to play it by ear. We don’t have plans to open any later because we’re a little bit off centre in Carlisle. We find that when we’re open for late night shopping that we’re a little bit quiet.

“Our position, and our area, means it is probably not something we’re going to take advantage of. However for indoor shopping centres such as the Lanes, I imagine that could see a bit of a boost.”