FOOD deliveries to shops in Northern Ireland are to be allowed to take place throughout the night during the coronavirus pandemic, it emerged on Saturday.
Current rules mean that deliveries are often prohibited overnight so that vehicles do not disturb nearby residents.
The Stormont government will temporarily relax the enforcement of restrictions to give greater flexibility.
Infrastructure and Planning Minister Nichola Mallon today wrote to local councils making clear that they should temporarily withhold any planning enforcement action which could result in unnecessarily restricting deliveries of food and other essential deliveries, in order to support the response to Covid-19.
Minister Mallon said: “I have issued this letter, which comes into effect immediately, because of the exceptional challenges we are facing at this time.
“I want to make clear that as a matter of urgency, councils should take a positive approach to their engagement with food retailers and distributors, as well as the freight industry, to ensure planning controls are not a barrier to food delivery over the period of disruption caused by the coronavirus.
“It is vital that deliveries of food, sanitary and other essential products over the coming weeks can be made as quickly and safely as possible, minimising disruption to the supply chains on which our communities depend.
“This means that additional flexibility is needed by councils, having regard to their legal obligations, so that retailers can accept deliveries throughout the day and night where necessary.
“This is a fluid and rapidly developing situation and I want to assure any local communities affected by these measures that they are temporary, and that I will review the situation after the pressure from the coronavirus has reduced.
“This is a difficult time for everyone and I urge people to remain calm, do not panic buy and let’s work together, to protect each other and those most vulnerable in our society.”