INFRASTRUCTURE Minister Nichola Mallon has confirmed that domestic drivers’ hours legislation has now been temporarily relaxed to enable retailers to deliver food and vital supplies to customers during the coronavirus pandemic.
Minister Mallon said: “In addition to the recent changes I made regarding deliveries to supermarkets and shops, I am now relaxing drivers’ hour’s rules for home deliveries until 2 April, enabling the community, those having to stay indoors, work remotely or self-isolate to get supplies delivered to their door.
“I will be keeping the situation under constant review and will ensure measures are taken to extend the relaxation further if required.
“Deliveries can include food, non-food (personal care and household paper and cleaning), over the counter pharmaceuticals and other essential items being delivered directly to consumers’ homes.
“I am of course mindful that at all times safety is paramount and employers remain responsible for the health and safety of their employees and other road users and drivers should not be expected to drive whilst tired.”
The Minister has also written today to councils to make it clear that they should not take unnecessary enforcement action against public houses, restaurants and cafes operating takeaway services during the coronavirus crisis.
Minister Mallon said: “I am committed to doing everything I can to support people, businesses and communities through this very difficult time.
“These measures will provide vital flexibility to public houses, restaurants and cafes to keep operating and will ensure people are able to safely stay at home while still supporting local businesses.
“It is important at this time that we all work together to make changes where we can to assist in the fight against COVID-19 and my Department will continue to work with local business to address any issues that emerge.”
The measures will apply to food and drinks which are also subject to other regulatory regimes including existing licensing laws for the serving of alcoholic drinks.
The temporary relaxation applies from 00:01 on Thursday 19 March 2020 and will run until 23:59 on Thursday 2 April 2020 and will apply only to delivery drivers specified in this notice. The Department can extend the relaxation if the circumstances continue.
Further information is available on the nidirect website at https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/publications/temporary-relaxation-enforcement-ni-domestic-drivers-hours-rules
Many public houses, restaurants and cafes do not currently have planning permission to operate a takeaway service.
Planning enforcement is a discretionary activity and the Department for Infrastructure’s planning policy and guidance sets out that council planning authorities should act proportionately.
This measure will not prevent the Councils from carrying out enforcement activity if absolutely necessary in the public interest.
The position will be kept under review over the coming months.