A bid to allow garden centres to open for longer on Sundays has prompted strong opposition from campaigners who want to keep the day of rest special.

Garden centre group the Horticultural Trades Association is lobbying the Government to exempt garden centres from the 1994 Sunday Trading Act.

The move came on the 20th anniversary of the Act, which allows stores over 3,000 square feet to trade for up to six hours on Sundays.

The HTA claims the Act is “outdated” and causes “economic implications” for Britain’s garden centres.

A statement said: “Current Sunday trading regulations are making it more difficult for families and gardeners to enjoy their hobby as they only have a limited period on Sundays during which they can get supplies and plants from garden centres.

“The Act is out of touch in the light of the growing 24/7 internet trading culture, unnecessarily penalising direct retail businesses that are struggling to compete.”

Head of horticulture at the HTA, Raoul Curtis-Machin, said: “The Sunday Trading Act is an anachronism in this day and age, especially with 24-hour internet retail on the rise.

“Gardening is an important and healthy hobby which should be supported by Government rather than be affected by unnecessary bureaucratic burden.”

But John Ashcroft, of the campaign group Keep Sunday Special, said any attempt to exempt garden centres from Sunday trading rules would be opposed.

John told AG: “We would argue the opposite [to the HTA]. The growth in internet trading means that demand for Sunday opening is less.”

The campaign says it is important to keep Sunday special on the grounds of family, community and faith.

Asked if garden centres should be exempt from the Sunday Trading Act, John replied: “Garden centres have expanded non-plant sales. DIY stores have expanded their garden centre offering. It would be unfeasible to exempt one sector of retail.

“You exempt everyone, which we would oppose, or keep the current regime.”