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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 April, 2004, 08:58 GMT 09:58 UK
Retailer's fear on congestion fee
Cars going past John Lewis in Edinburgh
Drivers passing John Lewis in Edinburgh may have to pay up
The chairman of a major shopping chain has again warned of the impact of congestion charging on retailers in the centre of Edinburgh.

Sir Stuart Hampson was speaking after the release of research commissioned by John Lewis on the effect of charging on his firm's business.

The report said there was a "direct link" between the charge and a drop in sales at its Oxford Street store.

Edinburgh Council wants to charge 2 a day to enter the city centre from 2006.

The research was carried out by Professor Michael Bell, of Transport Operations, and his team at Imperial College in London.

It is our view that the current proposals are little more than a blunt instrument which will result in damaging Edinburgh's reputation as a major retail centre
Sir Stuart Hampson
John Lewis
They analysed sales data from John Lewis's six London stores for a year, beginning in January 2003.

Other influences such as the Central Line closure, the war in Iraq and tourism levels are said to have been factored out of the findings.

They showed that takings in John Lewis's Oxford Street store were down by 5.52%. The 5 a day congestion charge was introduced in London in February 2003.

Two-cordon plan

A public inquiry opens in Edinburgh on 27 April into the proposals for the Scottish capital and is due to report in October.

The council wants to introduce two charging "cordons" - one in the city centre operating from 0700-1830 and an outer one inside the city bypass 0700-1000.

There would be no charge for crossing the cordons at the weekend.

Sir Stuart said: "In Edinburgh, we have said from the outset that we do not oppose congestion charging in principle but we firmly believe that if implemented in its current form, it will impose disproportionate consequential damage to the local economy.

London traffic
The London charge is said to have caused a drop in sales
"On that principle, we believe the Edinburgh scheme should be a single cordon, peak hour scheme only.

"It is our view that the current proposals are little more than a blunt instrument which will result in damaging Edinburgh's reputation as a major retail centre."

Other retailers and opposition councillors have criticised the proposals from the Labour-led administration.

But the group and council officials say congestion charging is needed to pay for transport options which tie together rail and road and the public and private sectors.

Traffic in Edinburgh is forecast to rise by a quarter by 2016, increasing noise, pollution and road accidents, according to the council.

City centre promotion

A spokesperson for Transport Initiatives Edinburgh (TIE) said the council proposed to allocate 15m over five years from the congestion charging proceeds, to fund the promotion of the city centre as an attractive and accessible destination.

All objections and representations submitted during the formal consultation period would be taken into account during the public inquiry.

TIE is funding research by DTZ Pieda into the effects of congestion charging on retail businesses and the city centre economy. The results are due out in September.

Meanwhile, the charging plan face legal problems, according to West Lothian Council.

The authority says it has received advice that the proposal to share out money raised by the charges with other local authorities could be illegal.

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