John Lewis chairman Sir Stuart Hampson has launched an outspoken attack on London's congestion charge, which is damaging business in the city.
He warned that any plans to extend the scheme or introduce it in other cities should be put on hold.
'The congestion charge is having a serious impact on businesses within the charging zone,' said Hampson.
Sales at JLP's Oxford Street store were down 9 per cent compared with the retailer's other shops in the six months since the scheme was launched.
Hampson cautioned that congestion charging in British cities that lack London's public transport infrastructure could create a serious long-term threat to businesses.
'It would almost inevitably lead to companies revising their investment plans within charging zones, leading to a spiral of city centre decline,' he said.
JLP has commissioned a report by Imperial College transport operations professor Michael Bell to assess the impact of the scheme and to come up with proposals for change. The report is expected to be ready by March 2004.
- Practical answers to problems facing London retailers will be the subject of a special Retail Week conference next month. Mayor Ken Livingstone, Selfridges chief executive Peter Williams and John Lewis managing director Luke Mayhew will be among the contributors. To register for The Future of Retailing in London, visit www.futurelondonretail.co.uk or call 020 7505 6044.