Retailers have reacted with dismay to claims by London Mayor Boris Johnson that their stance on buses stands in the way of improving top shopping location Oxford Street.
Leading store groups including Boots, Gap, John Lewis, Debenhams and Marks & Spencer are among more than 20 to have signed a letter sent to the mayor on their behalf by New West End Company boss Richard Dickinson, setting the record straight.
Although couched in diplomatic language, retail sources said it was prompted by anger and disappointment about the mayor’s comments, which they say were not representative of their views.
Last month, Johnson told London Assembly member Victoria Borwick he wanted to pedestrianise Oxford Street but retailers’ attachment to buses was a problem.
He said: “They do not want it, they actually quite like the volume of customers that the buses bring them, and they seem to want to keep the system and the taxis and people’s ability to drop on and off.”
Dickinson wrote: “We are sorry that it appears from the answers you gave to Victoria that we have not put forward our position with sufficient clarity.
“We write to put on record our collective view of the majority of retailers trading in the West End about the question of buses on Oxford and Regent Streets.”
He reiterated retailers’ view that the number of buses on the street - up to 300 per hour - undermines the appeal of the area. Only last week, the New West End Company unveiled a vision for the area involving greater pedestrianisation and less congestion.
Dickinson wrote he wanted to work on the problems in “an open and participative way”. No comment was available from the mayor’s office.