Retail businesses across England could be brought to their knees by scores of congestion reducing and road pricing schemes being tabled, business leaders have warned.
A total of 29 local authorities, from Cumbria in the north to Devon in the south have applied for Department for Transport funding from its £18m Transport Innovation Fund in order to investigate congestion relief.
The Department for Transport said bids included “proposals to explore a variety of demand management methods, including road user charging, workplace charging and conventional parking control”.
However, the Forum of Private Business warned that any scheme would be a “stealth tax” on retailers and shoppers. Spokesman Rex Garratt said: “This is a cynical stealth tax by government to squeeze money from visitors to England’s town centres. We are alerting retailers to fight against this. The government should instead be investing in improving public transport in major towns.”
In London, where plans are underway to extend the capital’s controversial Congestion Charge zone, the FPB this week held a mock funeral in protest. The ‘funeral’ included hearses and a coffin bearing the “corpse” of London business.
The West Midlands Metropolitan Authorities and Shropshire County Council are among councils that have applied for funding. The Department for Transport is set to announce the successful bids this year.
Beth Brooks