Businesses and the public must be given the chance to vote in referenda before congestion charging schemes are introduced in towns and cities across Britain, the Forum of Private Business (FPB) says.
The Forum, which represents 25,000 small and medium-sized firms across the UK, made its plea after the Government announced that the West Midlands and Shrewsbury along with five other local authorities have been awarded #7 million to develop charging schemes.
Other areas taking part in the studies include Greater Manchester, Tyne & Wear, Cambridgeshire, Durham and a coalition of authorities around Bristol and Bath.
The Department of Transport wants charging schemes to be rolled out over the entire road network in the next ten to 15 years.
The FPB?s chief executive Nick Goulding issued a stern warning against running headlong into an ?iceberg? by pushing schemes through without the full consent of the public.
?The FPB is extremely uneasy about these proposals and the massive effect they will have on smaller firms and town centres across Britain,? he said.
?It would be ill-advised and foolhardy to drive through these plans without a full and comprehensive public debate, followed by referenda.?
Mr Goulding said it is important that a thorough business impact assessment is undertaken in all areas.