A permit allowing churchgoers to park for free in Canterbury city centre is to be extended until the end of March next year.
Councillors had feared they would have to abolish the permits after complaints they discriminated against people who were not religious. But after hours of research, including a trip to Woking where council officials had faced a legal challenge from secular groups, they decided it would be too expensive to hold a consultation on the issue. Instead, they will ask for people’s views when the annual parking review takes place in the spring. Until then, the existing permits will be valid.
At a meeting of Canterbury City Council’s ruling executive committee, the Reverend Paul Wilson appealed to councillors to think again. He said:
“The worshippers’ permit is simple, effective and there is no evidence it, has been abused. I would like to have thought as Canterbury is the cradle of Christianity, you would have been working to defend worshippers’ permits in the same way that councillors have defended prayer at council meetings.”
But he said the proposed alternative, a permit for worshippers and volunteers, had “great merit”. The new permit would cost £40 a year and would give free parking for three hours in a nominated car park on one day a week. A consultation on the alternative permit would cost £5,000 so councillors agreed to defer the issue until other changes to parking were considered next year. No new applications for worshippers’ permits will be allowed and the faith and community permit will come into force on April 1 after consultation.
Herne Bay Times, July 2nd 2014