Demand for religious parking privileges in West End fails

Prior to a debate at Westminster Council this week about extending parking restrictions to cover Sunday afternoons, the National Secular Society reminded the Council that any attempt to give exemptions to religious groups would be illegal under equality legislation.

In the event, the new restrictions were approved and no exemptions were made, despite strong pressure and lobbying from local churches and the Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols.

Keith Porteous Wood, Executive Director of the NSS, said: “Having taken legal advice, the NSS felt it appropriate to remind the Council that there could be legal consequences of applying parking regulations in a discriminatory way. We therefore wrote to the Cabinet member responsible for parking ahead of the Council meeting at which the matter was to be finalised. We are pleased to say that no special exemptions were given on religious grounds, despite an extension of paying parking as planned.”

Mr Wood continued: “It is not just Sunday that is a bone of contention. We note that parking charges do not apply for two hours on Friday afternoons in Luton in the vicinity of one mosque. We have reports of a rather more informal approach to Friday afternoon parking in several areas. Those attending the mosques have been observed parking without being fined, not only in parking bays but on double yellow lines, and even on red (no stopping) routes.”

One motoring website refers to mosque parking in Brighton and provides supporting photographs. The first comments read:

“How come all these cars, taxis included, driven by worshippers at the mosque, never get parking tickets or get towed. Apart from being illegally parked, they really screw up the traffic when buses try to get through. If I tried parking there for even 5 minutes the wardens would have me, let alone an hour or so... / I‘d suggest you send the pictures and ask whoever it is runs the parking wardens. / Many years ago, this 2 colleagues (PCs) did exactly that, ticketed lots of illegally parked cars at a mosque.(Not in the county you refer to) Following complaints from the parkers & the mosque council all tickets were cancelled, the officers accused of racism & both moved from where they were stationed. Wrong? Absolutely.” More comments shown here.

The NSS would be pleased to hear from anyone whose local council is giving special concessions to churches or religious groups in parking arrangements.