Fury erupted in the Canterbury City Council chamber after the authority granted itself planning permission to build a £9.1 million multi-storey car park in Station Road West.
The scheme is opposed by clean air campaigners who argue that it will worsen pollution in the area by attracting more vehicles.
There were cries of “shame” and “what a surprise” after the council’s planning committee voted 9-3 in favour of approving the scheme.
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Committee members were greeted with a protest ahead of the meeting in the Guildhall.
One woman loudly berated councillors for a minute before the meeting had actually started.
There followed a string of speakers against the car park.
Allen Tullett, of the St Dunstan’s Residents Association, said: “This proposal would bring detrimental levels of traffic to an area which already suffers from illegally high levels of pollution and would see our roads further choked and congested.
“At a time when cities around the world are seeking to find innovative ways to reduce car use, it seems crazy and backward to concentrate vehicles in one part of the city. Canterbury should not take this retrograde step by building a structure that will blight the community for decades to come.”
Cllr Alan Baldock, leader of the Labour group on the council, said: “Is the country’s most expensive 3,000 square metre, three-storey wooded shed a wonderful building to welcome our visitors to a world heritage site and greet those returning from work?
“And I cannot believe that the additional pollution created by vehicle emissions and noise will, with any degree of certainty, be considered to generate insignificant harm.”
Cllr Mike Dixey, the Lib Dem group leader who represents the Westgate ward, added: “Car parking in the city centre is not at capacity. According to our officers there is currently spare capacity in the city centre car parks, even at weekends. There just isn’t the demand. We don’t need this multi-storey monstrosity.”
The committee members who voted against the application were Conservative Amy Baker, Labour’s Simon Warley and Lib Dem Nick Eden-Green.
Nine Conservatives voted in favour, including veteran councillor Ian Thomas.
He said: “There will be less vehicle movement because will park their cars and then remain for eight to 12 hours a day until they return.
“This will also stop cars going into the city centre. We also want to encourage people to use the train.”
Paul Barrett of Canterbury for Business (C4B) also supported, arguing that new housing developments springing up across Canterbury will create increased demand for parking by people commuting to work.
Council leaders say the car park will serve shoppers using St Dunstan’s Street and commuters travelling from the Canterbury West train station.
It would be ticketless with lengths of stays measured by an automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) system.
Supporters of the scheme say additional car parking spaces are needed in Canterbury.