Page last updated at 17:42 GMT, Thursday, 14 May 2009 18:42 UK

Cathedral city 'not gay-friendly'

Canterbury Cathedral
Gay Pride events were held in Canterbury in 2005 and 2006

The cathedral city of Canterbury is being investigated over claims it is not welcoming to gay people.

Andrew Brettell of Canterbury Pride has complained the Kent city is a "cultural wilderness" and one of few in England without any gay bars.

He said the city fails to welcome its "closeted" lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

The Local Government Ombudsman is investigating the claims, which have been denied by the council.

Mr Brettell criticised Canterbury City Council for "ticking the boxes" but failing to do anything to attract gay people to the area.

"What we need is for the council to send signals that it's OK to be gay and that they are welcoming gays to the city," he said.

We are very disappointed that they have referred this to the ombudsman
Colin Carmichael
Canterbury City Council chief executive

Gay Pride events were held in the city in 2005 and 2006, but none has been held since.

Canterbury Pride is calling for the council to fund a community drop-in centre for the LGBT community, and to make more reference to gay people in its culture.

They also want a gay bar to be opened. Mr Brettell added that the council could be missing out on substantial revenue.

Colin Carmichael, chief executive of Canterbury City Council, said the authority does make efforts to welcome the gay community.

He said: "The council strongly refutes any suggestion by Pride in Canterbury that we do not want to engage with the LGBT community, and we are very disappointed that they have referred this to the ombudsman.

"The council has provided Pride in Canterbury with funding of more than £4,000 since 2005/06 through our grants system, to help them identify the needs of the LGBT community and promote their concerns."

They also held a gay open day at the council offices and addressed the concerns of Pride in Canterbury's "regular correspondence", he added.

In response to the concerns raised by Canterbury Pride, one of the city's visitor attractions, The Canterbury Tales, said it would be offering members of the LGBT community a discounted admission fee until 30 June to encourage further "pink tourism".

Steve Beer, centre manager, said: "Here at the Tales, we definitely welcome all sectors of society to our attraction."



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