THE council officer who told Cowley Road Passion Play organisers to cancel their event has apologised for his mistake.

Oxford City Council’s licensing team leader, Julian Alison, has admitted he didn’t know a passion play was a religious event.

Organisers from Ss Mary and John church and St Stephens House college on Cowley Road cancelled tomorrow’s event with less than a week’s notice after Mr Alison told them they may be committing an offence without the proper council permits.

Last night, he said: "I would like to apologise for a wrong decision that I made late on Friday afternoon in relation to the planned Passion Play on Cowley Road.

"At the time of processing the application, I did not appreciate that this was a religious event.

"I made a mistake and by the time I realised my mistake, the organisers had cancelled the event. I apologise to the organisers of the event and those members of the public who had been looking forward to the event.

"The council encourages community events to take place and it is deeply regrettable that this has occurred. Such a mistake will not happen again."

Hundreds of worshippers were expected to join the performance along Cowley Road, recreating the trial and crucifixion of Jesus.

A city council spokesman said: "As far as we are aware the organisers did not question the decision at a higher level within the organisation."