Ardleigh: Council chief apologises for gay flag fiasco at The Lion

A COUNCIL has been forced to apologise to a pub landlord after asking him to take down its gay pride flags.

Stephen Culham received a strongly worded letter from Tendring District Council (TDC) ordering him to remove the three rainbow flags from outside the Lion pub in Ardleigh.

Council officers said his flags needed permission as only a national or county flag can be flown without consent under planning laws.

The move came after a number of villagers complained about the flags to Ardleigh Parish Council who informed TDC’s enforcement officers.

TDC Leader Neil Stock said while planning laws should be adhered to, the council regretted how it handled the matter.

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“My understanding is government legislation exists to control unauthorised advertising, although in this case I am not convinced that the rainbow flag would necessarily constitute a breach of those regulations,” he said.

“However, the pub is in the heart of a conservation area and if there were three flags flying, of any description, then I can quite understand why the parish council would have needed the issue looked into.

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“Where I feel we let ourselves down was by sending out a strongly worded letter without contacting Mr Culham face to face to talk things through and explain to him what options were available to him. That has made us appear rather insensitive and ignorant - and it is not the way I want the Council to be exercising its enforcement powers.

“We have apologised for that and offered to arrange a meeting to discuss this whole matter with him - which he has accepted.”

Mr Culham, 34, who runs gay friendly nights at his pub, said he welcomed the apology but would like to be able to put his flags back up.

“I appreciate the apology but sorry is an easy word to say and I feel the main reason they have said it is because they do not want to appear homophobic.

“It’s more the principle of the matter. If there had been three Union Jacks with Carlsberg, would a complaint have been made? I doubt it.

“They should have sent a polite letter or called me, but they didn’t they just sent me a snotty letter.”

Mr Culham is due to meet with TDC’s planning chief today to discuss the matter.

“The support we’ve had from members of the public since this happened has been wonderful but I want my flags put back up,” he added.

Cllr Stock said the Council would be working on a more customer-friendly approach to enforcement problems in future.

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