London Mayor Ken Livingstone today urged Westminster City council to reverse its ban on rainbow flags in Soho. The application by the Prowler Store in Brewer Street to display a rainbow flag was rejected at the council's planning committee last night.
The Mayor said: 'Westminster's decision to reject the application by a gay store to display a rainbow flag shows that its planning committee is completely out of touch with the needs of 21st century London. First they insult the millions of Londoners who opposed apartheid, by blocking the application for a statue of Nelson Mandela in Trafalgar Square, now they insult lesbian and gay Londoners by banning rainbow flags from buildings in their borough.
'Earlier this year I wrote to the council after a number of businesses were instructed by borough officers to remove rainbow flags. I was assured that as long as businesses applied to the planning committee, permission to display rainbow flags, would virtually be a formality. I wrote back asking for clarification as to whether the council's policy would be the enlightened approach suggested by Simon Milton, or the Neanderthal approach suggested in letters from the borough to local lesbian and gay businesses. The planning committee decision has confirmed that the Neanderthals have won out for the moment.
'Westminster’s planning committee is completely out of touch if it thinks it can get away with banning rainbow flags in Soho. Lesbian and gay businesses make an enormous contribution to the life of this part of London. They should be congratulated not discriminated against. The sooner this decision is overturned the better.'
Alan Wardle, Director of Public Affairs from campaigning organisation Stonewall added: 'Westminster City Council's decision is very petty and extremely disappointing. The rainbow flag is an instantly recognisable symbol for lesbians and gay men. It is absurd that the council are once again rejecting a celebratory emblem of gay and lesbian visibility in the heart of London's gay district.'
Notes to Editors
MEDIA ENQUIRIES: Press information is available from Ben McKnight on 020 7983 4071.
GENERAL PUBLIC/NON-MEDIA ENQUIRIES: Call the Public Liaison Unit at the Greater London Authority on 020 7983 4100.
DUTY PRESS OFFICER: For out-of-hours media enquiries, please call 020 7983 4000.