LIBERAL Democrat Councillor Christian Martin says he is shocked that North Tawton Town Council is seemingly capitulating to bullies and restricting the flying of Pride Flags in the town.

The North Tawton Town Councillor said: “Effectively a newly proposed policy making the flying of the flags is a ban.

“It is an ill-conceived, poorly written and troublesome policy given the chorus of approval from residents when the flags went up in February, a chorus that only got louder when a small minority opposed them flying and tore them down!”

In January 2023 North Tawton Town Council approved a proposal celebrating diversity and inclusion in the town with the flying of the Pride and Pride Progressive Flags during the month of February and for Pride Month in June. 

The government recently issued guidance encouraging the flying of the Union Flag on all UK government buildings throughout the year, alongside other national and local flags. Flags are a very British way of expressing joy and pride – they are emotive symbols which can boost local and national identities, strengthen community cohesion and mark civic pride.

Under Government Guidelines the Rainbow Flag is one of the flags identified as not requiring any special permissions or planning consents to be flown. 

There was overwhelming support and positivity around the visibility of the Pride flags on the town office building in February.

The positive response gave rise to proposals to fly the Autism Week Flag and St George’s Flag - both also approved by the council.

Cllr Martin commented: “How great it is that proposals were made for other flags to fly and that the council made it happen. It is important that the whole community needs to see themselves represented and different flags let people know that they are.” 

He added: “Sadly, a small minority of loud voices disagreed to the Pride Flags. 

“After the success of an increasing number of requests for different flags to be flown why should LGBTQ+ North Tawton residents be singled out for potential exclusion from this?” Cllr Martin asks: “The entire town benefits from all the flags flying for the many different things they represent, the flags flown tell visitors and those passing through the town what kind of town we are.” 

North Tawton Town Council is now proposing to reverse the proposal passed in January and allow for the Pride Flags to be flown only on the day of a Pride Event taking place locally.

Cllr Martin says that as there are no Pride events locally, this is effectively a ban on the flags and inexplicably reduces visibility and inclusivity and recognition of the LGBTQ+ community in North Tawton.

He added: “The Pride flags are not about special treatment they are about equality, an equality for all.” 

Cllr Martin is calling on residents to contact him and support keeping the original proposal passed in January that would keep the flags flying in February and June.

He also invites suggestions for any other flags that residents would like to see flown throughout the year.

The town council will vote on this on June 6 at its meeting in the Town Offices in the Square and all members of the public are welcome to go along and join in via the public forum and give their views.

Cllr Martin also added: “As a Liberal Democrat I was proud of the fact my party built on the Labour success of Civil Partnership and introduced and passed into law the Marriage Equality Act championed by the fabulous Baroness Lynne Featherstone and the flags represent a statement of support for all North Tawton residents young and old who enjoy, promote, embrace inclusivity and diversity.

“The flags represent a better future for our children and a more positive tolerant future for our children.

“It would be a sad truth that our town gives in to bullies and bigots, casting a negative shadow over something that was so readily embraced. As a town I hope we move forwards not backwards. It is 2023 not 1967!”