Eric Pickles has announced proposals to make it easier for people to fly flags of their choice without facing costly restrictions and red tape. The moves are intended to boost England's local and national identities and strengthen community cohesion.
Under current planning rules, only a select few flags are allowed to be flown without express permission from town hall officials. Getting this approval can incur fees of up to £335. In a speech to the Flag Institute, the Communities and Local Government Secretary is today announcing his intention to launch a consultation to allow a wider variety of important and historic flags to be flown by people keen to celebrate their local and national heritage and culture.
The last Government changed planning rules to allow the European Union flag to be flown without permission. The coalition Government will make it easier for communities wanting to celebrate the contribution of our armed forces by easing rules on flying local regimental flags. Other local flags, and projects like environmental awards, could also all be freed up from existing bureaucratic restrictions.
Mr Pickles said:
"If people want to celebrate something that is important to them by flying a flag they should be able to do so without having to fill in forms or paying town hall officials for the privilege. We will make it easier for people to celebrate their allegiance to a cause, a county or a local organisation if they choose to do so."
Mr Pickles also used his speech to warn against misplaced political correctness stopping flags being flown:
"Local and national flags unite people of every creed, class and colour. Community cohesion is strengthened - not undermined - by flying the flag."
Over the past year, the Department for Communities and Local Government has been flying county flags as a means of championing England's diverse local identities. Mr Pickles will stress the important of England's historic counties which were wiped off the administrative map in previous local government restructuring exercises.
On Monday, the Middlesex flag will be flown from the Department to mark Middlesex Day - and acknowledge the continuing role and identity of England's long-standing counties. Mr Pickles said:
"The historic English counties are one of the oldest forms of local government in Western Europe. Their roots run deep. And no amount of administrative reshuffling can delete those longstanding and cherished local identities…"