An ex-soldier who painted a St George’s flag on his front door was ordered to cover it up by his landlords who claim it could be considered ‘offensive’ and may bring ‘distress’ to neighbours.
Steven Rolfe, 52, painted the red and white colours of the English flag on his rented home in Preston, Lancashire, in 2003. He also said he put up hanging baskets to celebrate his love of England and mark his former career in the forces.
But despite being runner-up in a council ‘best kept house’ competition, he has now received a letter ten years on from an official at property management firm Places for People saying neighbours could be ‘alarmed’ by the symbol.
The letter also warned the design could place him in a catagory of ‘nuisance neighbours’ and said it could mean him being evicted if he failed to cover it up.
The landlords have now apologised for calling the flag ‘offensive’ but said Mr Rolfe must still repaint the door because he does not have the proper permission and the door ‘does not meet our decoration specifications’.
In a letter to Mr Rolfe, Neighbourhood Officer Leanne Hardy initially gave him 14 days to repaint the door saying: ‘It has been brought to my attention that you have painted your front door in a way that could be considered offensive.’
Mr Rolfe asked for permission to keep the flag but Ms Hardy sent another letter refusing his request and giving him seven days to paint over it in one colour.
She also warned him that failure could mean him being in breach of his tenancy agreement.
In her letter Ms Hardy said the flag design fell foul of rules tackling unruly tenants who caused ‘a nuisance, annoyance, disturbance or harassment’ of others.
Ms Hardy also said his conduct breached tenancy conditions concerning those tenants who were ‘injurious to the interests of neighbours’ and those who ’cause distress, alarm or interfere with the peace and comfort of any other person’.
She concluded: ‘Whilst I acknowledge that the door may well have been painted like this for some time, it was only brought to my attention recently and I did contact you as soon as it was brought to my attention.
‘I believe that it was an outside contractor or partner agency that commented on the door and this was fed back to me as your Neighbourhood Officer.’
But the letters sent to Mr Rofle has sparked outrage amongst his locality in Preston, Lancashire.
Father of one Mr Rolfe, a painter and decorator who served as a private in the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment in Northern Ireland, Cyprus and Canada until 1988 said: ‘I’ve had this flag on my door for 10 years and nobody has said anything until now.
‘I’m ex-forces and I’m proud to be English. I’m not in the EDL or any other racist group. I’m very angry about this because I could be forced to move out.’
He added: ‘I don’t see how anyone can be offended by it. It’s ridiculous and no one has whinged about it previously. It looks like a new housing officer had been appointed and she’s got a big bee in her bonnet about it.
‘I couldn’t believe it when I got the letter. We seem to be losing our values in this country and also losing our sense of identity – all in the name of political correctness.
‘I have served my country all over the world – yet the country’s public officials have gone PC mad. I am far from being racist, I’m just proud of England, that’s all.
‘My neighbours say they would like to see more of the St George’s flag about. I just want to fly the flag and be proud. I’ve actually bought two more flags.
‘I have had an England door for 10 years and I have never had any problems and none of the neighbours have complained. It’s my way of being patriotic.
‘There are Scots living on the street, I have Irish neighbours, Polish, Muslim, Sikhs and Russians and none of them have complained. People don’t know what I have done wrong. It’s absolutely nuts.
Ali Anwar, the Muslim representative on the Preston SAFE Forum and founder of Global Village, which works to encourage community dialogue, said: ‘As far as I’m concerned, a man’s home is his castle, and he should be allowed to express himself as he wishes.
‘This is political correctness gone mad.
– Steven Rolfe
‘As a Muslim it really frustrates me that organisations become overly politically correct and make issues and tensions where there aren’t any. They don’t speak for the Muslim community.
‘The flag of St George needs to be reclaimed from the far right. There is nothing offensive about the flag and anyone who is proud to be English should be able to fly it.’
Former Labour MP David Borrow, who is now a local councillor said: ‘The door has been like that a long time and having spoken to the gentleman, I have no reason to believe that he is anything other than a decent member of the community.
‘I do not believe that he has intended the door to symbolise anything offensive, and I have heard no specific complaints.
‘There are other doors in the city that have flags painted onto them, and there appear to be no problems at all.’
John Clemence, vice president of the Royal Society of St George, said: ‘To say that the cross of St George can cause offence needs to be challenged.
‘We are seeing more and more of this kind of complaint, and these jobsworths are causing resentment and inciting racial hatred.’
Places for People, which owns the house and runs 143,000 homes across Britain, has since apologised for calling the flag ‘offensive’ but said Mr Rolfe must still repaint the door because he does not have the proper permission.
A Places for People spokesman said: ‘We do apologise for describing the door as offensive, which it is clearly not.
‘Under the customer’s tenancy agreement. they can make alterations and additions to their property, including external decoration, so long as they gain written consent from ourselves and meet our decoration specifications.
‘We have asked Mr Rolfe to repaint his door as he has not requested our permissions and his door does not meet our decoration specifications. We are happy to discuss any future changes he may wish to make to his rented property.'”