Ex-soldier is told to remove ‘offensive’ flag 10 years on

Steven Rolse of Butler Place,Preston, with his front door painted in as an England flag.
Steven Rolse of Butler Place,Preston, with his front door painted in as an England flag.
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A patriotic ex-soldier is being forced to repaint his front door after housing officials labelled it offensive.

Steven Rolfe, 52, has had a St George’s Cross on his home in Butler Street, Preston, for the past decade.

This week Places for People, which owns the house, gave him 14 days to remove the design, amid claims it is breaching his tenancy agreement.

The company has since apologised for calling it offensive but said he must still repaint the door because he does not have the proper permission.

Mr Rolfe, who served in Northern Ireland in the 1980s, said: “I’ve had this for 10 years and nobody has said anything until now.

“Places for People sent me a letter saying it could be deemed offensive, and that I was breaking my agreement over nuisance.

“I wrote back, asking for retrospective permission because it’s been there so long, but they weren’t interested.

“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, and I won’t be changing anything. I want my day in court and for the judge to laugh this out of his courtroom.”

Mr Rolfe, who now helps out a friend’s chip shop, said he has recently won a Preston Council award for the appearance of his house, and has also flown a St George’s flag.

He has been supported by Ali Amlar, the Muslim representative on the Preston Faith Forum and founder of Global Village, which works to encourage community dialogue.

He 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.

“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, who will not be offended by this.”

He added: “The flag of St George needs to be reclaimed from the far right organisations.

“There is nothing offensive about the flag and anyone who is proud to be English should be able to fly it.”

Councillor David Borrow, who represents the Moor Park area, 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.”

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.”