Westminster Council has performed a u-turn over its ban on the display of gay rainbow flags in Soho.

Earlier this year, the council announced a policy that forced retailers to remove all rainbow flags from hanging above premises unless they had been granted planning permission.

Following the ban, Soho store, Prowler, applied to hang a flag but planning permission was refused in May.

In a reversal of policy, the council have decided that most shops and bars will now be allowed to fly a rainbow flag without needing to apply for planning permission.

Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London had strongly criticised the Conservative run council and branded them “out of touch”.

Welcoming the move, he said, “London is making great progress as one of the most lesbian and gay friendly cities in the world. This welcome u-turn by Westminster follows the decision by Bromley to allow lesbian and gay partnership ceremonies and holiday firm Sandals to stop discriminating against gay couples after we banned discriminatory ads from the transport system.

“It shows that if you stand up to bigotry you can win in 21st century London. I look forward to welcoming Euro-Pride to London in 2006.”