A COUNCILLOR has defended refusing to fly the Pride flag from a museum claiming the demands from the gay community were "a bit much".

Abingdon Town Council dismissed a motion to fly the rainbow flag from County Hall Museum during Oxford Pride next June, claiming it would allow other "political" organisations to seek its support.

The local authority has faced a backlash in the wake of the decision and a petition urging members to reconsider has since fostered 1,500 signatures from outraged residents in Abingdon and across the UK.

Defending the decision yesterday, councillor Sandy Lovatt said: "I agree with the objectives of Pride in general but the demand for direct attention when the gay community is only eight per cent is a bit much. It would be inappropriate to fly a flag on a public building for any political organisation."

Leader of the town's Liberal Democrat opposition Samantha Bowring pitched the motion on Wednesday, saying: "I was moved at the sight of the rainbow flag flying in Oxford following the tragic massacre in Orlando. We are seeking to make a statement to show those who know what it means: 'you are accepted. You are part of our community and we value you'."

Councillor Neil Fawcett added: "The rainbow flag represents inclusivity. It's a relatively small and inexpensive gesture."

Though six Liberal Democrat councillors voted to support the flag, seven Conservatives rejected it.

Town council leader Mike Badcock cited policy that limits the council to flying approved flags including the Union Flag and the town crest.

He said the council's attitude was "totally free and easy" and he would consider flying a flag in Market Place if Pride came to Abingdon.

Speaking yesterday, Mrs Bowring said: "I wasn't expecting so much controversy.

"I thought it was going to be quietly added to the list of approved flags, I thought in this day and age of course it would. A couple of people on the other side clearly aren't comfortable with this.

"This was supposed to be something positive about unity and love of all, and instead there's an argument. It's really backfired."

Oxford Pride chairman and Abingdon resident Robert Jordan said he felt "absolutely mortified" by the decision.

He said: "I can't believe it. I'm gutted. I'm just so shocked.

"Pride is only political when it needs to be. It's more a celebration of the LGBT community. Regardless of whether the population makes up eight per cent or 80 per cent, it's still a group that needs representing."

A petition he set up to fight the decision has seen more than 1,500 sign on change.org.

East Oxford musician Matt Winkworth, who works in Abingdon, said he was was "disappointed" by the decision.

The 31-year-old said: "It's an internationally-recognised flag. It's a fairly liberal and supportive area and this decision probably doesn't align with that."