GROWING calls for a county flag have been rejected by Dorset County Council, which says it has no authority to create one.

A sense of pride and need for a unifying identity in Dorset are two reasons given in support of the idea, with letters regularly sent to the Dorset Echo on the issue.

But Councillor John Peake, chairman of Dorset County Council, said: "Dorset County Council now serves only part of the county since Bournemouth and Poole were given unitary status in 1997 and we therefore have no authority to introduce such a flag.

"A small number of people have, on occasions, raised with us the question of creating a new county flag, each with their own idea of a design.

"We have our own flag for our purposes which represents the area we serve but it is not appropriate to use this for the whole county as Bournemouth and Poole also have their own."

Cornwall, Devon, Yorkshire and Kent all have county flags.

Flag supporter Patricia Davis of Kellaway Terrace, Weymouth, said: "I don't know where the council thinks its authority comes from but it comes from people.

"If Dorset says it wants a flag the council should respond to that.

"It would be a unifying symbol and a good link between old and new people here. The Poole area is only a small part of the county and it may decide to come in with the rest of Dorset for the flag."

Poole Borough Council leader Brian Leverett said: "This has never been put to Poole as a suggestion but if a request were made we would of course look into it and see what public opinion was."

A campaigning website and forum called Flag for Dorset has been set up to rally support for the idea - FlagforDorset.htm It says: "This has everything to do with being proud of our county. It will achieve cultural collectiveness, a stronger county identity, greater tourism and something that symbolises our lost past."

Dorset County Council's flag is flown twice a year on County Hall to commemorate The Dorset Regiment and elite regiment The Rifles.