Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Ben Ainslie postbox: Royal Mail U-turn in Lymington

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Media captionDozens of people have had their photographs taken next to a gold postbox that was painted illegally in honour of Olympic champion Ben Ainslie

A postbox in Lymington will be repainted gold in honour of Olympic gold medallist Ben Ainslie, the Royal Mail has said.

It had originally only painted a postbox in Cornwall, where Ainslie grew up.

A campaign started after Rob Smith, 51, was arrested after painting the postbox in the Hampshire town where the gold medallist lives.

Hampshire police have said they will be taking no further action against him.

New Forest Acting Ch Insp Alex Reading said the decision had been taken after consultation with Royal Mail which had withdrawn its complaint.

"We can appreciate the sentiment being expressed by the British public who want to congratulate and celebrate the achievements of our Olympic athletes," he said.

"We would though advise members of the public to find lawful ways to acknowledge and celebrate our athlete's successes."

Mr Smith, a father of three, was arrested on Lymington's High Street early on Saturday on suspicion of criminal damage and later released on bail.

Image caption Ben Ainslie described Rob Smith as a "legend of Lymington"

Royal Mail has been honouring British gold medallists by painting postboxes gold in their hometowns and initially described Mr Smith's actions as "vandalism".

The company has now said it will strip Mr Smith's paint from the postbox and repaint it gold themselves.

Spokesman Nick Martens said: "We initially picked Restronguet in Cornwall as the place Ben Ainslie grew up and where he first learned to sail.

"However, after speaking with Ben, we have agreed to repaint the postbox on Lymington High Street at his request, and are delighted to do so.

"Ben is a local hero in Lymington and now he will be one of the few lucky Team GB gold medallists to have two gold postboxes celebrating his achievement.

"However, we still highly recommend people leave the painting of postboxes to Royal Mail."

'Caved in'

The gold postbox in Lymington proved popular, with people having their photo taken beside it and a Facebook campaign attracted more than 2,000 supporters.

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Media captionRelive Ben Ainslie's fourth sailing gold

Campaigner Ian Watkins said Royal Mail had "caved in to the demands of the people".

"Lymington is a small town with not many heroes - we are very proud of what Ben has achieved," he said.

The four-time Olympic gold medallist has lived in the Hampshire coastal town for 12 years and is an honorary life member of the Royal Lymington Yacht Club.

When asked about the postbox at a homecoming event at the club on Tuesday, Ainslie described Mr Smith as a "legend of Lymington".

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