Fears for historic street names as communities can vote to change them

Is this the death knell for Britain’s historic street names? Fears woke campaigners will push through bids to remove signs after communities are handed vote on their future – but government hopes new bill will protect local heritage

  • Mini referenda will be required before street names can be changed by councils at cost of up to £185,000
  • Ministers believe that without votes ‘woke’ pressure groups will unilaterally erase heritage from Britain
  • Streets, parks and buildings named after controversial historical figures have been targeted by BLM
  • Recently ‘Darkie Lane’ in Dorset was almost re-named due to a single letter of complaint – but vote stopped it
  • Is your street under consultation to be renamed? E-mail: [email protected]ne.co.uk 

Changing street names with links to the UK’s colonial past will be put to a local vote under Michael Gove’s planning reforms to fight back against frenzied campaigning from woke groups to ‘cancel’ major figures in British history.

The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, which was in yesterday’s Queen’s Speech, will enshrine in law that people living on that road – or surrounding streets – would be asked if they agree to changing the name first. 

But critics have said the policy could be the death knell for certain street names in traditionally left-wing cities such as Liverpool, Birmingham, Glasgow and Bristol, where the population may be more inclined to back the whim of woke campaigners, who will now be pushing hard for votes when the Bill becomes law.

Tories hope that holding small-scale referenda will stop local heritage being wiped out by BLM activists as well as left-wing politicians. In Labour-dominated London, 45 streets and statues have either been renamed, removed or are in the process of being cancelled. Sadiq Khan has even set up a £1million fund to ‘decolonise’ street names.

Street names linked to slave traders and even British heroes such as Winston Churchill and Horatio Nelson have found themselves at the heart of Britain’s culture wars, as a new generation of activists reassesses the past. 

Changing a street or park name can cost taxpayers up to £185,000 due to the cost of new signs and the local council compensating residents £300 each to change their addresses on official documents.

Last year, Swanage Town Council decided to re-name Darkie Lane to Dark Lane, prompted by a single letter of complaint from a family holidaying in the town in Dorset. But that change was vetoed, despite Swanage Town Council voting in favour, after a referendum of the eight residences on the lane failed to return a single vote in favour. 

Ministers hope that votes elsewhere in the UK will go the same way. 

London’s streets and areas are under review or have been changed already due to their names being linked to slavery. Michael Gove’s new planning bill will force a vote on any street where campaigners want to change the name 

Labour-run Birmingham City Council was accused of ‘virtue signalling’ in December 2020 after it named six new roads in Perry Barr: Diversity Grove, Equality Road, Destiny Road, Inspire Avenue, Respect Way and Humanity Close 

Last year, Swanage Town Council attracted national media attention over its plan to re-name Darkie Lane (pictured) to Dark Lane amid racism claims. Residents voted to stop it. Ministers hope this would be the same across the UK

Campaigners continue to try to get rid of monuments that they say honour those who either profited from or defended the slave trade, or who held opinions that are now viewed as racist.

Fears jealous neighbours could kibosh extensions and loft conversions under new plan to give whole streets a vote on if they are approved 

Neighbours will go to war if Michael Gove allows them to veto property extensions in their area as part of his controversial new planning reforms, critics claimed today.

The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill will legalise ‘street votes’ where most loft conversions, conservatories and other building works can be built quicker, without full planning permission, as long as a third of locals don’t object. 

Mr Gove said today that local referendums will give communities more say on developments and make sure ‘beautiful’ homes are ‘built in the right place’, rather than ‘shoddy’ works in the wrong areas. 

But many have predicted that it will be a recipe for disharmony and likely to lead to more neighbours fighting over planning applications if people are the given a veto on home improvements.

One critic said: ‘Mr Gove is deluded. It would be horrendous and cause huge arguments with neighbours as people don’t like building work near to them’, while one woman speaking from experience said street votes are a ‘ridiculous idea’, adding: ‘We had all kinds of nonsense on our planning applications purely because neighbours were jealous’.

Another tweeted: ‘Gove’s plan to allow neighbours to veto each other’s extensions sounds like a recipe for disaster. Are they seriously suggesting that asking your neighbours if they mind you building a new bedroom/converting a garage is a good substitute for going through local planning consent?’ 

While one homeowner tweeted sarcastically afterwards: ‘Well that’s a recipe for harmony’. 

Mr Gove has acknowledged that the Government would now not meet its pledge to build 300,000 new homes a year this year but insisted his changes to the planning process in England would lead to more developments in the future. Labour MP Angela Eagle tweeted: ‘Another piece of their manifesto ripped up’.

Responding to the criticism he said: ‘Well, we’ll do everything we can but it’s no kind of success simply to hit a target if the homes that are built are shoddy, in the wrong place, don’t have the infrastructure required and are not contributing to beautiful communities’.

Attempts have even been made to ‘cancel’ major figures and last month it was even suggested that a park named after former prime minister William Gladstone could be renamed ‘Diversity Fields’.

MailOnline revealed that around 45 streets and statues have either been renamed or removed – or are in the process of being cancelled –  over historic slavery links in London. Black Boy Lane in Hackney has been renamed La Rose Lane. 

Ministers say the plans are needed to stop Labour and Liberal Democrat local politicians removing names that pay tribute to controversial historical figures or that are otherwise viewed as offensive.

Residents of streets with proposed name changes will have a right to vote under the plans, with people in neighbouring roads also potentially to be included. 

Oliver Dowden, the Conservative chairman and former culture secretary, said last month: ‘Labour and Liberal Democrat councils across the country are hiking council tax while squandering hard-earned local taxpayers’ money on these woke pet projects that nobody wants.

‘These proposals will give local residents a democratic check against the lefty municipal militants trying to cancel war heroes like Churchill and Nelson.’

Labour-run Birmingham City Council was accused of ‘virtue signalling’ in December 2020 after it named six new roads in Perry Barr: Diversity Grove, Equality Road, Destiny Road, Inspire Avenue, Respect Way and Humanity Close.  

The titles were decided by a panel of judges after locals were asked to submit suggestions for the 1,400 addresses.

Councils and authorities across London have acted or are reviewing road names dedicated to figures, who are now retrospectively condemned in modern times.

They include Sir Henry Tulse, slave-owning couple Henry Richard Vassall-Fox, third Baron Holland of Foxley and his wife Elizabeth Webster.

Other figures in the slave trade, like John Cass and Robert Geffrye are also subject of the street names in dispute.

Labour controlled Hackney and Lambeth councils are the most prolific – with the latter considering changing the name of the entire district of Tulse Hill.

But the cost of altering the identities of areas is not without its own price – with the taxpayer expected to fund it.

Haringey Council’s renaming of Black Boy Lane, was estimated to be costed in the region of £186,000.

It proposed paying ever resident on the street £300 compensation for the hassle of changing their addresses on all of their documents.

Meanwhile Camden Council spent £12,000 on renaming Cecil Rhodes House to Park View House.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan offered £25,000 to local authorities to ‘decolonise’ their street names.

He announced a £1million fund that will be shared out among community groups including those wishing to campaign to change ‘offensive’ road names. 

Last month Mr Khan confirmed the biggest increase in his share of council tax since becoming mayor.

The average London household will pay him almost £400 a year as the Greater London Authority ‘precept’ increases by 8.8 per cent next month.

Lambeth council is the most recent to announce a consultation on street names and its areas. 

Tulse Hill could soon be renamed if residents object to its namesake’s links to slavery in a new consultation sent to voters


Statues of Robert Milligan (right) and William Beckford (left) are being targeted. Milligan was an 18th century Scottish merchant who owned 526 slaves at his Jamaican sugar plantation. Beckford was twice Lord Mayor of London and owned 3,000 slaves in Jamaica

A statue of Robert Milligan being removed by workers outside the Museum of London Docklands near Canary Wharf in 2020

A street sign for Black Boy Lane in north London which has been changed by Haringey Council at an estimate cost of £180,000. It is now been renamed La Rose Lane

Street names in Lambeth under review and public consultation by the council because of links to slavery figures

Tulse Hill was named in honour of 17th century merchant Sir Henry Tulse, who served as Lord Mayor of London in 1684 and whose family’s wealth was largely drawn from the slave trade.

Other problematic street names mentioned in the survey are those named after slave-owning couple Henry Richard Vassall-Fox, third Baron Holland of Foxley, and his wife Elizabeth Webster, including Vassall Street, Holland Grove and Foxley Road. 

Lambeth Archives carried out an audit to identify the locations linked with the slave trade.

It said: ‘This is a community conversation, together we will develop proposals on how to deal with this difficult aspect of our history, and find ways to celebrate the people who made Lambeth the diverse and inclusive borough that it is today. ‘ 

The council has also released a list of names it could look at again.

Burgoyne Road, Cromwell Road, Dundas Road and Nelson’s Row are not currently under threat but could if ‘the local community express a strong desire to educate and inform people about their possible origins’.

Conservative Party Chairman Oliver Dowden criticised Lambeth Council for spending public money on what he called ‘a vanity project’.

He said: ‘While people worry about the cost of living, Labour councils are wasting their cash on vanity projects like this.

‘No wonder Conservative councils deliver more and cost less.’ 

Other street names which may bite the dust include Rhodesia Road – named after the former British colony of what is now Zimbabwe – and Juxon Street, which got its name from Archbishop William Juxon, who family was involved in the slave trade.

Where the streets have no shame? Some of the road names and buildings targeted for cull

Cromwell Road –

Oliver Cromwell was a Roundhead leader against the Royalists in the 17th Century English Civil War, and became Lord Protector – effectively monarch and PM combined – after the execution of King Charles in 1649. Although some have praised his efforts to unite and modernise England, his reputation remains deeply controversial due to his involvement in massacres in Ireland.  

 A statue of Sir John Cass at London Metropolitan University

Tulse Hill – 

Tulse Hill was named in honour of 17th century merchant Sir Henry Tulse, who served as Lord Mayor of London in 1684 and whose family’s wealth was largely drawn from the slave trade. 

Nelson’s Row – 

Lord Nelson defeated France in the Battle of the Nile in 1798 and at Trafalgar in 1805. He was fatally wounded in the latter and given a state funeral. Despite his record of service to Britain, Lambeth Council has said the Admiral could be considered controversial as he had been involved in ‘defence/military actions’ and ‘trading’ – despite groups such as The Nelson Society denying that he was linked to the slave trade. 

Cassland Road Crescent – 

Sir John Cass was a merchant, builder and Tory MP who lived between 1661 and 1718. Cass held shares in the Royal African Company until his death and served as a board member. A generous philanthropist – who is immortalised on the outside of the Guildhall and in several street names – he left money to set up the Sir John Cass’s Foundation to support education in London.   

Foxley Road, Foxley Square, Holland Grove, Lord Holland Lane, Lilford Road Vassall Street and Vassall Road – 

Other problematic street names mentioned in the Lambeth survey are those named after slave-owning couple Henry Richard Vassall-Fox, third Baron Holland of Foxley, and his wife Elizabeth Webster. Holland was born on November 21, 1773, in Wilshire and became a major force in politics during the 19th century. Despite owning a number of plantations in Jamaica through his wife, Lord Holland was against the slave trade. Lambeth Council said Lilford Road is ‘associated with the Vassall family through marriage’.   

 A statue of merchant Sir Robert Geffrye outside London’s Museum of the Home

Juxon Street –

William Juxon was an Archbishop of Canterbury who forged connections to the early English slave trade. His coat of arms includes ‘four black Moors’ heads’.  

Sir Robert Geffrye Centre Hall and Geffrye Street – 

Sir Robert (1613-1703) was an English merchant who rose to become Lord Mayor of London in 1685, and whose generous bequests to London’s poor were partly funded by the toil of African slaves. Ministers blocked an attempt to remove his statue from The Museum of Home – previously the Geffrye Museum – and it is now accompanied by an explanatory plaque. However, a street bearing his name may be changed. 

Tyssen Passage – 

Francis Tyssen (1653 – 1710) was a wealthy London merchant who owned Bridges plantation in Antigua, inherited from his father Francis the elder. He also owned property in Hackney, Hoxton, Shoreditch, Stepney, Whitechapel, Essex and Huntingdonshire. 

Havelock Road – 

Henry Havelock (1785-1857) was a British Major General who won fame during the Indian Mutiny. His military successes include his recapture of Cawnpore and the retaking of Lucknow before he died of dysentery shortly after the siege. The Indian Mutiny clash was sparked by an uprising of native soldiers against the ruling British East India Company.   

Aislibie Road – 

Ben Aislabie (1774-1842) was the first Honorary Secretary of the Lord’s and was influential in its early development. He owned slaves in Antigua and Dominica, and was compensated by the Government when slave trading was abolished in 1833.

‘I hope Mr Gove is ok’: BBC’s Dan Walker responds to Levelling Up minister’s bizarre Harry Enfield-inspired ‘Scouse’ accent during cost of living interview

The BBC’s Dan Walker said he hopes Michael Gove ‘is ok’ after the minister’s ‘bizarre’ television interview in which he used an American accent as he told people to ‘calm down’ about the cost of living crisis.

In the discussion with Mr Walker on BBC Breakfast, Mr Gove ruled out an emergency Budget to provide more help for struggling families.

As well as speaking with an American accent, the Levelling-Up Secretary and parodied comedian Harry Enfield’s famous Scousers sketch as he resisted calls for the Government to provide more financial support. 

Mr Walker later took to Twitter to express his bafflement at Mr Gove’s performance. 

‘I’ve watched our interview back a few times now. Still trying to work out what happened. I hope Mr Gove is ok,’ he said. 

Furious Liverpudlians took aim at the politician for what they said was Mr Gove’s trivialising of the cost of living crisis used Enfield’s ‘calm down’ words. 

One said: ‘He’s a first class weapon! Cost of living crisis and he breaks into stupid Voices! It says everything about this government.’

Another added: ‘Trying to make comedy out of peoples misery says it all about this out of touch silver spoon fed government.’ 

The BBC’s Dan Walker said he hopes Michael Gove ‘is ok’ after the minister’s ‘bizarre’ television interview in which he used an American accent as he told people to ‘calm down’ about the cost of living crisis

Mr Gove was appearing on the BBC after Prime Minister Boris Johnson had sown confusion in his response to the Queen’s speech.   

Harry Enfield’s The Scousers 

The phrase ‘calm down’ was a staple of Harry Enfield’s ‘Scousers’ characters in the 1990s. 

The sketch revolved around three Liverpudlians in tracksuits, with two breaking into arguments and the third telling them to ‘calm down, calm down’. 

The Scouers featured on comedian Mr Enfield’s BBC comedy show. 

The Liverpudlian characters were named ‘Ga’, ‘Ba’ and ‘Te’ – Gary, Barry and Terry. 

As well as Mr Enfield, the sketches featured Gary Bleasdale, Joe McGann, and Mark Moraghan.

Mr Johnson warned there were limits on how much public money he was prepared to commit, but told MPs: ‘The Chancellor and I will be saying more about this in the days to come.’

It sparked immediate speculation of a new fiscal intervention by the Treasury, but both it and No10 were quick to rule out an imminent special announcement. 

Labour has demanded an emergency budget saying that swift action is needed with inflation expected to hit 10 per cent by October off the back of rising household bills and food costs. 

But Mr Gove accused journalists of over-interpreting the PM’s remarks.  

‘It is an example of some commentators chasing their own tails and trying to take a statement that is common sensical, turning it into a major, capital letters, big news story,’ he said. 

‘And in fact, when the Treasury quite rightly say, calm down, people instead of recognising that they have over-inflated the story in the first place, then say ”oh, this is clearly a split”.

‘The truth is the Prime Minister says ”Government is working hard” and the Treasury say ”Yes we are and I’m afraid the Budget is going to be when we said it would be”. That becomes a story? No.’ 

The phrase ‘calm down’ was a staple of Harry Enfield’s ‘Scousers’ characters in the 1990s. 

The sketch revolved around three Liverpudlians in tracksuits, with two breaking into arguments and the third telling them to ‘calm down, calm down’. 

Labour’s Lisa Nandy tweeted a clip of Mr Gove speaking on the programme and said: ‘What is he doing!?

Harry Enfield’s Scousers sketch revolved around three Liverpudlians in tracksuits, with two breaking into arguments and the third telling them to ‘calm down, calm down’

The Levelling-Up Secretary also dropped a sort of American accent in a lively display on television this morning as he sought to play down confusion sown by Boris Johnson yesterday

‘Making jokes and using silly voices while families across the country are struggling to survive.

‘This isn’t a game (or an Oxford Union debate!). People are having to choose between heating and eating. Take it seriously. Do your job.’

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