Residents will be given powers to vote down ‘woke’ new street names

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Black Boy Lane sign - Yui Mok/PA
Black Boy Lane sign - Yui Mok/PA

Residents will be able to vote down proposed changes to street names under a new law to prevent Left-wing councils removing the names of controversial figures from signs.

Ministers are concerned that Labour and Liberal Democrat councils have bowed to pressure from activists and are changing street names to prevent offence.

The Government will on Tuesday announce new legislation that will require all councils in England to consult with residents and businesses and hold a vote on any suggested name changes, with a third of residents able to vote down the council’s suggestion.

The idea follows a consultation and an announcement by Sadiq Khan, the London mayor, of grants worth £1 million that will partially be used to fund street name changes.

Mr Khan is concerned that some streets in the capital bear potentially offensive names, such as Black Boy Lane in Haringey, north London.

The council changed the road’s name to La Rose Lane, after the poet and activist John La Rose, despite objections from local residents earlier this year.

Sharon David, 55, who lives there, said at the time that “changing a street name is not the answer” to dealing with racism.

In south London, Lambeth Council held a consultation with local residents over whether Tulse Hill, a neighbourhood, should be renamed because of its link to Sir Henry Tulse, a 17th century merchant and London mayor who derived the majority of his wealth from the slave trade.

The council later denied that it had any plans to change the name of the area but said officials had “learnt more about our past by holding these conversations”.

Ealing Council has also moved to rename Havelock Road – named for imperial commander Sir Henry Havelock.

Mr Khan’s fund was designed to give grassroots community groups funding to run consultations with local residents and Royal Mail.

‘Changes communities don’t want’

In December 2020, Birmingham City Council was accused of “virtue signalling” after it announced a raft of new street names including Diversity Grove, Equality Road, Destiny Road, Inspire Avenue, Respect Way and Humanity Close.

The plan for residents to be given a vote on changes to street names will be attached to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, which is currently at committee stage in the House of Commons.

It is unknown whether the system will require a specific turnout of voters on a street for the result of the poll to be valid.

But ministers are concerned that Left-wing councils have begun changing the names of local landmarks and streets in response to pressure from activists, following the Black Lives Matter movement.

A Whitehall source told The Telegraph: “Street names are often a proud part of a community’s identity and hold cherished memories for those that have lived there past and present.

“As we level up across the country, we want communities to take back control, so we are putting the power over street name changes into the hands of local people who would be most directly affected.

“Our new laws will stop woke councils pushing through street names changes that communities don’t want.”

‘People enabled through democracy’

Michael Gove, the minister with responsibility for the legislation, has previously attacked “woke” politics for launching an “assault on our cultures, our traditions and so many of the principles that have been regarded as common sense for most of the past two millenia”.

“If you have the common sense of the people enabled through democracy you can have that necessary course correction,” he said.

In some areas of the UK, the Public Health Acts Amendment Act 1907 requires local authorities to obtain the consent of a two-thirds majority of taxpayers before changing a street name.

But the requirement does not apply universally, and ministers want to change the rules so all residents in England would be given a say on changes.

A separate plan, also by Mr Gove’s department, would give local residents the ability to vote on housing developments on their street.

So-called “street votes” would allow neighbours to collectively decide on changes, such as an extra storey being added to a row of terraced houses.