Town council votes to change Victorian road name as tourists deem it 'racially offensive'

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Town council votes to change Victorian road name as tourists deem it 'racially offensive'

The holidaymakers complained to Dorset County Council, who then consulted with Swanage Town Council, as they found "Darkie Lane" to be an "offensiv

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The holidaymakers complained to Dorset County Council, who then consulted with Swanage Town Council, as they found “Darkie Lane” to be an “offensive” road name. The street, which is in Swanage near Ulwell Holiday Park, was originally named due to the trees lining it, making it dark and shady.

Having liaised with the family, Dorset County councillor Peter Wharf wrote a letter to Swanage Town Council, in which he said: “A family holidaying in Swanage have written to express their concern to find their accommodation on a street using a name that they found offensive and which they felt could very easily cause offence to others given our national history.

“The historic context for the name is purportedly innocent, relating to the lane being ‘dark’ and ‘shaded’ – though this does not avoid the potential for causing offence, particularly for visitors to the area who will likely be unaware of this context.

“Dorset Council’s Street Naming and Numbering Policy is clear that when naming new developments/streets it will not be acceptable to use a name that ‘could cause offence or be considered discriminatory particularly in regard to age, disability, race and ethnicity, faith and belief, sexual orientation, gender and sex’.

“Whilst the policy does not account for the circumstances of this specific case, the underlying principles regarding the naming of streets are that they be inclusive given the diversity of our communities and visitor populations.”

Swanage Council voted in favour of recommending that Dorset Council rename Darkie Lane to Dark Lane. According to historical texts provided by Swanage Town Council, this was the road’s original name.

A spokesperson for the council said this “would preserve the historical context, whilst minimising the potential for offence.”

Mike Whitwam, the only council member to vote against the decision, said: “I felt the decision was made purely to satisfy political correctness, which is destroying culture in this country.

“It has been called Darkie Lane for many years and nobody has taken offence except this one do-gooder who has complained to the council.”

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But Cllr Wharf said: “The problem with this is that there are two sides to this argument. Some people say that what is not acceptable today was acceptable 30 years ago. We need to understand the context behind things before we come to a solution.

“Making no change to the road name, although it could require no action, would require an explanation.”

A spokesperson from Dorset Town Council confirmed the decision was not final.

They said: “Dorset Council received a complaint over the summer from a holidaymaker about the name of Darkie Lane in Swanage, which they found offensive.

“In response, we looked into the historical records of the naming of this road (which was originally called Dark Lane due to its shaded location) and asked Swanage Town councillors for their views.

“This issue was discussed and we are awaiting a formal response from Swanage following their discussion.

“We will also consult with the residents living on this road to seek their views on the road naming prior to a final decision being made.”



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