Street name to be changed after complaint from tourist

By Neil Shaw

A decision to change the name of a road called Darkie Lane after a complaint by a tourist has been called 'political correctness gone mad' by locals.

The rural lane got its name over 70 years ago because it was lined by elm trees and hedgerows that generally made it dark and shady.

But now the local council has agreed to change its name following a letter from a family on holiday to Swanage, Dorset, this summer.

They were offended by the road's racist connotations. They said it could 'very easily cause offence to others given our national history'.

Swanage Town Council has voted to change the name to Dark Lane. Mike Whitwam, the only member to oppose the decision, said he objected to political correctness for the sake of it.

He said: "I have many close black friends and the name is not in the slightest bit prejudicial. 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".

Some residents also hit out at the decision and accused the town council of giving in to 'woke' tourists. One posted on social media: "I wish the council had the sphericals to stop the political correctness rubbish".

Jackie Hayes, another tourist to the town, said: "To complain about a street name is unfair and unreasonable. It has been named because of the dark road - no other reason.

"It is history, just like the statues the woke brigade keep insisting that we tear down, and it should remain so".

Leo O'Connell posted: "Let's hope they don't holiday in Shitterton!"

In a letter sent to town councillors following the complaint, Peter Wharf, a cabinet member on Dorset Council, said the road name could cause offence to visitors who are unaware of its context.

He said: "A family holidaying in Swanage have written to express their concern to find their accommodation on a street using a name they found offensive.

"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".

He said street names should "not cause offence or be considered discriminatory" and that they should be "inclusive given the diversity of our community and visitor populations".

Mike Bonfield, chair of the planning committee at Swanage Town Council, said historical documents showed the street was originally called Dark Lane.

However it is marked as Darkie Lane on both Google Maps and Sat Navs, meaning this is the name tourists would see when visiting the area.

Mr Bonfield said: "This is not a name change - we are taking it back to its original name. It was found that in a street directory from 1934, the road was called Dark Lane.

"Over time it evolved to Darkie Lane, which is why we supported the decision to change it. Without those historical documents, I would not have supported the change because it is important that we protect our history".

A spokeswoman for Dorset Council said: "We 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 at the Swanage Town Council planning committee meeting on Monday 4 October. We are awaiting a formal response from Swanage Town Council 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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