UK

Heroes cancelled in case they offend: Council in Wales will no longer name streets after individuals

Hero soldiers who died serving their country will no longer have streets named after them in a Welsh county after the council decided ‘times and attitudes change’ and individuals can later ‘prove divisive’.

Denbighshire County Council ruled it would now no longer allow the honour after a meeting, which appeared to reference the Black Lives Matter movement last year.

The BLM campaign touched the area in June after a statue of explorer Henry Morton Stanley was targeted for possible removal over colonial links, but was voted to be kept in place.

Last week the council ruled street names must be written in Welsh and not named after individuals, other than for exceptional figures like Captain Tom Moore.

The cabinet said the main reason for this was to help officials being deluged with requests from families.

Councillor Richard Mainon said: ‘As we all saw last year, as times and attitudes change these names, sometimes they don’t stand the test of time and they can prove divisive and there’s a lot of work needed to change those place names.

‘When it needs to be done quite quickly it can appear to be as a kneejerk and again very, very difficult to backtrack.

‘I know it’s not as arduous as tearing down statues, but changing those names has a knock-on for the blue light responses, for the postal services and the deliveries.

‘In this case it wasn’t so much the naming of places after historical figures, in Denbighshire’s case the naming streets after individuals was a little bit more emotive and emotional because the decisions we were being asked to make was could we name our new roads after people that had served their country and they’d fallen.’

Statue in Denbigh, Wales, of Sir Henry Morton Stanley who was targeted in BLM protests

New signs will also no longer be in English and will instead be in Welsh throughout the area

New signs will also no longer be in English and will instead be in Welsh throughout the area

Cllr Mainon said he had consulted with the Armed Forces Covenant who said they did not want streets to be named after soldiers.

He added: ‘The whole group came back unanimously and said no please don’t do this, that’s not the reason these individuals serve, that’s not what they’d want and God forbid they fall and a road with a sewage works at the end of it get named after them, that’d be horrific.

‘What they did say was as the exception, every now and again someone’s service and someone’s sacrifice will go way and above and beyond and when they receive some national recognition and when they receive those highest honours that should be the point at which you can consider whether a street would be better to be named after them. So basically, they asked us to stop this.

‘For officers to be getting requests on a weekly basis, the amount of work, I understand it can really help a family grieve, if that’s going to help I can really sympathise

‘But when it’s going to officers, you are never going to want to say no.’

In June last year the county council was petitioned over the removal of HM Stanley as the BLM movement spread across the UK.

Henry Morton Stanley

King Leopold II of Belgium

Henry Morton Stanley had links to King Leopold II of Belgium, who committed terrible acts

Some of the 209 statues, roads and buildings in Wales identified as bearing the names of famous Britons 'linked to the slave trade' during an audit which was published last year

Some of the 209 statues, roads and buildings in Wales identified as bearing the names of famous Britons ‘linked to the slave trade’ during an audit which was published last year

Some of the historic Britons identified in the Wales probe of monuments linked to slavery 

Francis Drake: Three streets named after him. 

Thomas Picton: Four monuments, five buildings and 30 streets.

Lord Nelson: Seven monuments, six buildings and 18 streets. 

King William IV: Five buildings and seven streets. 

Winston Churchill: Two buildings and 13 streets. 

Duke of Wellington: Two monuments, 14 buildings and 32 streets.

William Gladstone: Three monuments, five places, 26 streets. 

Robert Peel: One street. 

George Canning: One street. 

Cecil Rhodes: One street.  

The explorer was described as a controversial figure because of links to Belgian King Leopold II, who committed acts of appalling inhumanity against the then population of the Congo Free State.

He is most famous for his greeting to Dr David Livingstone, whom he successfully found, declaring ‘Dr Livingstone, I presume’.

Earlier this year, town councillors voted by a margin of one to reprieve the statue.

MailOnline told last year how the Welsh government spent more than £17,000 on an audit of almost 600 statues, buildings and street names to examine their links to slavery, including HM Stanley’s sculpture.

The report by the Labour-led administration identified 209 monuments, buildings or street names commemorating people ‘who were directly involved with slavery and the slave trade, or opposed its abolition’.

A Freedom of Information request found the ‘audit of commemoration’, which took four months to compile and was published in November, cost £17,401.

Critics slammed the audit as ‘virtue-signalling’ and have condemned the expense during the middle of a pandemic.

Andrew RT Davies, leader of the Welsh Conservatives, said: ‘Like all countries, our history is not perfect – but we should seek to learn from our mistakes rather than rewrite the past.

‘Tearing down statues is not the answer, and neither is judging historical figures by today’s standards.

‘We are in the middle of a global pandemic and the Welsh Government should focus its attention on beating COVID rather than fighting culture wars.’

The count altogether listed 56 monuments, 99 public buildings and 440 street names.

When the audit was published in November last year, Mr Drakeford described it as ‘the first stage of a much bigger piece pf work which will consider how we move forward.’

The review condemned the monuments for depicting Britons with links to the slave trade as ‘heroes’.

The people identified include Sir Francis Drake, Lord Nelson, the Duke of Wellington and William Gladstone.

It also described former Prime Minister Winston Churchill as a ‘person of interest’ who requires further examination after being ‘identified’ by campaigners.

The audit found several monuments to Britain’s WWII Prime Minister, including two buildings and 13 streets named after him.

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