Protecting local heritage

How to bring democracy to the renaming of streets

March 14, 2021

Since the height of the Black Lives Matter protests in June 2020, a number of councils across England and Wales have stated their commitment to reviewing local street names and—where these are deemed to have a contentious history—to considering renaming them. In several instances, the decision-making process with regards street name alteration has excluded residents and locals, in spite of the immense direct impact street renaming has on a street’s residents. The fact that there are currently three separate pieces of legislation on street renaming in England and Wales has given rise to inconsistency across councils in the approach they take when consideration a street name alteration. The process surrounding street name alteration should be clearly-defined, rigorous and democratic, with any decision to rename being underpinned by clear public support. Yet, under the available legislation, any council has the power to change the name of a given street without consulting the residents on that street. This paper proposes the replacement of the existing confusing pieces of legislation with new, consolidated legislation requiring support from a 2/3 majority of residents on a street before a proposed street name change proceeds, thereby democratising the process of street name alteration and ensuring that where any such alteration takes place, it carries legitimacy.

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Zewditu Gebreyohanes

Head of History Matters

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