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Imperial Way and Rhodes Way are among Watford street names that could be changed as response to BLM

Imperial Way and Rhodes Way are among street names that could be changed due to slavery or colonial links if two-thirds of locals vote for it under council plan in response to BLM

  • Street names with colonial links may soon be changeable by Watford residents 
  • A new council policy set for approval may allow locals to vote for renaming
  • The move comes following Black Lives Matter protests in the summer of 2020 










Residents may be able to vote on changing street names with colonial and imperial links in a new rule set for approval by Watford Borough Council.

The new policy proposes that locals should be allowed to rename roads with links to the British Empire or the slave trade if two-thirds of residents approve the change.

Places such as Imperial Way, Rhodes Way, Clive Way and Colonial Way were brought up, as the council decided to consider the change following the July 2020 Black Lives Matter protests.

British imperialist Cecil Rhodes. As well as having a Watford street named after him, Rhodes also has a statue in an Oxford University college

British imperialist Cecil Rhodes. As well as having a Watford street named after him, Rhodes also has a statue in an Oxford University college

The issue was brought up by Labour councillor Asif Khan in the summer of 2020.

In a statement issued by Watford Labour at the time, Cllr Khan said street and building names should reflect the town’s ‘rich, deep cultural history rather than any negative connotations’.

He added: ‘Watford has been enriched by its ethnic minority citizens that have come from across the globe or born in UK.

‘The likes of Luther Blissett, Anthony Joshua, John Barnes are just some, who have made contributions to our town, but there are many more.’

Imperial Way in Watford. Residents may be able to vote on changing street names with colonial and imperial links in a new rule set for approval by Watford Borough Council

Imperial Way in Watford. Residents may be able to vote on changing street names with colonial and imperial links in a new rule set for approval by Watford Borough Council

Tola Dabiri, of Brick By Brick Communities, which researches black history in Watford, welcomed the move by the council, the BBC reports.

She said: ‘I think anything that encourages the community to participate in local affairs can only be a good thing.

‘Not everybody is going to be in favour of actually changing names which are perceived to be offensive, and so by allowing everyone to comment it also allows some debate around these issues.’

The policy said that the renaming of streets will ‘generally be avoided’ unless they are likely to ’cause offence’ or are ‘causing problems for the emergency services’, according to the Hertfordshire Mercury.

However the proposal stated each case will be considered on an individual basis. 

Rhodes Way in Watford. The new policy proposes that locals should be allowed to rename roads with links to the British Empire or the slave trade if two-thirds of residents approve the change

Rhodes Way in Watford. The new policy proposes that locals should be allowed to rename roads with links to the British Empire or the slave trade if two-thirds of residents approve the change

It added: ‘Renaming/renumbering a street is a time consuming process and any change can be very disruptive and cause financial costs to all those occupiers affected.’

A decision on the new move will be made on Monday by the council’s Cabinet.  

In the summer of 2020 a wave of protests broke out around the world after George Floyd, a black man, was killed by police officers in the US. 

A number of anti-colonial campaigns have since been started up or revisited around the UK.

Earlier this month four people who admitted playing a part in the destruction of the historic statue of slave trader Edward Colston during the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020 were acquitted.

Photos from outside the courtroom show Sage Willoughby, Jake Skuse, Milo Ponsford and Rhian Graham (from left to right) celebrating after receiving a not guilty verdict at Bristol Crown Court, on January 05, 2022 in Bristol, England

Rhian Graham, 30, Milo Ponsford, 26, Sage Willoughby, 22, and Jake Skuse, 33, were cleared of all criminal damage charges at Bristol Crown Court after requesting that the trial be heard in front of a jury.

The bronze memorial to the 17th century merchant was pulled down in Bristol on June 7, 2020 and was later dumped in the harbour during an anti-racism demonstration, one of the many that swept the globe.

A long-running campaign to remove the statue of Cecil Rhodes from Oriel College in Oxford also picked up.

Oriel College said they had decided not to remove the monument due to 'considerable obstacles', including financial costs and 'complex' planning processes

Oriel College said they had decided not to remove the monument due to ‘considerable obstacles’, including financial costs and ‘complex’ planning processes 

However the governing body of an Oxford University college last May rejected calls from an inquiry to tear the statue down.

Oriel College’s said they had decided not to remove the monument due to ‘considerable obstacles’, including financial costs and ‘complex’ planning processes

It comes after a long-running campaign demanding the removal of the British imperialist’s monument.

The inquiry was launched by Oriel in June 2020 as the Black Lives Matter movement picked up steam. 

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