Village road called Darkey Lane may be renamed after visitors complain

Residents on a quaint Devon lane are being asked to consider a name change for the road after two visitors, one of whom is of Caribbean heritage, were "shocked and extremely upset" by it.

Lifton Parish Council received a complaint after the visitors encountered signage for Darkey Lane, named as such because it is a "sunken and tree-lined dark lane."

A letter to residents explained that to rename a road, two-thirds of households on Darkey Lane would have to be in agreement, Devon Live reported.

It would also require each household to pay a fee of £40 to West Devon Borough Council to change the name. The parish council has offered to pay for replacement road signs.

Householders would also be required to inform utility companies and all professional and personal contacts regarding any new road name, but despite all this, Robert Fleming, owner of nearby Lifton Hall Hotel is in favour of a change.

"The fact that the word ‘darkey’ has negative connotations, and has and continues to be used as such, supersedes historical spellings where they may have had a different meaning," he said, after guessing that the lane may have been called Darke Lane in Old English.

"People may be offended so it should be changed as standard, with a minimum of fuss."

He said he has had visitors at his hotel actually mention their surprise at the name.

Mr Fleming said: "When I moved here 15 years ago I remember being rather shocked at it as we had moved down from London and lived in a multi-racial area of East London. Lifton can not by any stretch of the imagination be classed as multi-racial.

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"For people objecting to the change, I think if they could imagine themselves as being in a minority of some sort and then have a derogatory work on a street name that affected/ upset them it may garner a different response."

Although the parish council is conducting the consultation, renaming roads is the responsibility of West Devon Borough Council (WDBC) which would then do their own consultation if a desire for change was expressed.

Councillors took the decision at a parish council meeting on November 25, 2021, to undertake a public consultation in early January 2022, to find out if residents would like to keep or change the existing road name. The letter also gave some historical context into how the road was given its name.

It said: "Darkey Lane was a historic, locally-based road name given before development in the local area. The road had originally been a sunken and tree-lined dark lane. Over the years and with the use of local Devonshire dialect, it became known as Darkey Lane."

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