A STREET name in Swanage could be changed after a holidaying family complained that it was racially insensitive.

Dorset County Council were contacted by a family who found Darkie Lane in Ulwell, near Ulwell Holiday Park, to be an “offensive” road name.

Historical texts provided by Swanage Town Council reveal that the road was originally called simply Dark Lane due to it being 'dark and shaded'.

The council now has to decide whether to keep the name 'Darkie' or change it to 'Dark Lane' to preserve the historical context.

Having liaised with the family, councillor Peter Wharf, cabinet member for corporate development and change at Dorset Council, wrote a letter to Swanage Town Council.

It said: “A family holidaying in Swanage have written to express their concern to find their accommodation on a street using a name that they found offensive and which they felt could very easily cause offence to others given our national history.

“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.

“Dorset Council’s Street Naming and Numbering Policy is clear that when naming new developments/streets it will not be acceptable to use a name that “could cause offence or be considered discriminatory particularly in regard to age, disability, race and ethnicity, faith and belief, sexual orientation, gender and sex.

“Whilst the policy does not account for the circumstances of this specific case, the underlying principles regarding the naming of streets are that they be inclusive given the diversity of our communities and visitor populations.”

Cllr Wharf then suggested that the council has three options:

  • Do nothing – leaving ‘Darkie Lane’ as the official name.
  • Change the name to ‘Dark Lane’ to preserve the historic context, whilst minimising the potential for offence.
  • Other – have you an alternative suggestion?

However, some in the area have described the matter as “political correctness gone mad”. 

A Swanage Town Council spokesperson said: “This matter was referred to [us] following a complaint received by Dorset Council and it was discussed at the Planning and Consultation Committee Meeting held on Monday, October 4.

“At the meeting, town councillors voted in favour of recommending to Dorset Council that consideration should be given to the renaming of Darkie Lane to Dark Lane, which would preserve the historical context, whilst minimising the potential for offence.”

It was not mentioned at the meeting why the road name was changed after the 1930s.

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".

A Dorset Council spokesperson said: “We can confirm that Dorset Council received a complaint over the summer from a holiday maker 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 and we are awaiting a formal response from Swanage 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.”